When music takes you sky high!

If you could fly over A Butler’s Manor — literally fly, it might look like the view over the house and gardens, beautifully captured in our brand new drone video by the talented team of JJ Photo and Dave King. It all started out through music.aerial view over property showing large house, pool, and extensive gardens

We’ve just added this magnificent video to our website. Check it out!

We’re winding up our 2020 high season under the COVID-19 cloud. As you can imagine, it’s been a summer where live entertainment has been difficult to find. By mid-July, when the Hamptons were cleared for Phase 4 Reopening, businesses and attractions around here were getting creative. There have been monthly Friday Night concerts on the patio of the Parrish Art Museum, outdoor concerts at the Southampton Arts Center, drive-in movies at Cooper’s Beach…all socially distanced, but with an understanding of the pent-up demand for entertainment in a form other than via Netflix.

man playing guitar outside surrounded by trees and grassChris and I are lovers of live music, and one of the casualties of COVID this year for us was the summertime Wednesday night Concerts in the Park series, curated by the Southampton Cultural Center. So we were especially excited to meet Dave and Jackie, who first stayed with us early in July. Dave is an accomplished singer/songwriter and gifted us and our other guests in residence with an impromptu open-air concert on one of the nights of their visit…a spark of joy during this somber pandemic year.

Jackie and Dave are a creative pair. Music, videography, photography, horsemanship (!) and more are talents they share between them. And they don’t stop working even when they are on vacation, something Chris and I can relate to. On their second visit, in addition to filming A Butler’s Manor, they shot a music video at the pool and at our favorite beach.

I Got The Sun Shining Down on Me

Usually, as we approach Labor Day, I’d be cueing up  Shotgun Wedding’s Tumbleweed Tuesday (also shot here in the Hamptons), but Life is uncertain these days and we don’t think the usual summer crowd is actually vacating after Labor Day this year. So Dave’s song is my current anthem — let’s keep Summer rolling as long as possible!

We are so grateful for all of our guests who have trusted us to provide them a safe haven during these scary times. As Autumn approaches, we believe our best times are ahead of us. While grounded for now, we will soar again, and in the meantime, may music or whatever makes you happy soothe and energize you. Come visit us and celebrate the change of seasons!

How will you spend your Southampton Summer?

 

I’m writing this blog post on the first rainy day we’ve had in a long time. I must admit, it feels good to have a break from the blazing sun and hot and humid days, and the plants and flowers are certainly grateful.

 

View of patio seating in a rainy garden

 

After so many weeks of outdoor dining, it feels unusual to serve breakfast in our formal dining room. Although fine dining certainly has its unique charm and our guests love it, serving their breakfast outside while listening to the birds sing, and watching the rabbits and squirrels frolic has become a favorite part of my day. 

 

What I love most is guests sharing with me their experiences of the night before – some loving the Hamptons nightlife, alive with busyness, star gazing, fancy clothes and late nights. And others enjoying the quieter places, hanging out at a local’s bar or picking up dinner at the gourmet market Citarella which is an easy walk from A Butler’s Manor, and enjoying a beach picnic or a bottle of wine with their take-out at the pool or in the English garden.
Woman on a bike in front of large Colonial house

 

From there our conversation typically leads to the plans for the day ahead. Guests exchange ideas that range from taking advantage of PedalShare, a bike-riding share program in Southampton Village (bikes are available in our car park!) to see the sights on two wheels, to asking Ralph for a lift to Coopers Beach in the “Butler Mobile,” a service we offer at A Butler’s Manor to avoid sand in their cars and the steep parking fee.
couple in beach wear ready to climb into a station wagon for a free trip to the beach

 

Summer goes by so quickly. I feel the main reason for this is simple. Summer is short! Why not maximize every minute of every day? Wake up to birdsong in our king-bedded junior suite Villefranche, or enjoy Eton Court’s shower from which you can view the garden and pool to jump-start your day. In the Hamptons, it’s possible to enjoy an early morning beach walk, breakfast al fresco at a fine café or here at A Butlers Manor, followed by more fabulous options to spend your days than this page allows! Round out the day with a glass of rose, a scrumptious dinner and the most magnificent sunset you’ve ever seen. 
Sunset view from A Butler's Manor

 

Does life get any better than that?
 
