Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Yesterday started off overcast and temps in the upper 60s with sporadic raindrops right through till noon when the Sun came out and made it a warmer, brighter day. There was rain in the forecast later on and so it was. But light, and brief.
Last week I got a note from Peggy Siegal, the primo Broadway/Hollywood publicist famous in New York for her film screenings. Like most of us she’s been on the silent side for the past year. She explained that she’s been living in Southampton in a rented cottage and working on a memoir.
“The world is opening up,” she wrote, adding: “It only took a pandemic to make us more resilient. Life in Southampton has never looked more beautiful.”
To celebrate this change in the weather, she had the brightest idea of organizing an “historic” house tour/party which occurred this past Saturday night from 6 to 8. The historic house was a mansion designed by Grosvenor Atterbury (1869-1956), an American architect and urban planner who designed and built more than 100 major projects including an array of mansions in the Hamptons. The house was completely restored and owned by Manhattan real estate developer (DUMBO in Brooklyn) David Walentas.
For starters, they organized a house tour and a brief author’s discussion led by Martha Stewart with Paul Goldberger, the American architecture critic and Peter Pennoyer, the New York architect who has written a book on Atterbury’s career.
Mr. Walentas has pledged $100 million to his alma mater, the University of Virginia. Included in that pledge is the sale price of the property ($35 million). The evening, which was underwritten by Mr. Walentas, was also benefitting Amanda Foreman’s literary charity, House of Speakeasy, which delivers books in its Bookmobile to underprivileged children in Harlem.
A Host Committee was organized for the event which was held last Saturday night from 6 to 8, on the property at 199 Coopers Neck Lane, in SH. Bronson van Wyck, who is a major organizer of smart, chic, grand (and fun) parties, designed the event.
The Host Committee was organized by Peg: Amanda Foreman, Steven Gambrel, Paul Goldberger, Peter Pennoyer, Michael Schnayerson and Gayfryd Steinberg, as well as Martha, Bronson and Mr. Walentas. The celebration included a book party for Goldberger whose book “DUMBO” which tells the story of how Walentas turned the neighborhood Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO, got it?) into a prosperous residential and commercial New York City neighborhood.
Peggy put together the guest list, inviting a more than 100 prominent Summer residents and weekend visitors representing the crème de la crème of New York’s prominent social crowd. From the looks of it, they all came and were delighted to be out and about and around friends many of whom they hadn’t yet seen for months because of the pandemic. The weather on Saturday started out grey and dismal but by late afternoon, the Sun came out that by 6 pm, the roadway along Coopers Neck was jammed with enthusiastic residents looking forward to a good time.
And a good time was had by all. And then there was the huge excitement of everybody seeing everybody – many for the first time in months. It was a real reunion celebration. Even Brooke Shields who has been recovering from a terrible accident and surgeries, made it to the party, looking like the top of the morning and showing no sign of what she’d been through (and totally recovered from).
Every aspect of the evening was a huge hit.
Taking it all in for NYSD was Lee Fryd:
One of my favorite walks in the Hamptons is the Atterbury section of Shinnecock Hills. For years, I explored its winding streets overlooking the bay, yet never its history. So, I was fascinated to learn about “The Genius of Grosvenor Atterbury,” at a House of Speakeasy Authors’ Night, at the Grosvenor Atterbury Estate that David Walentas is restoring and renovating.
Martha Stewart chatted with fellow authors Paul Goldberger (DUMBO) and Peter Pennoyer (The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury). “Peter, Paul and Martha,” as witty Amanda Foreman introduced them. Foreman had cofounded the House of SpeakEasy to bring books and educational materials to underprivileged children “hungry” to read. The evening, benefitting the charity, like the house, was underwritten by David Walentas.
There were plenty of books given to the not-so-underprivileged who attended. The Martha Manual, How to do (Almost) Everything by Martha Stewart, Perspective by Steven Gambrel, Born to Party Forced to Work by Bronson Van Wyck (who designed the event), Goldberger’s DUMBO, The Making of a Neighborhood and the Rebirth of Brooklyn, and Pennoyer’s The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury were coffee table tomes gifted to those who could carry them.
The Atterburys — so many names on our streets and beaches — were early settlers. Until the railroad was built in the 1880s, the grand “cottages” were in Newport. Those who came to the Hamptons had to cross the Sound from Connecticut. So, it was a wealthy railroad lawyer, Charles Atterbury, who helped develop Shinnecock Hills at the end of the 19th Century.
In this new community, Charles gave his son every advantage, and Grosvenor (1869-1956) became a renowned architect. He designed the Parrish Art Museum, the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ronald Perelman’s estate The Creeks, and many other society homes. But, he is best known for Forest Hills Gardens with Frederick Law Olmsted, where Atterbury brought high artistry to lower income housing.
In 1910, he designed the Grosvenor Atterbury Estate in Southampton for another son of privilege, Henry Graff Trevor, a co-founder with Charles Atterbury of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. The son of a financier, Trevor lived the leisure class life of a sportsman, tennis player and dog show judge. The estate housed his five children, staff of nine and herd of French curly-coated poodles, the breed he introduced to America in 1896.
