SOMETIMES YOU DON’T NOTICE A HOUSE, however interesting, until your attention is forcibly called to it. That was the case for me with the Annie Cooper Boyd House, owned by the Sag Harbor Historical Society. I only visited it last Friday because I happened to see an ad in a local paper for an event called ‘Annie’s Porch,’ which promised a) blog material and b) free wine.
Turns out Annie Cooper Boyd (1864-1941) spent an idyllic childhood in Sag Harbor as the daughter of a whaleboat builder. Her family lived in the fine Main Street house, below.
She grew up boating, fishing, collecting shells and seaweed (there’s a display of magnificently pressed and catalogued seaweed samples), and riding her horse to the ocean in Sagaponack. On reaching marriageable age, she turned into a proper Victorian young lady, got dressed up in white finery, and spent time with relatives in New York City, where she found a spouse.
She married John Boyd in 1894. Their primary residence was on Lincoln Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her father bequeathed her the old house next door to his, set back from the street, where some of his workers had been housed. That became her own family’s summer home.
Now open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4PM, the house was built originally as a simple saltbox around 1790; the Boyds added the porch and dormer in 1906.
Annie Cooper Boyd became a watercolor artist, covering the interior walls of the house with painted decoration.
Her paintings of local scenes provide a valuable historical record. Many are stored in an upstairs room, recently fitted with racks to properly preserve them.
Her diaries have been published as a book called Anchor to Windward (her name for the cottage). Along with hundreds of paintings, they were given to the historical society by Annie’s daughter, Nancy Willey, who died in 1998. The diaries cover the period 1880-1935, from the waning days of the whaling industry to the Great Depression, when she augmented the family income by setting up a tea room in the house and selling her artwork and handmade holiday cards.
It all comes to life in the house itself — which, incidentally, is only one of 37 sites on a self-guided walking tour of Sag Harbor’s historic district. For more info, call 631/725-5092, or go here.