See you at A Butler’s Manor!
–Dina

SSHH (second in a series): All Buildings great and small

Sagaponack Village's Establishment sign in front of the office
Settled in 1653, Incorporated in 2005 – in self defense.
No, this isn’t a post about the massive summer “cottages” here in the Hamptons (although that in itself is always a great tour). It’s about a few more of the places to be found on our Selfie Scavenger Hunt of the Hamptons (SSHH) that was the subject of my last blog. SSHH is our tour game highlights some of the cool and interesting places off the beaten path that aren’t going to be found on some gossipy click-bait article titled “10 Top Things To See In The Hamptons (That You Can Then Brag About).”
Today we’re in and around the greater Bridgehampton area.
So to begin, here’s irony for you: The village that contains the largest house in the Hamptons also features the smallest of schools. Tiny Sagaponack  and its neighboring hamlet Wainscott each boast operational one room schoolhouses.
Red, barnlike building that houses Sagaponack School, a one-room schoolhouse
Sagaponack School dates back to 1776, though its current building, housing 14 students in grades K-4 was built in 1885. Sagg School’s earlier structure, constructed in the early 1800s was moved to Wainscott, where it still is in use for its 20 students in grades K-3.
Small shingled buidling that houses Wainscott School, a one-room schoolhouse

 

Probably 90% of the school taxes for Sagaponack School (and a substantial portion of those higher grade schools it feeds into) are paid through the property taxes of this behemoth:

 

An enormous (66,000 square feet) private house behind beach grasses
Yep, that’s one house. The rough unpaved road is intentional.

Sagaponack School’s original 500 square feet building is probably the equivalent of one guest bedroom in this 64,000 square foot mansion owned by junk bond billionaire Ira Rennert. Called Fair Field, it is one of the largest private houses in the country and sits on 68 acres of oceanfront property. In addition to the main house, there are several outbuildings, bringing the total of structures on the acreage to over 110,000 square feet.

A huge hue and cry was raised by neighbors when Rennert began building the complex. Though they were unsuccessful at halting the construction, the lawsuits did result in new, stricter restrictions on house size in Southampton Township…and to the incorporation of tiny Sagaponack as a separate village rather than just a “Hamplet” of Southampton Town.

(Perhaps as poetic justice for those appalled locals, a federal appeals court ordered Rennert to pay a $213 million judgment, upholding a lower court decision that found him guilty of looting money from one of his mining companies in order to fund the construction of Fair Field.)

Heading northwest from Sagaponack, past potato farms interspersed with horse properties, polo fields and a golf course, you may happen upon another house on a substantial plot of land that certainly doesn’t look like any other house in the Hamptons. Maybe even the world:

Two odd-shaped houses, one with a red zigzag door, one round with bright blue sides
This is called the Elliptical House, and yes, it is a residence. The house, barn, and dozens of oversized sculptures sit on the grounds of Novas Ark Project, the creation of the late artist Nova Mihai Popa. Situated on 95 acres and fronting an agricultural preserve, the property (though not the house) is often rented for large events and weddings. Chris and I call it “More Input, Stephanie,” because we think it resembles the robot featured in the movie “Short Circuit.” "Short Circuit Need Input" robot from movie "Short Circuit"
Finally, as you enjoy the drive on Scuttlehole Road through the middle of the South Fork, keep your eyes peeled for buildings that may not look as though they belong here, but oh, they do:
potato barn traditionally half-buried in an earthen berm
These are potato barns, and they’re purposely designed partway underground because they act as an enormous root cellar, keeping the potatoes naturally cool until they are shipped. Very occasionally you might spot a house that once began as a potato barn and was converted to a private residence. (Extra SSHH points if you do!) To me, potato barns are wonderful iconic structures, and as much part of the Hamptons charm as the villages that draw our visitors.
So got your cellphone? Ready to explore? Come visit A Butler’s Manor, Southampton’s best boutique inn, and we’ll help you see parts of the Hamptons that most people miss out on!

Holding onto history…and losing it

If you’ve been to our Southampton bed and breakfast before, chances are you’ve noticed the large meadow-like vacant lot to the north of us, on the other side of our car park. Perhaps we’ve told you, as part of the history of our house, that the lot, and the house standing on it, was owned by the last direct descendant of the Jagger family, who settled in Southampton in the mid-1600s. Originally tanners, the family eventually became farmers and at one point owned all the property in about a one mile radius of us. The house at 244 North Main that we call A Butler’s Manor, built in 1860 by William Jagger, and it’s our understanding that the house north of us at 276 North Main was built by his son. It appears on an 1894 Village Survey map that hangs in our upstairs hallway as belonging to J.M. Jagger.

When we moved here, we met and became friends with Glena Jagger, and Chris in particular spent quite a bit of time with her. One of my favorite memories is the time she stayed the night with us. She’d had surgery and the hospital wouldn’t let her go home because no one lived with her, so she called us and asked to book a room. She refused to let us comp her, but she did permit us to drive her back up to her doctor in Riverhead the following day for post-op follow up. I thought it appropriate to offer her Goose Creek, our most historical room with its original wooden ceiling. Over breakfast the next morning, she told me that her grandparents had lived in the house until she was in high school. When she was small, she’d had scarlet fever (highly contagious) and her beloved older sister Elizabeth had moved to their grandparent’s house for several weeks while Glena was quarantened at home. This had been the first time she had ever stayed a night in our house.

