The incoming president of the United States has Trump Tower, and Chester A. Arthur had his home away from the White House on Union Street in Sag Harbor. That house, which earlier this year had a summer rental ask of $390,000, is now for sale for $14,200,000.
President Arthur was one of the handful of presidents who was not elected to the office. In 1880, he was on the ticket that resulted in voters putting James Garfield in the White House. However, less than a year into that administration, President Garfield was shot. For months he lingered, receiving medical care of decreasing quality, and finally died in agony. President Arthur was sworn in as the 21st president and the second, following Andrew Johnson, to be elevated after a president was assassinated. Because we know that 27east.com readers are an especially literate bunch, for more information on President Garfield and his unhappy fate, get to the bookstore or library and pick up the excellent “Destiny of the Republic” by Candice Millard.
And if you have $14 million, you can read it in the former “Summer White House” at 20 Union Street. It is fitting that the dwelling is just down the street from the Custom House because his stint with U.S. Customs launched President Arthur’s career in politics. His father, a Baptist preacher, had emigrated from Ireland to Vermont, where President Arthur was born in 1829. He became a lawyer in New York, and during the Civil War he was the state’s Quartermaster General. President Arthur’s appointment by President Ulysses Grant in 1871 as Collector of the Port of New York gave him a formidable base of power because he now ruled over thousands of employees and could hire more from Republican ranks. When it seemed that President Arthur was becoming too powerful, President Rutherford B. Hayes fired him.
Later, as president, some critics saw President Arthur as a GOP hack, but he turned out to be a pretty good chief executive. He became a champion of civil service reform, his administration enacted the first federal immigration law, and he tackled unfair tariff rates. Chances were he would be re-elected. But President Arthur was diagnosed with a kidney disease that turned out to be terminal, so he did not run again, and he died less than two years after leaving office, in November 1886.
During his time as president and in his last years, President Arthur enjoyed his Sag Harbor retreat. It had been built in 1796 for the whaling captain Lester Beebe. In 1876, it had been renovated by the New York architect Stephen B. French. In the intervening years the property went from one owner to another. The most recent renovations were orchestrated by the architect Steven Gambrel. The house on a third-acre has 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, a media room, a wine cellar, and original fireplaces. Out back are a pool and very attractive landscaping. Most important, of course, to a new owner is to be able to say, “Chester Arthur slept here.”