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May 28, 2014 11:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Center Proposes To Open Brick Wall To Make Grounds More Inviting

May 28, 2014 4:38 PM

Officials at the Southampton Center are looking to renovate the grounds of the historic site, with an eye toward better accommodating public events and making community members feel more welcome.

Last week, the director of the arts center, Michele Thompson, presented a proposal to the Southampton Village Board to solicit comments and suggestions. Joining her was Siamak Samii, a Southampton-based architect who has been working on the project for the past two years.

The plan is to add shrubbery and other plants, benches and a walkway. A key part of the project, Ms. Thompson said, would be to open up part of a brick wall lining the front of the property on Jobs Lane and install brick steps to make the grounds feel more open and inviting. A third opening would be added between two entrances already on Jobs Lane, and a walkway would connect the three entrances.

“We want visitors to the village and folks who live here year-round to really feel that they can take ownership of the property,” Ms. Thompson said in an interview this week. “We want them to feel that this really is the front lawn for the village, and we want to have as welcoming an environment as we can—we are trying to beautify the space.”

At the board meeting last week, village officials were interested in hearing more, but some said they had reservations about making changes to such a historic property, which is owned by the village.

The structure was built in 1897 to house Samuel Parrish’s collection of Italian Renaissance paintings and 19th-century plaster casts. Three sections, all designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, were added in three phases ending in 1913. More recently, the building housed the Parrish Art Museum until the Southampton Center took it over last year.

Southampton Village Trustee Nancy McGann said last week that she has some concerns about the project, in that she considers part of the wall to be a piece of the original architecture. While she does not want to see the steps added—they would be made of 100-year-old bricks from another Southampton Village property—Ms. McGann is in favor of making some improvements to the grounds; namely, the additional walkway and benches on the grounds.

“My concern is that I personally feel that wall is a part of the architecture of the building, and one of the things that we really take pride in is the antiquity of our community—it is so original,” she said. “I feel we are tampering with that, and I think that as time goes on, if people want to attend the events, they will find their way in to the property.”

Deputy Mayor Richard Yastrzemski also shared some concerns, saying that although he could see the benefits of the project, he would like to hear from the community before a decision is made.

“Since this is for the benefit of the public and we would be making changes to a historical structure, it wouldn’t hurt to have some public weigh-in on it,” he said. “As beneficial as it may be, and as well-intentioned as it may be, there are always two sides. I have heard the pros, but I wouldn’t mind hearing those who are against it, if they exist.”

Village Mayor Mark Epley said he did not agree, as he is excited about the idea, but added that he could understand the concerns. For now, he said the trustees should talk to people and gauge the community’s perception of the project and go from there.

“I am a big fan of this,” he said. “I think it opens up the property and accomplishes what we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to make people use the grounds and do all of the things that the Parrish did wrong, and I think this is thinking outside of the box a little bit.”

This week, Ms. Thompson said she is not surprised there were reservations from some members of the board, saying the building and grounds are an important historic landmark.

She said she wants people to contact her with more information about the project via email at info@southamptoncenter.org, or by phone at 283-0967. The Village Board is also accepting comments and concerns about the proposal, which can be directed to Village Hall at 23 Main Street.

“The Southampton Center is intended to be a cultural hub for the community of Southampton year-round,” Ms. Thompson said. “We intend to create a warm cultural center in the center of the village, and to do that we really think it is important to create a welcoming grounds and building.”

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I imagine philathome already knows about the opening at the far west corner of the property. There is/was an opening for vehicles to enter the grassy area. They do not need to destroy the wall. There is already two openings to the garden areas from the front patio entrance to the museum.
That wall is sacred to many of us locals of a certain age.I remember climbing onto the wall, walking from the main steps, hanging onto the wrought iron fence, to the end. I jumped down and went into the store ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jun 1, 14 5:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
There are two entrances on Jobs Lane and plenty of access from the parking lot. Absolutely no need to destroy a Village Landmark. Clean up what you have!
By zeke (40), southampton on Jun 1, 14 7:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Agreed!! I cannot believe that they want to desecrate such an iconic part of our historic village. I truly hope this idea gets shot down with a vengeance!
By S'hamptonNative (83), Southampton on Jun 1, 14 9:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
The entire park is visible from Municipal Parking.

Agreed. Why screw with it?
By Mr. Z (11674), North Sea on Jun 3, 14 4:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Fabulous idea. This will sail through the approval process. It will be lovely to have increased accessibility and sight lines to an open expanse of landscaped grounds on Jobs La.
By Josurfer (12), southampton on Jun 2, 14 6:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Everything sails through the approval process with the boards and elected people we have now. To quote Oliver Goldsmith, "This is Liberty-hall, gentlemen. You may do as you please here."
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Jun 5, 14 1:16 AM
Great idea. I think the grounds always did seem a little 'off-limits' because of the fence. Opening it up would definitely make it more inviting.
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Jun 2, 14 10:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By localcitizen (108), Southampton on Jun 2, 14 1:58 PM
The trustees and board members have absolutely no respect
for the historic structures in the village. Shame on them for considering
this idea. The gates allow access to the property. No need
to dicker with what has been a part of the historic look of the village.
By localcitizen (108), Southampton on Jun 2, 14 1:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Growing up near the Town Dump, I remember riding my bike down the street as a child. As I grew up, and this place became more popular I came to notice something which did not exist before. Trash. Lots of it.

Trash lining the shoulder of the road, trash in the street, trash blown by the wind into the front yard, and in the woods around the property.

When you make things "more inviting" for large amounts of people, you may as well invite Dracula into your bedroom.
By Mr. Z (11674), North Sea on Jun 3, 14 9:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
This idea is great. My main criticism is that its sheepish. Why have the steps so small and narrow. I would make wider across and deeper. This would allow people to sit on them as well and watch the pedestrians on the sidewalk. A nice place to take a break.

That little park is a jewel inside the village that is under appreciated. Unfortunately, that wall makes it very unwelcoming and gives this public property an air of private property do not trespass. People don't know to go around ...more
By V.Tomanoku (788), southampton on Jun 3, 14 9:58 AM
Gotta love the way the UTIs move here cause they "love" the place, then try to change it into whatever hell hole they came from! Leave the wall the way it is, why mess with perfection?
By bigfresh (4593), north sea on Jun 3, 14 5:52 PM
This is a terrible idea. As has been pointed out, there are several entrances to this area, and as a mother of young children I often used them when my girls were growing up, and was happy for the fence to provide a boundary for my girls that didn't require me to chase them in fear they would bolt for the street. There are steps in front of the old museum to sit on, two gateways on either side of the steps, and the aforementioned alley, as well as wide access from the back and side of the property. ...more
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Jun 5, 14 3:03 PM
Easier access to the lawn of the Center is a nice idea for the community as long as there is also easy access for the handicapped. The lower Jobs Lane entrance to the park should be improved to allow the handicapped to use this entrance for their path to the lawn area.
By BILLM (9), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 6, 14 9:33 AM
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