Built in 1746, Second House, formerly known as "Fort Pond House" is the oldest structure in Montauk. Originally built to house the keepers who tended the cattle and sheep grazing along the hills and pasturelands of Montauk, a First and Third House were also built. The keepers who occupied each of these homes had very specific roles in maintaining the sheep and cattle, and the responsibility of the Second House keeper was to be sure sheep did not stray into the cattle lands, as well as maintain the fence from the ocean to the south end of Fort Pond, and the north end of Fort Pond to Fort Pond Bay
- a management system that would last until 1879.
Following the sale of Montauk that year to Arthur Benson, the keepers were allowed to continue to manage the livestock and farm the property as they had been doing for almost 200 years. In addition, their wives ran the Second House as an Inn.
In June of 1968, the Town of East Hampton acquired the house for $75,000 from its owners, the David E. Kennedy family, to be operated by the Montauk Historical Society
which opened Second House as a museum on June 28, 1969. Sadly, the museum was forced to close to the public in 2014, as the interior became inhospitable for visitors. The Save Second House Committee was formed in 2013 to raise funds to initiate much needed repairs.
In March of 2016, Robert Hefner
, at the request of the Town of East Hampton, completed the first Historical Structure Report on Second House. Guided by the recommendations of this report, the Montauk Historical Society and the Town of East Hampton hope to restore the building, the barn, and the grounds, as well as the visual connection to Fort Pond. The Montauk Historical Society hopes to be able to convey its historical significance; to recall the lives of the keepers and their role in managing the Montauk pasture, which was the primary resource of East Hampton's agricultural economy for well over 200 years.
Perhaps best known for the summer crafts fairs which began in 1970, Montauk Historical Society will present the 45th Annual Craft Show at Second House on Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th, Saturday, August 13th and Sunday, August 14th, and Saturday, September 24th and Sunday, September 25th. They will host additional events throughout the year such as the Doggie Social/Community Yard Sale; a book sale to be held on Sunday, May 22nd, as well as two outdoor movie nights on the lawn scheduled for Friday, July 8th, and Friday, August 5th. According to Kathryn Nadeau, current President of the Montauk Historical Society, they are currently seeking sponsors for these events and urge anyone interested to visit www.montaukhistoricalsociety.org
Second House is the oldest structure in Montauk. (Photo: Montauk Historical Society)
This architectural treasure is eloquently explained in the Robert Hefners Historical Structure Report, dated March 2016. "The original house had a form and floor plan typical of a medium sized East Hampton farmhouse. In 1797, a knee wall was created at the second floor which gave the house an appearance associated with the first half of the 19th century. Further alterations were made in 1880 by Arthur Benson to expand and upgrade accommodations for his family and friends as well as for the designers and builders of the Montauk Association Homes. In 1912, there were additional alterations and additions by David E. Kennedy, which gave the Second House the appearance of a summer cottage of the early 20th century which is what the majority of people recognize as the Second House of today."
It is hopeful that both residents and visitors to Montauk will engage in the many fund raising activities so that this important home of great historical significance can be enjoyed and treasured by all who visit the "end of the line."
For more information, call 631-668-2544 or visit www.montaukhistoricalsociety.org.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.