Fortunately, a good friend suggested a foray to the haven of Sag Harbor, NY, which has a notable and storied history (writers Herman Melville, John Steinbeck, James Fenimore Cooper, Truman Capote, Betty Friedan, E.L. Doctorow and others have all lived or live there, and legendary mail artist Ray Johnson drowned there after jumping from the Sag Harbor-North Haven bridge).
So, I admit it, while the thrill of visiting the store (Schiavoni’s Market) that inspired Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent drew me to Sag, as soon as I arrived I realized I was onto something quite beautiful. The poetically situated hamlet (can a place be poetically situated?) seemed a perfect retreat from New York City’s sweltering summers.
Little did I realize that I not only had a come across a delightful little town but the home I was invited to stay in was an oasis of Americana dripping with the quirky character that makes America’s storied past intriguing.
Camera in hand I instinctively snapped pictures of the beach front cottage just outside Sag Harbor, NY. Thankfully, a historian already documented the house and I read that the residence was established in the mid-fifties when two older buildings from Sag Harbor were relocated, combined and expanded by the mid-20th century owners.
The entrance signaled the entry into a magical abode. It is dominated with a tree mural that careens past the wall, up behind a metal bench…onto the ceiling…engulfing a metal light fixture forged with vine and bird forms. Primitive grass sprouts from the floor onto the walls and birds are drawn onto the sky-colored walls, eternally frozen mid-flight.
Folk art painted carpets lead up to the guest rooms. Every corner is filled with curiosities–tramp art, wooden ducks, quilts and framed silhouettes.
The couple who owns the home preserves, and I’m sure have contributed to, the integrity of this oasis of Americana. Unlike the other homes in the neighborhood, the estate doesn’t embrace the shore and seems to step back in a contemplative contrapposto.
Trees grow all around the perimeter and only a small stone paved pool punctures the green of the rolling lawn. The facade is serene and the tight spaces are not luxurious but rich in textures and warmth.
Spending a few days in this place was sheer joy, breathing in the illusion of a colonial home made me think about the beginnings of America. About a place that began as a provincial backwater and eventually flowered into the crossroads of the world.
Sag Harbor gave me a chance to think about that beautiful journey. I posted my images (with the owners’ permission) for the world to see, enjoy. Complete photo album.
For the text-inclined, here’s a brief literary history of Sag Harbor (courtesy Newsday)