The Long Island hamlet of Hampton Bays, eight miles west of Southampton, has a somewhat checkered past. Settled by farmers around 1740, the area became a late 19th-century summer destination, then an upscale estate area, then a middle class summer community and then, by the 1980s, a notorious party town. However, like other seaside communities all across Long Island, the oft-overlooked Hamptons community is experiencing rapidly rising real estate prices.
Known as “Good Ground” when it was first settled, by the 1880s the area was becoming a popular summer destination, with boarding houses and hotels built along the shore. The largest of these, the Clifton Hotel, was built in 1899 on Lighthouse Road and provided its over 100 guests such luxurious accommodations as billiard rooms, tennis courts, and bathhouses. It burned down in 1925. Lighthouse Road got its name from the Good Ground lighthouse, once a valuable aid in navigation between the Fire Island and Montauk Lighthouses. It was decommissioned in the 1940s and demolished.
In the 1920s, Good Ground’s hotels and boarding houses began to give way to enormous, wealthy estates, and the area’s name was changed in 1922 to Hampton Bays to capitalize on the growing popularity of the wealthier Hamptons towns of East Hampton and Southampton. Alas, economics eventually changed Hampton Bays into a more middle class summer enclave before share houses began to proliferate throughout the area and, in the ’80s and ’90s, turned many homes into weekend discos.
Today, Hampton Bays is on the upswing again. Tucked on a quiet road, just down from where the lighthouse once stood, this classic, Victorian summer house sits on almost an acre of rolling lawn, with spectacular views of Shinnecock Bay and 157 feet of bulkheaded bay frontage. Dripping with charm and listed with Deborah Pirro at Sotheby’s International Realty at $4.15 million, the house stands three stories tall with wraparound porches.
The gracious proportions of the past are evident in its living room with fireplace and wrap-around windows, eat-in kitchen, and dining room. There are five bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms in all. Outside are wide porches, which invite quiet relaxation via bay views, while a pool with cabana, sandy beach, outdoor kitchen and gardens with koi pond are poised to make the most of the summer.
Inside, the house combines timeless period architecture, such as the original millwork staircase, stained-glass windows, and wooden built-ins, with today’s comforts, such as up-to-date appliances and air conditioning. With the bay right on the doorstep, each room is filled with shimmering light. Some rooms seem to almost give the illusion of being on a ship, surrounded by water. At about 3,000 square feet, the main house is reasonably spacious, but there’s extra space in a separate outbuilding that contains a gym and lots of storage. Just down the street lies the Ponquogue Bridge, which spans the bay and leads to miles of ocean beaches.
Seems like Hampton Bays is back to being good ground.