Hike the Hamptons, and Bounce Back in March!

wooden bridge into woodsIt’s been a mild winter on the East End of Long Island and though, as they say in financial advisor ads, “Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns,” we’re starting to hope that we might make it through March without the dreaded Winter’s Last Hurrah snowstorm.

As the Vernal Equinox (this year: March 19) looms in sight, I start thinking about lacing up the hiking shoes and looking for signs of Spring on the deserted hiking trails that ring the Hamptons. Because what can beat a peaceful walk in Nature with the one you love (and no one else around)?

Off-the-charts good hiking, with designated trails that range from one mile to over eight miles long, is the Mashamuet Preserve, which encompasses one-third (!) of Shelter Island, is especially comprehensive and scenic. Montauk’s Hither Hills and Walking Dunes trails are renowned especially for their contrast of woodland and dune trails that open onto spectacular ocean vistas, but Chris’s and my personal favorites are those in and around Northwest Woods in East Hampton. Want specifics? Check out a list here.

And if March conjures up imabasketball on empty outdoor courtges of basketball to you, we’ve got a new spin on the ball: MARCH MADNESS BOUNCEBACK! Join us anytime during the month of March, and for each night you stay, we’ll give you an envelope with a special prize inside which will be valid on a future visit in 2020.  Prizes include:

  • A bottle of champagne
  • Charcuterie board and wine
  • Set of 2 etched ABM wine glasses
  • ABM bathrobe
  • 20% OFF your stay
  • $100 off your stay
  • $250 off your stay
  • $500 off your stay

You’re guaranteed to win one of the prizes, but the catch is: YOU CAN’T PEEK! Bring back the unopened envelope on your next stay in 2020 and we’ll open it together to see your prize!

And finally, as to Erin Go Brach and the wearin’ of the green…if you want to get your St. Paddy’s Day on in a big way, join us the weekend of March 20-22. The Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off in that hamlet on Saturday, March 21, while the venerable Montauk St. Patrick’s Day Parade will celebrate on Sunday, March 22. (Hint: Leave your car at A Butler’s Manor on Sunday after check out and take the train to Montauk for the parade!)

Spring ahoy!bed of green clover for St. Patrick's Day

Valentine’s Day and Long Island Winterfest

With our house manager Deb McKay at the helm, A Butler’s Manor is open this winter and we’re pleased that guests have been enjoying the quiet beauty of the winter season with us. If you didn’t realize that you could get away to A Butler’s Manor in the offseason, I have two words for you: Valentine’s Day. It falls on a Friday this year and we look forward to helping you show that special someone a wonderfully romantic time! We’ll feature a split of champagne in your room along with a treat of petit fours and special flowers…just bring your true love. We have only a couple of rooms left for Valentine’s Day weekend, so book today!

people drinking wine at restaurant with wine barrelsAnd that’s not the only reason to visit this month. Long Island Winterfest kicks off this weekend — five full weeks of Long Island winery events, brewery tours, art shows, chef’s tasting menus, winter sunsets and live entertainment on the East End, from Greenport to Riverhead to Montauk. Hey, everyone knows the East End is great in the summer, but those on the inside track know how cool it is to enjoy all of the above without the summer crowds. A glass of Clovis Point’s Archeology while listening to the Hoodoo Loungers near the fire? Yes please!

And a taste of what we’ve got planned for March: MARCH MADNESS BOUNCE BACK! Watch this space for more information! (Or, if you can’t stand the suspense, click here to check our website for details!)

Come enjoy our “secret season” in Southampton! See you soon!

Kim, Chris, and Deb

Seeing How the Other Half Lives, Up Close and Personal

Impressive iron gates in front of a large propertyAnd while we’re on the subject of Downton Abbey…

First-time visitors to the area often wonder if, like Newport, Rhode Island, some of the “summer cottages” here in the Hamptons are available for tours.