Room with king-sized bed made with a light colored quilt, wooden beams on the ceiling
Goose Creek

Glena was a feisty little lady who had a degree in chemistry and had never married, who had been born in the house she lived in and intended to die in it. She had artifacts dating back to the early 1700’s including ledgers from her tanner ancestors that documented the trade of goods and services between neighbors, in English pounds sterling that was the currency at the time–all of which was destined for the Southampton Historical Society. Her will stated her desire to divide up the proceeds of her estate between a number of beloved charitable organizations. I don’t think she liked it, but did recognize that after her death her property would be sold and likely subdivided. That’s just the way it works.

Glena died five years ago, and after a couple of acrimonious court cases (one brought by Chris) and planning board roadblocks, the three+ acre lot is to be subdivided into three one-acre parcels called the Jagger Estates, with a 6,000+/- square foot house to be built upon each. This week, the builder received approval to demolish Glena’s house and begin clearing the property for development.

We watched on Wednesday as a house that had likely been many, many months in the building, that had withstood the Great Hurricane of 1938 without the slightest flooding, that had housed a woman from cradle to grave came down under the jaws of a bulldozer’s claw in less than three hours.

Was it historical? Not historical enough. Was it architecturally significant? Only as it related to one woman’s, and one family’s long history in the village of Southampton. Was it worth salvaging? In practical terms, no. Too much remedial work involved even if the layout was desirable.

Still.


So today, as I look out my kitchen window at the blank where once I saw the brown siding of our neighbor’s house, I think wistfully of Glena and her long life and rich family history. And wish the use of her family name as a development was more of a tribute to the longevity of that family line. And hope the new houses, when they are built, are in fact traditional in architecture, as proposed.


Though much updated and upgraded to meet the needs of our many guests, the Jagger family house of yesteryear still can be found in the bones of A Butler’s Manor. and we take great pride in maintaining it. 


Come experience the melding of the modern and the historical at A Butler’s Manor, Southampton’s best boutique inn.

Heartwarmer

I write occassionally about the special occasions that bring guests to A Butler’s Manor, such as Matt’s proposal to Nicole. Weddings in the area are of course a key attraction, as are class reunions and milestone birthdays. Once we had a week-long family reunion where the family (who occupied all five rooms) all left their shoes in a neat row by the staircase and slept with their doors open. In this latter circumstance Chris’s training as a butler stood him in good stead as he tiptoed upstairs each day with early morning coffee.

The other day, we had another family reunion, much smaller. Three siblings….and the youngest sister was meeting her brother and sister in person for the first time in her memory.
When Little Sister called to make the reservations, she told us about the planned reunion. She had been a toddler when their father left her mother, taking the older children, who were in their early teens, with him.
Older Sister had pined for the baby sister she remembered and, as an adult, had tried with little success to track her down. Father had forbidden the older kids to even mention their sister’s name. After he died, she found among his papers information that helped her track the younger sister.
Little Sister, upon initial contact, needed time to process things, and promised to arrange a meeting by Spring. This was that meeting. She wanted neutral territory, somewhere comfortable and homey and…safe. She thought A Butler’s Manor would be perfect.
Each sibling lives in a different state. The sisters each lived within driving distance. Brother flew in, and Older Sister picked him up.
Little Sister arrived early (we’d authorized the use of the garden for a pre-check in meeting) and asked us to put a memento she’d created for her siblings in their rooms once we had them ready. It was, luckily, a beautiful Spring day, the garden full of daffodils. We set up a pot of coffee and waters for them to enjoy while we prepared their rooms.
To say she was nervous understates her emotional state. It was somewhere between excited and terrified.
The older siblings arrived on schedule, and as requested, Chris and I met them at the front door and escorted them back to where Little Sister sat (actually, paced) at a table before the fountain. Brother brought roses, champagne, and glasses. We brought loads of Kleenex.
It was an emotional meeting, to be sure. From the doorway, we watched for a moment as there was a wordless, five minute group hug. Over the afternoon, evening, and late into the night, there were many, many tears, much laughter, and thousands upon thousands of words, building the bridge that will span a 35 year absence.
When they checked out the following day, we had tears in our eyes too. Life will be certainly be different for this now-reunited family. We wish them long, happy years of exploring their similarities and differences, of get-togethers, holidays, phone calls and visits.
Chris and I are thrilled to have witnessed their joy, and feel so honored to have been a small part in helping facilitate it.
Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be in our business!?
Quote of the Day: Certainly, people can get along without siblings. Single children do, and there are people who have irreparably estranged relationships with their siblings who live full and satisfying lives, but to have siblings and not make the most of that resource is squandering one of the greatest interpersonal resources you’ll ever have. –Jeffrey Kluger