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Joint Effort To Preserve Thomas Moran House Moves Forward

Originally Posted: April 04, 2008

Peter Neely

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The Thomas Moran House, located at 229 Main Street across from Town Pond, in East Hampton Village served as Moranís primary residence and studio space until his death in 1926. Photos by Peter Neely

East Hampton - American art and local history mixed once again in East Hampton as preservation efforts on behalf of the Thomas Moran House received historical easement designation and a Community Preservation Fund (CPF) allocation of $500,000 to restore the American painter's 19th century home.

Unanimously passing by resolution, a $500,000 earmark from the CPF was awarded to Guild Hall this week by the East Hampton Town Board. East Hampton Village Trustee Barbara Borsack and East Hampton Village Historic Preservation Consultant Robert Hefner were among the handful of supporters who spoke on behalf of the significance of the 1884 residence that sits across from Town Pond at 229 Main Street.

The 1884 Thomas Moran House is one of two national historic landmarks
in East Hampton Town. The second is the Jackson Pollack House in
the Springs.

Now protected in perpetuity by an historical easement first drafted by East Hampton Village officials and approved by the Town Board Friday, April 4, the Thomas Moran House was built by the seminal American painter and visual artist most well known for his epic landscape paintings which are attributed as inspiration in the creation of the National Parks system.

A large commanding structure not atypical of its era, the shingle-style working house was built by Moran and is widely considered the first permanent residence of a nationally acclaimed artist to have lived in East Hampton. Serving as Moran's primary home until his death in 1926, the building was declared a national historic landmark in 1966, which makes it second in the Town of East Hampton along with the Jackson Pollack House. Following Moran's death, the building was gifted to Guild Hall by the subsequent owners J. Condi and Elizabth Boots Lamb.

The entire ground floor of the structure is a studio that measures 24 by 40 feet and soars two stories high. Moran is reported to have created the majority of his paintings in the studio, including a select few portraying the village and its environs as well as his famous landscapes of the west.

"This home served as a magnet for other people, artists and architects to come to the town and make an art colony," contemporary renowned landscape painter and long time East Hampton resident Ralph Carpentier commented. "It is not unlike what Pollack did in the 1950s. He became a magnet for people of his school of painting."

Dr. Ruth Appelhof, Executive Director of Guild Hall in East Hampton,
which currently owns the building, appeared enthusiastic as the
East Hampton Town Board unanimously voted to appropriate
$500,000 of CPF funding to solidify an Historic Preservation
Easement on the structure.

Historic Preservation Easement
The Historic Preservation Easement adopted Friday ensures that the building that served as both home and studio of the influential painter will be protected from modification and development in the future. The $500,000 appropriation from the CPF will be directly applied to renovation work on the home, which is in the trust of Guild Hall as current owner of the property.

Terms of the easement require the studio to be restored within three years, stipulating that the building cannot be expanded and that the grounds must be maintained along with the outside buildings that were part of the original property. The easement also mandates the grounds and studio be open to the public six days per year. These stipulations will remain regardless of a future change in ownership.

"The entire $500,000 will be paid to Guild Hall for the easement in a fund only to be used for exterior restoration of the building and internal restoration of the studio," village preservation specialists Hefner stated. Beyond the $500,000 to be appropriated from the CPF, the village will also contribute $30,000 from their own budget.

Calling the next step "very promising," director of Guild Hall Dr. Ruth Appelhof explained in a phone interview that the museum will likely gift the money and property to the Thomas Moran Trust that has been established by the Guild Hall Board of Directors.

"Guild Hall is already in a big restoration project right now and we found it impossible to take on a second effort financially," Dr. Appelhof explained. "We are hoping that this second entity that has been born out of the Guild Hall board would take on that responsibility."

Cloudy Day At Amagansett, 1884 by Thomas Moran. Courtesy private collection.

The proposal for the historic easement initially came through East Hampton Village which, in contract with the town, entitled the municipality to proposed a CPF allocation. Invoking the right to their share of CPF resources, the village board passed the historic easement proposal onto the Town Board. Emphasizing the significance of the residence and grounds, East Hampton Village Architectural Historian Robert Hefner grouped the Thomas Moran House with the Montauk Point Lighthouse and historic windmills in the village as sustaining national importance.

"Moran was a painter of national significance," Hefner stated. "He has been called the father of the national parks and painted the first landscape to hang in the nation's capital."

Thomas Moran.

"The windows, doors, cedar siding and wall shingles date from 1884," Hefner clarified. "We are fortunate to have the building in such original condition, but it is in poor condition from the water that is starting to deteriorate the frame."

Village trustee Barbara Borsack concurred, adding her support of the project which, via the terms of the the historic easement, "will compensate the property owner for giving up rights to develop the property. We will forever be able to see the house from the street as it was since 1844," Borsack commented, enthusiastically.

Enthusiastic regarding the joint preservation undertaken by the village and town, long time resident farmer John Talmage raised a sole concern over tapping the CPF for the restoration project, suggesting that it was established to preserve open space and farmland, not historic structures.

"I believe the CPF was represented to the public at the time for farmland and open space," Talmage asserted. "This seems to have changed from preserving farms and open space to historic preservation. I seriously question this use of CPF dollars. I think that you must honor their vote and put this purchase up for its own referendum."

The Much Resounding Sea, 1994 Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Avalon Foundation Gift.

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Guest (Renee Harper) from Magalia, CA says::
I have a drawing by Thomas Moran and would like any info you could give me. Please respond to snowfver@aol.com
Feb 20, 2010 12:59 am

Guest (John Talmage) from East Hampton says::
I recognize in the text of Law 64-e 4, that this purchase could be allowed. I also read that the Project Plan, MUST include the preservation of farmland as its HIGHEST PRIORITY. Who is the active farmer on the advisory board and what is their input on this? Someone should ask: How much is borrowed and what is budgeted to spend on the higher priorities?
Apr 7, 2008 12:00 am

Guest (John Talmage) from East Hampton says::
Also, I'm interested: What is the agreement the Village has with the Town on how to spend CPF dollars and why is there such an agreement? Appears to be, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too." I Think-- "Town is Town and Village is Village and Town."
Apr 7, 2008 12:00 am


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