Sadly, that isn’t something you can do here unless there happens to be a special fundraiser house tour like the one offered by the Southampton Historical Museum (scheduled this year for May 30, 2020), or the Designer Show House, benefiting Stony Brook/Southampton Hospital, which is open in July and August.

However, if the length of your visit permits, it IS possible to visit some really spectacular mansions without leaving Long Island.

Many years before we opened A Butler’s Manor, I worked for the Southampton Chamber of Commerce and fielded dozens of phone calls each day from people seeking tourist information. One of the questions I got about once a week was “Are the Hamptons the setting for The Great Gatsby?”

At the time of Fitzgerald’s iconic book, transportation options were far more limited and slower than today (although, Manhattan guests who regularly visit during the summer and arrive on Friday nights might argue with me). Rather, the Long Island setting fictionalized as “West Egg and East Egg” are located on the North Shore in Nassau County, and although many of the original houses of the Gilded Age have been demolished or repurposed, there still exist several which are open to the public and are well worth the additional trip to visit. Here’s a great article on who, what and where you can go to get your fix on how the other half lived!

And PS: If you weren’t able to join us for last month’s Downton Abbey Weekend, watch this space: we are coordinating with the Southampton Historical Museum to offer Chris’s presentation at Rogers Mansion sometime in May. It will be open to locals and guests alike…details to follow!

All Things Downton

Chris and I saw Downton Abbey: The Movie the other week and were immediately catapulted back into the great series we’d enjoyed and missed. We find many visitors are also fans of the program and are interested to know how the story compares to Chris’s real-life experience as a butler and estate manager. How does the story measure up to reality in today’s times?  So we thought: Let’s dedicate a weekend to the spirit of Downton Abbey and the reality of personal service, then and now.

Downton Abbey Weekend begins Friday, December 13 with a champagne welcome and continues until Sunday, December 15. On Saturday afternoon, Chris will give a talk about life as a butler and what it takes to serve the rich and run an estate –or several estates — in the latter part of the 20th century and beyond.The presentation will take place over a proper English afternoon tea (yes, scones, finger sandwiches and all) here at A Butler’s Manor.

During the weekend, you’ll also visit Southampton Historical Museum’s exhibit “High Style in the Gilded Age: Southampton, 1870-1930,” where you can enjoy contrasting how the Earl of Grantham and his family compared to his “peers” on this side of the pond.dinner party setting with an autumn themeWe’ll prepare a special gourmet breakfast each morning (sorry, no kippers), AND guests will take home a signed copy of Chris and Kim’s book “A Butler’s Life: Scenes From the Other Side of the Silver Salver” as a souvenir of your weekend! Cost: $125 per couple plus the rate of your favorite room. Want the details? Click here to book now. Join us for this fun event!

In other news: We’re continually freshening and updating the house and gardens here at A Butler’s Manor and most of it is, as it should be, pretty unnoticeable. But this past week, we did something that was relatively dramatic, because if you’ve stayed with us before, you can’t miss the difference: We repainted our cranberry dining room walls a warm, creamy mushroom color.

multi-tabled dining room with cranberry-colored walls
Before

 

multi-tabled dining room with creamy mushroom walls
After

What do you think?

Welcome home, Chris and Kim!

Hi, Dina here!

