History On Tour

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In 1757 a man named William Phillips bought a parcel of land in Remsenburg and built his family a little saltbox on it.

More than 250 years later, the home has grown considerably with renovations. But the original core still stands, and is a testament to pre-Revolutionary craftsmanship.

Today the residence is called “the Phillips-Tuthill House,” after some of its former owners. It’s not only one of the oldest homes standing in Remsenburg, it’s also one of five historic buildings that ticket-holders will see on the Westhampton Beach Historical Society’s second annual “Historical House Tour” on Friday, July 12.

Other structures on the self-guided tour, which will be held from noon to 4 p.m., include the Culver home, built in the 1850s; the Stevens Carriage House, built in 1898; the Griffing Barn, built circa 1860; and the Remsenburg Community Church and chapel, which were built in the late 1800s and donated to by Charles Remsen, for whom the burg is named. All of the historic buildings on the tour are connected to early settlers or prominent families and are rich in local history.

In the two-and-a-half-century history of the Phillips-Tuthill House, it has always been home to a family. The residence, which has never sat vacant, now houses Harold and Lorrie Gordon, who reported that their relationship with the residence was love at first sight.

“When we first walked through the house I went one way and she went the other way. We met back and I put my arm around her and I said ‘Do you like it?’ She said ‘I love it.’ I said ‘So do I’ and we bought it that day,” Mr. Gordon said of the summer afternoon in 1984 when he and his wife purchased their home.

During a tour of the home last week, the Gordons talked about the house in which they live, and love. When they first looked at it, the couple didn’t know anything about the home’s history, Mr. Gordon said. But after learning of its roots, they grew to love it even more.

Three generations and more than a hundred years after his great-uncle, William Phillips, built the house in 1757, William R. Phillips constructed the larger central portion, circa 1870. When walking through the house today, one of the only ways to tell where the additions have been made is by ceiling height, according to the Gordons. The older the room, the lower the ceiling, they said. To date, all of the renovations and additions have been done to the back of the house, leaving the original façade unchanged since the 1870 addition.

Mr. Phillips died in 1884 and the home was left to his wife’s relative, Theodore Hallock Tuthill, who lived there with his family for many years. In 1914, the ownership of the house passed once again, this time to one of the Tuthill sons, Ira Brown Tuthill, and his wife, Lucy.

Mr. Tuthill was an engineer on the Long Island Rail Road. As a side business, he sold hardware, schoolbooks and papers out of a small carriage house on the property. His wife sold dairy products out of the couple’s kitchen.

Unfortunately, the small building which served as Ms. Tuthill’s shop had to be torn down by the Gordons, as it was beyond renovation. Though the building couldn’t be saved, it was still a tough decision, according to Mr. Gordon.

“When we tore down a little portion that was attached to the kitchen, the workers showed me the wooden nails. Oh my God, I felt sorry about that,” he said. “The workmanship and what they did in the 1700s really was marvelous.”

The entire property has a long history of care, he added. It has been immaculately landscaped since the 1940s; at one point it had one of every tree indigenous to Long Island planted there.

However, due to the abundance of plantings, it was inevitable that some damage would occur. The Gordons lost nine trees to Hurricane Sandy, some over 200 years old.

“We get creamed every time there’s a hurricane,” Ms. Gordon said.

She added that she and her husband are all about salvaging and reusing, even if some things are too ravaged to be put to their original use. After irreparable storm damage, the couple had local artist Richard Anderson carve one of the giant cedar stumps into a statue of pheasants, an owl and a heron, which now graces the driveway.

Regardless of what has been added to the house over the last few centuries, or what hurricanes have taken away, one thing has remained, the Gordons said: the original face of the 1757 saltbox is the first thing visitors see when they arrive at their home.

The Westhampton Beach Historical Society’s second annual “Historical House Tour” will be held on Friday, July 12, from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased ahead of time at Lynne’s card shop on Main Street in Westhampton Beach, or at the Tuthill House Museum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the day of the tour. Proceeds benefit the restoration of the Foster-Meeker House. Call 288-1139 or visit whbhistorical.org for additional information.

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