No Place Like Home

ANY WEEKEND GUEST OF MINE has to be prepared to walk on the beach, go to yard sales, and visit a historic house or two. So on Saturday, when I said to my friend Marilyn Fish, “Oh, let’s just pop in to the Home Sweet Home Museum,” she was game. A few years back, Marilyn and I were editors-in-chief of sister publications, Style 1900 and Modernism. She now works at the Jason Jacques gallery of European art pottery, so she knows a thing or two about the decorative arts.

The house is a cedar-shingled saltbox built around 1720. Disconcertingly, it turns out that many of the furnishings within are High Victorian, and there’s an extensive collection of Lustreware.

Hugh King, above, East Hampton’s village historian, dispelled some of the myths about the house. Chief among them is that actor/playwright John Howard Payne, who wrote the treacly song “Home Sweet Home” in 1823 for his play “Clari, Maid of Milan,” which was produced first in London and then in Philadelphia, was born there. Although Payne’s parents lived in East Hampton for a time, it wasn’t in that house, and Payne was born in lower Manhattan in 1791.

The house came to be decorated in mid-19th century mode because the last private owners, Gustav and Hannah Buek, who were there from 1907-1927, collected the material as an homage to Payne, intending the house to look as it might have when he lived there (though he didn’t).

In 1928, the Village of East Hampton raised $60,000 to buy the place from the Bueks; it has been a museum since.

I was a bit disappointed to find the architecture (which I love) and the furnishings (which I don’t) so out of sync. My favorite aspect of the house is the high-gloss white painted paneling, above, which was added, King told us, around 1750. It made me wonder if some of the dark woodwork in, say, Park Slope, which people often feel duty-bound to keep, couldn’t benefit from a treatment like this.

The East End’s Early English Houses

I WAS SURPRISED this weekend to realize how many outstanding examples of English Colonial architecture remain on the East End of Long Island.

Below, The Old House, Cutchoguep1030421

While 17th century Dutch settlers in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley built houses of stone, with barn-like roof gables, and split “Dutch” doors, the English built clapboard houses in their own vernacular, with steep-pitched roofs, prominent central chimneys, diamond-paned windows, and board-and-batten doors.

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The oldest English house in New York State is in Cutchogue, on the North Fork. Built in 1649 in nearby Southold and moved to Cutchogue in 1660, “The Old House” was restored in 1940 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

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It’s considered one of the country’s finest examples of First Period (1626-1725) architecture, with  leaded glass windows, below, a massive fluted chimney, and a paneled sitting room that dates to the 18th century (you can see the interior when the house opens for the season in late June).

In East Hampton, on the South Fork, John Mulford’s well-preserved 1680 house, below, on the village green, is one of America’s most significant and intact English Colonial farmsteads. It opens for tours Memorial Day.

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Right next door is the c.1720 Home Sweet Home Museum, below, so called because the composer of that song, John Howard Payne (1791-1852), lived there for a time. Like the Mulford house, it is saltbox or “lean-to” style, with a Colonial garden and a windmill on the property — one of several fine old windmills in East Hampton.

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