Variety Rules The Sag Harbor House Tour


Five homes ranging from modern to historic are on this year’s Sag Harbor House Tour, which is taking place on Friday, July 5. Four are located in Sag Harbor village, and one is in nearby North Haven. The tour is a benefit for the John Jermain Library.

The sprawling North Haven home, built in the early 1980s, features a lighthouse-shaped entry hall, a wine cellar that holds 1,000 bottles and a pool fashioned to resemble a natural pond. The Sag Harbor Village-based homes include a 1905 black whaler’s house; a Sears Roebuck “kit house,” a residential property with an exotic, lush garden; and home of Louise and Aiden Corish.

When Ms. Corish and her 13½-year-old golden retriever, Ivy, greet tour guests at the door, the visitors will immediately get a sense of the history permeating the early 19th-century home.

The Greek revival-style residence, built in the 1830s by Frederick Basset, is located on a narrow street within walking distance of the village. It has the most history of all the homes on the tour.

“We saw that it had great old bones … it had a double loft and was the perfect size,” she reminisced about when she and her husband first looked at the house.

In the early-to-mid 1800s, Greek revival was a very popular style. Ancient cities were being discovered by archaeologists in Greece, and, as a result, American architects were copying the designs, believing they represented democracy. Some common features of that style are a pediment window on the second floor, a low sloping roof and large but simple molding.

“It’s not particularly ornate, all the trim is fairly simple,” Ms. Corish said of her home’s interior molding.

The Corishes bought the home in 2001 and live in it year-round. The house has two parlors downstairs and two parlors upstairs. The fireplaces, doors and floorboards are almost all original. The couple has plans for renovations, she reported, and they appreciate the fact that Sag Harbor makes you restore, not replace, historical homes.

“We are looking forward to doing renovations where we can maintain the integrity of the house,” she said, adding that the restoration will be like “uncovering layers of beauty.”

The structure itself is not the only thing on the property with history. Throughout the home the Corishes have adorned the walls with old paintings of landscapes, seascapes and profiles of mysterious figures whose identities remain unknown.

Many of the paintings were rescued after Ms. Corish’s great-grandparents’ home caught on fire in Philadelphia in the 1920s. A handful of paintings were left to her, but they were completely black, covered in soot. A good friend who owns a gallery in East Hampton was able to restore them, she reported.

“We very much like old-fashioned landscapes that depict old charming scenes,” Ms. Corish said of her family’s taste in art.

The house holds another of Ms. Corish’s and her husband’s interests: an eclectic library, which surrounds the dining room table. It consists of approximately 1,000 books, ranging from Irish history books, left to Mr. Corish by his uncle, and several first-editions left to Ms. Corish by her mother and grandfather, to more modern literature, such as a paperback copy of the popular book, “Life of Pi.”

“We are both really big readers,” Ms. Corish said of she and her husband, adding that the inherited leather-bound books are the pride of the library.

There’s also a garden, which is a delight to both as well.

Mr. Corish, who is from Ireland, moved to New York in 1981 to work for a British design company which had just opened an office in Manhattan. When he and his wife first moved to the house in Sag Harbor, they started a garden. Being Irish, Mr. Corish wanted to grow potatoes and root vegetables, the two staples of his mother’s cooking when he was a child.

“I said ‘What! I’m not gonna eat those!’” Ms. Corish recalled.

But after learning how to cook with root vegetables, she now has a new appreciation for humble old-world food.

“It’s amazing what you can make with them,” she said of the parsnips, turnips and potatoes that are now growing in her backyard.

But there is one problem, she continued. Living in such an old house, not much is level, which causes her some trouble in the kitchen.

“The house is as ‘slopey’ as can be. When I cook all the liquid goes to the back of the pan. It’s hilarious,” she said.

The Corishes truly enjoy being a part of the community, and living so close to their neighbors is one of the biggest perks, she said. They both look forward to welcoming visitors to their home during the tour.

“It’s a great cause, anything we can do to help the village,” Ms. Corish said.

The Sag Harbor House Tour is sponsored by Friends of the John Jermain Library. The self-guided tour is set for Friday July 5, from 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets in advance are $45 and are available at the library annex on West Water Street and The Wharf Shop on Main Street. Day-of-the-tour tickets are available at the library only, and will be $50. For additional information, call the library at 725-0049.

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