On the East End, where beautiful homes rule, it’s only natural to want a peek inside.Especially during the holiday season.
This weekend, four houses and a newly renovated landmark decked with evergreen trim, wreaths and ornaments for Christmas—or menorahs, candles and dreidles for Hanukkah—will be open for public viewing during the Quogue Historical Society’s Holiday House Tour, now in its third year.
“Maureen and I are delighted to be co-hosting the Holiday House Tour once again,” co-chair Melissa Cook wrote last week in an email. “It’s back by popular demand. This year we’re not only featuring one of the oldest houses in Quogue, but also a windmill and a home decorated for Hanukkah. Please join us for this new Quogue tradition.”
When William and Deni McChesney read a “For Sale” newspaper ad in 2004 for the oldest house in Quogue, they immediately called the real estate agent listed in the advertisement.
Within a week, it was theirs.
Built in 1730 as a simple shepherd’s cottage, the home was widened in 1900 and became known as the “Tea Shop at the Sign of the Blue Moon” in 1910. At one time, it was believed to belong to the Foster family—one of Southampton’s original settlers.
“We have always loved old houses,” Mr. McChesney wrote last week in an email. “The house had been seriously restored by the owner, but needed some work just because old houses do. And we did extensive reconfiguration to fit our needs.”
Renovations—which included a new roof line, dormers and several added rooms—revealed evidence of the original post-and-beam construction supported by crude struts and later reinforced by milled struts. The dining room—which is the oldest part of the house and Mr. McChesney’s favorite—features the original, exposed American Chestnut beams once shipped from Connecticut. It can seat up to 18 on any given holiday, he said.
“Over the years, this dining room has seen many jovial dinners,” he said, “and it is always fun to imagine all of the dinners enjoyed here over the last 283 years.”
After 23 years of living in Quogue, Gerry and Liz Byrne finally got the home they always wanted—after building it themselves.
The couple moved to the village in 1977. Two decades later, they bought an acre of vacant land from Janet Sands, the widow of Richard O’R Dowling, who owned the nearby Marshmere estate—home to Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, author of “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783.”
The house was completed in 2000—a 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom abode with a pool and spa, sitting on a canal with a floating dock. The great room is the home’s highlight, Mr. Byrne said, because it houses the kitchen, dining and living rooms in one space—not to mention the couple’s annual Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from all over the world.
“We designed it to be very livable and comfortable, to just fit like a glove,” Mr. Byrne said of the house last week in an email. “Warm and inviting. For us, it does that. Just a home exactly the way we wanted it.”
Christmas is the Liddle family’s favorite holiday. And their house on Quiogue shows it.
They celebrate for several weeks, according to Tara Liddle. The home is decorated with swags of greenery, bowls of fruit, ornaments and trees throughout—including a large, lighted pine on the patio.
“We tend to decorate lavishly in the traditional European-American fashion,” Ms. Liddle said last week in an email. “We love the large fireplace and we enjoy entertaining in [the living room] all season long.”
Ms. Liddle and her husband, Jeffrey, built the terra-cotta-colored house in 2005 using traditional Tuscan elements—stucco inside and out, a wood tower and travertine marble—in a traditional Tuscan sensibility, with 12-foot ceilings and multiple fireplaces.
“We designed and built a house based upon our love of Italian, and specifically Tuscan, style,” Ms. Liddle said, “with authentic materials and details.”
This holiday season, the Quogue Club at Hallock House will go unadorned—all but for a wreath on its door. But it is not for lack of holiday spirit, chairman Simon Rose explained.
“We’re just going to let it be what it is,” he said last week during a telephone interview. “We’ll certainly gussy it up for Christmas 2014, but we’re pushing into a deadline just to open by the end of the year.”
For the last two years, the historic inn’s doors had been closed until, in 2012, a group of local residents purchased the circa-1824 Hallock House and embarked on an extensive restoration to open a dining membership club and hotel, returning the building to its original appearance one century ago.
“It’s really an iconic structure in the village and I think it will benefit the community,” Mr. Rose said. “I don’t think you see that when you look at the building, necessarily, or understand what this was: a meeting place in the community.”
First a modest farmhouse built by the Hallock family, it soon became a popular destination for boarders who arrived by stagecoach at the stop across the street, in front of the Jessup Homestead. The most famous among them was Daniel Webster, a leading Massachusetts senator during the period leading up to the Civil War who annually visited Westhampton and Quogue in the 1840s for shooting trips.
“People will remember it for their lifetimes in this village,” Mr. Rose said of the house. “And we hope that will now continue for another couple hundred years.”
Outward appearances are deceiving at the Levy family house. From the driveway, their circa-1980s home looks like a modest cottage. Inside, it is anything but.
“We did an extensive renovation and added an art studio on the top floor, a wing for children and grandchildren, and doubled the size of the kitchen for my husband’s love of cooking,” Donna Levy wrote last week in an email. “It is quite large, but unassuming when looked at from the yard.”
The couple first saw the contemporary-style house in 2006—”round corners and all,” she said. It was the property that caught her attention: the southern vista from the master bedroom and surrounding wetlands, marsh and sea grass. Coming from their home in Huntington, the view was “expansive,” she said.
Inside, art work covers the walls, many by Ms. Levy herself, who recently had a show at the Quogue Library.
“The decor is calming and allows us a retreat from our usual frenetic activities,” she said. “We decorate for Hanukkah with a menorah, dreidels, chocolate coins and, of course, eight gifts—one for each night of the holiday.”
Ralph Worthington IV always thought he would grow up and buy a lighthouse. As it turns out, he was wrong, but not by much. Instead, he bought a windmill.
Once part of a large, circa-1890 estate, this cottage—open only for the house tour’s cocktail party—is one of the remaining structures on the property after a catastrophic fire destroyed the main house. It was repaired, rented and finally sold in 1997 to Mr. Worthington.
“The interior space is really unusual,” he said last week in an email. “The ceiling ridge is about 30 feet from the ground floor. The staggered upper spaces were designed to be on 13 different levels.”
The windmill tower is open from the inside with timbers supporting the axle, he explained, while enclosing a winding staircase to the upper levels.
“The eclectic furnishings of the windmill make it suitable for all seasons,” he said. “As a kid, I always thought I’d live in a lighthouse as an adult. A windmill was my second choice, but so far, it has worked out just fine.”
The Quogue Historical Society will host a Holiday House Tour of four festive homes and one landmark structure on Saturday, December 14, from 2 to 6 p.m. A cocktail party will follow from 6 to 8 p.m. at the home of Ralph Worthington IV. Tickets are $50 for the tour and $40 for the cocktail party. Admission starts at $85 for both. Proceeds benefit the Historical Society. For more information, call 996-2404 or visit quoguehistory.org/holiday-tour.