East Hampton Historical Society, Ralph Lauren Partner To Restore Hedges Barn

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East Hampton Village, already well known for the pains it takes to preserve historical buildings, soon can add another notch to its belt thanks to a partnership between the East Hampton Historical Society and Ralph Lauren.

The two have teamed up to restore the Hedges Barn, now situated down Edwards Lane in the village, after the barn is moved across the street to the village’s Mulford Farm, an English colonial farmstead run by the historical society. Ralph Lauren, which has several stores in East Hampton, is selling custom East Hampton Historical Society apparel and accessories, and 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the restoration. Once restored, the barn will house programs focusing on early East Hampton farm life.

The Hedges Barn is one of the last 18th-century barns on Main Street, said Robert Hefner, the historic preservation adviser to the Village of East Hampton. “There used to be a lot more when East Hampton was a farming community until the summer colony started in the late 19th century,” he explained. “The barn would act as a reminder of 250 years of agriculture on Main Street.”

According to the historical society, the old barn leans a bit, and its shingles are barely hanging on. It was once part of a farming homestead that sat where the northern wing of the East Hampton Library is now, Mr. Hefner said. “That house is now Town Hall where the supervisor’s office is,” he said. “The barn goes with that house.”

At some point, the barn was moved to a residential property on Edwards Lane, but Mr. Hefner was not sure of when or why. Today it is owned by the Rattray family, who are donating it to the village ,according to Lynn Stefanelli of the historical society.

Antique barn consultants examined the structure and determined that its hand-hewn frame was in good condition, a press release from the historical society said. The plan is to disassemble it board by board and beam by beam, and then transport it to the Mulford property for reassembly and restoration. “Every effort will be made to preserve any original materials—only the weathered shingles will be new, handmade to match the originals,” the historical society said.

The project stems from a preexisting partnership between the society and Ralph Lauren, said the society’s executive director, Richard Barons. The two organizations previously had worked together on the Mulford property.

“The partnership started about six years ago with them helping us improve and use the landscape of the Mulford Farm as a more educational tool rather than just a mowed lawn,” Mr. Barons said. “They [Ralph Lauren] eventually got wind of this barn, which we had been led to believe was in pretty poor condition. We had been searching for some way of having a large space that was covered on our property for children’s groups, gatherings, any time you need to get people out of the rain,” he said. Workshops, craft projects and other programs will explore the traditions of early farming in East Hampton.

“We were offered the barn and now we’re in the process of getting the approval from the ZBA and the DBR to move forward,” Mr. Barons said, referring to the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Design Review Board.

Disassembly of the barn is scheduled to begin in October. Each piece will be covered and preserved through the winter months, and the reassembly is set to take place next spring.

The entire relocation, restoration and documentation of the project will cost about $400,000, Mr. Barons said. The historical society has already raised about $75,000 and hopes to use a local contractor to perform the work.

“Since our job is local history, we take the loss of any historic structure very personally,” Mr. Barons said. “It’s not our goal to move something ourselves, but if that seems like the only way, I’m pleased we have a board that realizes how important these farm buildings are because they’re so fragile. They seem more fragile than most. We’re honored to think we may be able to preserve a little segment of East Hampton’s agricultural history.”

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