Southampton A Half Century Later

Written By: Michael Humphreys

I have traveled to my grandmother’s beach house in Water Mill since before I could walk or remember. Now, I am 23, my brother is 26, my parents are in their 50s and 60s and my grandmother is 88.

To start my story, here’s a little background on the house and our family history with it. We live in Burnett’s Cove, which is a small, private pebbled road at the end of Flying Point Road. My grandfather, whom I was never fortunate enough to meet, was a successful OBGYN in NY and decided he wanted a house on the water. When he traveled out to the Hamptons to look for a summer home, he saw this property, and immediately put in an offer without my grandmother even seeing it.  My grandparents acquired the house in the early 1970s and it has been my family’s sanctuary ever since.

The house is a pre-fabricated Abercrombie structure, with huge glass windows that wrap around the living room and kitchen to look out towards the bay and ocean. It is a simple, beautiful, and utilitarian little home that oozes character with its weather-beaten age. Upstairs on the main floor there are 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and an open floor kitchen/ living room area with a huge wooden deck that surrounds ¾ of the house. Downstairs, there is one more bedroom, a ½ bath and an outdoor shower that’s attached to the laundry room. My favorite parts of the house are the deck, where we have the majority of our dinners, the outdoor shower, and previously a large stained glass window that my grandfather made and had installed in the living room. Hurricane Sandy changed that. But anyways, there is no cable, no internet. Nothing fancy.  Instead, there is scrabble, monopoly, endless books, the New York Times, Dan’s Papers, cooking, conversation, and captivating views. Simple. Beautiful. Intimate.

When my brother and I were little we would spend the whole day at the beach. Digging holes, boogie-boarding in the ocean, catching crabs in the bay, and falling off our skim-boards. We would only leave to go back to the house for a quick PB & J, some lemonade, or a cinnamon bun from Ye Olde Bake Shoppe. (Those were always the real treat of the summer, especially when they were fresh out of the oven) At that age I didn’t know what having a beach house in Southampton meant. To me it was the beach I always went to. It was magical because it meant summer, a break from school, corn on the cob, La Parmigiana pizza, and all of my grandmother’s delicious Italian home cooked meals. It still holds a special place in my heart. However, as time has passed, Southampton has changed and so has my perspective of it.

Now that I am 23, I still do some of the same activities while I am there like go skim-boarding, play scrabble and read at the beach, but it is interesting how the surroundings have altered. The first major change happened when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. One of our neighbors called up my grandmother and said, “Gloria, your roof is in our backyard.” That was obviously quite the surprise for our family. The peaked roof that aimed toward the ocean was caught by the strong winds and turned into a kite that sailed several hundred feet away. However, because the house was such an integral part of our family, my grandmother decided to rebuild. It turned into a two-year ordeal between trying to solve insurance damage claims and getting a construction manager to be on time, honest, and thorough. I will leave it at that. Now that we have our house back in order, there are new cabinets, new appliances, new beds, and new couches, but in general, it is the same house it used to be. What has really changed around us is the architecture of the surrounding homes. I find it to be distasteful, obtrusive, and gaudy.

Quite honestly the majority of the new houses going up on Flying Point Road and even Burnett’s Cove look like rectangular boxy hotels. The thing is that these houses breathe competition and insecurity to me. Each new house seems to be bigger than the last: taller, longer, and uglier. The beautiful, well-designed, and modest homes are being bought out, knocked down, and replaced with absurd wooden planked boxes with glass. And for what? It seems like a good amount of these houses don’t even get used during the summer, let alone be a year-round homestead. It reminds me of Donald Trump saying, “Look at those hands, are they small hands?” or a 5 ft man buying a lifted Ford F-350 truck.

Also, as of this year it is illegal to bring your dog to the beach. Really? Really Southampton? I mean get it together. If it is to keep the Piping Plover population safe I understand, but let’s be real here.

I love Southampton. It is my favorite place on the planet. I hope to keep coming my entire life and eventually pass it on to my children. That is if the oceans haven’t risen and swept everything away by then. But in all earnestness, I think that this area of elite human beings needs to take a closer look at themselves, their priorities, and their values. Let dogs walk on the beach.