Walentas — the visionary who developed DUMBO — bought the property two years ago. He brought in Garnet DePasquale Projects, the husband and wife team of Becky Garnett and Pete DePasquale, to renovate and restore it.
“David almost instantly regretted it because it was in such bad shape,” DePasquale told us. No longer. The exterior has been restored to its promise; the interior, gutted and reconfigured. DePasquale expects all to be completed by the end of this year.
It’s a lesson for those who would sacrifice architectural character to teardown expediency. Walentas preserved the overburnt brick exterior and undulating, sculptural roof. To restore an addition made in the 1980s, the facade was removed and a search commenced to match original bricks. Some were discovered in the property’s old pool house and some buried in its grounds
“So, we had to excavate,” Garnett laughed. Later the entrance was reconfigured, the kitchen moved, and the entire 17,000 square foot interior stripped to the bone for new floors, windows, bathrooms, even mouldings.
“Grosvenor had such an amazing range of talent and training,” Pennoyer said. “He started out doing shingled style houses, similar to what Stanford White was doing early on. Then Atterbury moved into more of an Arts and Craft style. He could adapt himself to a different places, so he also did houses with a Mediterranean feeling, or like this one, with this lumpy brick.
“He was also the master of the roof. He would break it down into different kinds of dormers and shave off the ends of the gables (a conceit called the jerkin head) to sculpt the roof into forms. With a house this long it gives you things to look at: the champfer and eyebrow dormers, for example. The way the lines sweep into the next form is like sculpture. It’s so much more interesting than the simplified roofs we see these days.”
“The house has had a long and tortured history,” DePasquale said. “Half of it was torn down. In the ’80s someone built a new addition, separated by a garage. So, for 30 years, two generations of the same family lived side by side. We spent the last two years trying to heal those wounds.”
“It’s always a leap of imagination to take something that’s in bad shape and make it feel contemporary, respecting the bones of the existing, not trying to transform, but, elevate it,” DePasquale said. “We’ve done all this work to make it relevant, livable and believable. Now there will be someone else who comes in and makes it their own. This house is a hundred years old. By virtue of this project, it’s going to have a very interesting next 100 years.”
Perhaps in the 22nd Century, someone, too, will wonder, “What if this old house could talk?”
Among scores of the delighted by a great way to launch the Summer of ’21 were: Chris Burnside, from Brown, Harris, who is broker on the house; Michael and Laurie Gelman, Brian and Denise Cobb, Paul Goldberger and Susan Solomon, Cathie Graham, Martin and Audrey Gruss, Vicky Ward and Dewey Shay; Victoria Wyman, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Ranier and Regina Greeven; Lorina Ash and Bill Rubenstein, Chris Brown and Giulia Constantini, Katherine Bryan, Tory Burch and Pierre Yves Roussel, Candace Bushnell and Jim Coleman, Peter and Alexandra Campbell, Brian Casey, John Avlon and Margaret Hoover, Charlie and Sara Ayres, Zack and Amanda Bacon, Gillian Tett, Kelly Taxter, Jane Hait, Sam Waksal, Jed Walentas, Andrea Greeven and Alex Douzet, Jennifer Creel, Liseanne Frankfurt, Ann Barish, Jill Brooke, Mr. and Mrs. Marc Chiffert, Daisy and Hugh Chisholm, Alina Cho, Gigi Stone, Bob and Suzanne Cochran.
And: Richard Cohen and Marie-Eve Berty, Virginia and Peter Duchin, Polly and Roy Stevenson, Jay and Kelly Sugarman, Sally Sussman and Robin Cantor, Judy Taubman, Tracey Jackson and Glenn Horowitz, Jane Holzer, Kitty and Steve Sherrill, Brooke Shields and Chris Henchy, Gigi and Adrianne Vittadini, Tom and Clllia Zacharias, Bettina Zilkha, Fred and Carole Guest, Judy Hudson, Donald and Lisa Jackson, Paul and Dayssi Kanavos, Luis and Lillian Fanjul, Jeff and Lisa Fields, Amanda Foreman and Jonathan Barton, Arthur and Linda Fraser, Paul Fribourg and Paula Zahn, Roger Friedman, Marcia and Richard Mishaan.
Also: Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder, Susan Lehman, David and Simone Levinson, Dominique Levy and Caryl Englander, Christopher Mason, Brad Collins and Nancy Clayton, Brad Comisar and Chris Dilella, Howard and Wendy Cox, Chris and Cristina Cuomo, Peter and Becky DePasquale, Tiffany Dubin and Doron Weber, Tom and Ingrid Edelman, Sophie Elgort and Eric Von Stroh, Michael and Lise Evans, Beate Moore, Bob Morris, Alan Patricof, Perri Peltz, Kathy Rayner, Euan Rellie and Lucy Sykes, Pilar and Steven Robert, Jeanne and Nick Rohatyn, Ellen and Chuck Scarborough, Andrew Schiff and Alexandra Wolfe, Sheila Wolfe, Christine and Stephen Schwarzman, Jeff Sharp and Doug Steinbrech, and many more just like ‘em.
Photographs by Patrick McMullan.