In East Hampton, NY, located at 223 Main Street, is a remarkable property offered for sale by owner. This unique house, which at first glance could be mistaken for a more recent, Shingle-style vacation home, was likely built in 1718 and has thus witnessed nearly three centuries of history in East Hampton village. The house was long ago dubbed “Third House” by Aymar Embury, a prominent architect and former owner who purchased the property in 1928. There were plenty of reasons for his quirky “Third House” moniker, but a grandson & current owner, Edward Embury, Jr., shares at least three reasons: 1) It is the 3rd house on Main Street (from the intersection with Montauk Highway), 2) It was thought (at the time) to be the third oldest house still standing in East Hampton Village, and 3) It was the 3rd house owned by Aymar Embury.
Based upon its construction and local records, it seems likely that “Third House” was built around 1718, and most surely prior to 1730 at the latest. It is generally acknowledged as being one of the earliest 18th century houses in the Village and, quite likely, the entire area. As was often the case at the time, it was originally built as a small, timber-framed building, or “half-house,” by one of the original settler families of East Hampton village. A “half-house” has a 3-bay facade, meaning it has two windows + 1 door on the ground level, and to our modern eye, it looks like one side was “chopped off” near the center door (see pic, right). These early half-houses were mostly built as one-story (or story-and-a-half) dwellings in the Cape Cod form, though “Third House” may have featured the 2nd story from the beginning. Often, as the family grew, one story half-houses were later expanded to the side, to the back, and/or upwards to create more living space, and it seems clear that the original builder of Third House anticipated such an expansion. One sign of this intention is that both sides of the original chimney were built with a firebox, clearly in anticipation of an addition of a “second half” for the house as the family grew. However, Third House was never expanded sideways to create the balanced-looking floor plan and 5-bay facade of a “full” house (with Georgian style symmetry and two more windows on the other side of the door). As such, to this day, the original portion of the home remains a quite unique, 3-bay “half-house,” though there has been significant expansion to the rear.
Third House is also unique for its noteworthy neighbors over the centuries. For example, next door is an 1840s house that is the former home of John A. Tyler, son of President John Tyler (10th U.S. president) and his wife, Julia Gardiner (of the most prominent early East Hampton family & owners and occupants of Gardiner’s Island). On the other side of Third House is the former home and studio of Thomas Moran, one of America’s first (and most famous) 19th century landscape painters. Moran was an early member of the famous Hudson River school and one of the first painters to travel west and execute paintings of Yellowstone and the American West (and indeed, some credit him with popularizing the movement to create Yellowstone & other National Parks). Moran was the first prominent artist to make East Hampton his home, starting the summer art scene that remains to this day. The Moran House, built in 1884 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, is a shingle-styled beauty (see above, right), and is now undergoing a restoration and renovation by the recently-formed Thomas Moran Trust, and it is planned to be opened as a museum.
Third House, itself, has had notable tenants of its own. As noted, the property received its nickname from Aymar Embury II (1880-1966), the grandfather of the current owner. Aymar Embury was a prominent 20th century architect who enjoyed a career involving an unusually wide and diverse range of works and commissions in the private, educational, religious and public sectors. Embury graduated from Princeton in 1900 with a degree in Civil Engineering, and taught architecture at Princeton after he earned his Masters degree in 1901. Embury soon developed an interest in designing small country houses and published books and pamphlets on the subject, such as One Hundred Country Houses (1909) and The Dutch Colonial House (1913, see left). During WWI, Embury served as a Captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, and designed America’s Distinguished Service Medal and Distinguished Service Cross to honor military bravery. By the 1920s, Embury was well-established and a distinguished architect, designing houses for members of high society and designing buildings all over the east coast, including the Players and Nassau Clubs in Princeton, NJ, the Princeton Club in New York City, and the University Club in Washington, D.C. He was a principal designer of Southern Pines and Pinehurst in North Carolina, Kalamazoo College, and numerous churches and other buildings (including prominent buildings in his hometown of East Hampton).
