Walking the sprawling 5.24 acres of the Village Latch Inn in Southampton Village, it is easy to see how the eclectic, century-old property could be transformed to help make the village more of a year-round tourist destination.
In recent years, Southampton Village, always bustling in the summer, has made a commitment to attracting visitors during the quieter winter months. With the opening of the new Southampton Center—a venue dedicated to becoming a cultural hub for the community—and more village businesses staying open through the winter, the next logical step, according to officials, is to create a year-round luxury hotel nearby.
With the right buyer, the Village Latch Inn could easily become exactly what the village needs to be—more than a summer hot spot—Village Mayor Mark Epley said last week, a few days after giving a presentation at the inn where he stressed the importance of finding a buyer who will use it in a way that both preserves its history and makes the most of its potential.
“It would become an important spoke in our wheel,” he said. “We need to find a way to attract people and pull them in, in February and March—but we need a place to house them.”
Located on the north side of Hill Street just blocks from Main Street, the main house for the Latch Inn is known for its Great Gatsby-esque appearance. The large, white, green-shuttered mansion sits toward the front of the property and is surrounded by shrubbery and nestled between two large, neatly kept lawns.
One of eight buildings on the property—the others include the Terry Cottage, the Potting Shed, the two “Homestead” buildings that house guests, the Vice President Suite, a Victorian greenhouse and a seventh, unnamed building—the main house was designed by architect Stanford White and originally served as the Grand Annex of the famed Irving Hotel, which was across the street. With its purchase by current owners Marta and Martin White in 1974, the Grand Annex was saved from the fate of the Irving Hotel, which was used as a “controlled-burn house” for a fire department drill.
Walking through the 67 rooms on the property, visitors can easily become entranced by more cosmopolitan flourishes, such as large, cascading chandeliers, overstuffed couches, hand-painted designs adorning the doors, and worldly artistic touches applied to each corner of the inn. At the same time, they can enjoy a rustic charm typical in the Hamptons.
Previous guests have included former Vice President Al Gore, designer Michael Kors, and actors John Stamos, Fran Drescher, and Bill Murray, among others.
Last week, Ms. White said throughout her 40 years as an owner of the property, she would give the inn four out of five stars, but with the right buyer, it could—and should—become a five-star, year-round hotel. Currently, the inn is open from May through October, and the Whites spend the winter traveling or in Florida.
“This property has life to it,” she said. “Why tear down this mansion when it can be preserved and restored?”
Although they do hope the historic buildings on the property are preserved, there is a chance that, because the house is not a designated historical landmark, a new buyer could raze the buildings and redevelop the property. One possibility would be for a housing development: Under existing half-acre residential zoning, the property would yield 10 building lots.
To help showcase what the property could otherwise become, the Whites had plans drawn up to show the hotel, a new restaurant and a spa in addition to the existing swimming pool and tennis courts. Under these plans, a new, 4,000-square-foot swimming pool would run the length of the property, with a main building built in the middle—all under current zoning.
The current historic mansion and cottages would be left toward the front of the property, with the new additions set farther back. With a high-end restaurant and a fully functioning health spa in place, even visitors not staying at the hotel would be able to use the amenities.
Mr. Epley said the property could provide the high-end accommodations the village needs moving forward.
The property would also be perfectly located for village-sponsored events, parties, weddings, and exhibits, and would leave ample room for tents to be erected on the lawn, he said. “If you are able to develop a successful hotel or resort spa, something that will attract people on a year-round basis, that would support the activities that go on in the village business district,” the mayor said.
“We have some very nice places that people come to in the village—in the summer everyone is full and in the winter it is hard to sustain—but this could be something unique that will attract people and support other businesses, too,” he said.
The Village Latch Inn has been on the market for the past two years and is listed by the Corcoran Group for $23 million.
“It is historic and unique,” Mr. White said of the hotel, where every room masquerades as an art gallery, displaying box art by his wife and other pieces collected during their travels. “It is still a surprise to people when they see just how attractive it is,” he said.