We are finishing up our time here as Managing Innkeepers at
A Butler’s Manor. On October 1,  beloved owners Chris and Kim will resume
their role of running this magnificent B&B in the Hamptons. They have been
missed by many of their returning guests.
large houses on agawam lake
It’s interesting for Ralph and me to look back on the experience, remembering how nervous we were in the beginning. After all, Chris and Kim left us with big shoes to fill. Their 17 years of dedication to their home, their business and their loyal guests provided us with a solid foundation, but it was up to us to maintain the high standard of service their regular clientele had grown to appreciate over the years and their new guests eagerly anticipated after reading the countless 5-star reviews on-line. Although everyone seemed genuinely happy to meet us and were happy for Chris and Kim that they were taking a break, some couldn’t help but express just a tiny bit of disappointment that they wouldn’t be seeing their old friends this year.
The good news is that unlike years past, this year all of you will get the opportunity to experience the Hamptons and the top-notch service at A Butler’s Manor throughout the entire fall season, as Chris and Kim resume operations through the December holidays.
The summer months had a unique personality, buzzing with energy as second homeowners and tourists “summer” in the Hamptons. All of the villages were bustling, parking could be a challenge and dinner reservations at some of the Hamptons “hot spots” were not always easy to score, but nobody seemed to care. It was fast-paced and fascinating and fun as only the Hamptons can be.
view of lush summer garden bed next to a sparkling poolAnd then Labor Day came and went, and the energy shifted to
tranquil and calm. The weather is perfect, the prices have come down, the crowds diminished, and the restaurants are still open for business, without the frenzy.
We can’t figure out why people haven’t figured this out, so
we thought we’d remind all of our readers that if summer got away from you, there’s still time! That lounge chair at our pool is just waiting for you!
One final note: Our heartfelt thanks to all of the guests we had the pleasure of hosting during our tenure as managers at A Butler’s Manor. We had a blast. We learned a lot about the Hamptons, the B&B industry, human nature and each other. And we hope our paths cross again someday.
Smiling couple enjoying a picnic on the beach with wine
And to Chris and Kim – Welcome Home!

 

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

Full bloom at the Summer Solstice!

close up of purple columbine flowers in garden

There are many aspects of my new job as an Innkeeper that I’ve been enjoying, but none as much as the awakening of the garden and how it seems to be in sync with the awakening of the Hamptons.

Man in a bowler hat carrying cleaning supplies to clean a roomWhen we arrived in early April, there wasn’t much visible life in the gardens outside my window. I felt the same way when I went out to explore the villages and hamlets that make up the Hamptons. I was surprised to find quiet streets, shuttered storefronts and farmstands that seemed to be abandoned. Thank goodness most of the wineries were alive and kicking!

Having lived in the Colorado Rockies for the past eight years, part of the reason Ralph and I took this assignment was to spend some time on the East coast again and meet wonderfully
interesting people. We also wanted to experience a change of scenery and have some fun with the Hamptons “scene.”

We didn’t have to wait long before we spotted Alan Alda dining at Bistro Ete, a small, French-inspired dining spot in Water Mill. We’ve marked our calendars to attend the annual Artists and Writers Celebrity Softball Game in East Hampton, hoping to get a glimpse of Alec Baldwin and Bill Clinton while they slug it out to benefit local organizations that provide vital human services to the East End. And there’s nothing stressful that can happen in a day that taking a walk on Cooper’s Beach can’t cure, so the salty air has been a calming balm on our busy days.

large stand of pale pink roses all in bloom around a fountain

In the meantime, like the area itself, the garden has sprung into full bloom. The roses made their appearance last week, following several weeks of multicolored iris, alliums, azaleas, and peonies! And our vegetable garden is producing much that we’re using in our healthy breakfasts, including asparagus, swiss chard, and lots of herbs. Bliss!
close up of swiss chard in garden
When we’re not watching others engage in playing sports, Ralph and I are fiercely competitive with each other playing ping pong. So when we learned that the 324 Lounge in East Hampton was hosting ping pong parties every Friday night, we got really excited. We’re used to playing in our cold and damp garage in Colorado, so upgrading to a chic, hip, hot spot in the Hamptons is an exciting night out for us! Loser buys lobster rolls at Bostwick’s on the Harbor!

Between hosting guests from around the world and exploring our new surroundings, the time is flying and it’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through our season with A Butler’s Manor.

Several couples enjoying breakfast on the garden patio

Looking forward to meeting and sharing our Hamptons fun and experiences with you at A Butler’s Manor, our Southampton bed and breakfast…and your home in the Hamptons!

Warmest regards,

— Dina

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