By this time, Embury had also married Ruth Dean, herself an accomplished landscape architect. As documented in this book , Dean was among the few pioneering women in her field, executing designs for many distinguished Long Island homes, and she was quite successful at a time when few women were educated professionals. Embury and Dean purchased Third House to enjoy together as a summer home. His collaboration with Dean on the plan and design of the Bryant Park at the New York City Public Library was probably their best known public project. However, after the crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression, Embury’s private practice suffered. But after the election of FDR in 1932, Embury soon found himself retained as a principal designer on many, if not most, of the projects executed under the New Deal in the New York City area. Working with Robert Moses, the godfather of New York City urban planning, Embury may have been a lead designer on more than 600 public projects in NYC, mostly for the NYC Parks Department and for the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority. Some of his more visible projects included the Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, McCarren Park (and four of the other ten WPA pools built throughout the city in the mid-1930s), the New York City Building at the 1939 World’s Fair (currently the Queens Museum of Art), the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, Orchard Beach, Bryant Park, the Hofstra University Campus, and Jacob Riis Park.
As far the features of Third House, itself, the home offers approximately 2,500 sqft of living space, including 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths. On the first floor, original exposed beams grace the kitchen, dining room, and living room ceilings. The living room (see left) has a lovely fireplace wall designed by Embury, himself, with arched-top, recessed shelving balancing the fireplace and mantelpiece (see pic below). The living room also retains original wide-planked floors of up to 20″+ in width. The room is beautifully trimmed and detailed. Both the living room and the 14′ x 14′ dining room open onto a covered, brick-paved patio.
On the second floor, connected by a stair hall, there are three bedrooms and three full baths. There are two large master bedrooms, front and rear, both with a bath en suite. There is a smaller guest bedroom in the middle, also with its own full bath across the hall. The front master bedroom is within the original house and has exposed original, squared-log ceiling beams. This room also offers a lovely view overlooking the Village Pond across the street and includes an updated bath with a vintage 1930s bath suite including an antique pedestal sink, commode and tub. This bedroom is also accessed by the original front stair with the early hand-planed moulding in the stair stringer. The guest bedroom is a quaint space tucked in under the long slope of the original rear ‘saltbox’ roof, and is enhanced by a nice dormer window. The rear master suite (with lots of closet space) is perhaps best of all, opening directly onto its own sequestered, covered rear porch overlooking the garden and backyard below.
The property’s lot, itself, is approximately 1/3 of an acre. The yard has plenty of very old trees and well-established shrubs that were planted during the improvements of the grounds from 1928-1930. There are 4 clusters of English Boxwood planted in 1929 and of very unusual size, having grown as high as 16 feet! There is a detached 17’x28′ garage at the rear of the lot, a nice secluded back yard, gardens to the side, and modern laundry room at the rear of the 1st floor. The property is located in the heart of the historic center of East Hampton village, sitting directly across the road from the old Town Pond.
Of course, one of the allures of this property is also its location in the Hamptons, just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean (see red marker at right). As Wikipedia notes, “Through the years East Hampton’s wealth has evolved, emanating out from the village [and] taking over the farmland that had once been dominated by potato fields. The most dazzling row of mansions remains in the village of East Hampton on the closest road paralleling the ocean along Further Lane and Lily Pond Lane. While ostentatious displays of wealth occurred near the ocean (“south of the Montauk Highway”) much simpler houses and bungalows have been built through the years throughout its history, particularly in Springs and Montauk . . . In November 2006, the median price of a house in the Town was US $895,000 compared with a national median for the U.S. of $225,000. Several houses in East Hampton now sell for prices in the tens of millions of dollars. Living in East Hampton is expensive . . . in 2007 the cost of living was 168% of the national average.”
For further information about this property or for serious inquiries about purchasing the property, please contact the current owner, Edward Embury, Jr., at email@example.com.