Pondering the Fate of Historic Flanders Boarding House

Signs in March urged the community to allow the restoration of the historic Hallock Fanning boarding house
Signs in March urged the community to allow the restoration of the historic Hallock Fanning boarding house

Most people who’ve driven along Flanders Road in leafless seasons have seen the massive, boarded-up blue former boarding house peeking through the trees behind the Flanders Memorial Park.

This building, best known locally as The Brewster House, has been in disrepair for decades, and Southampton Town will be holding a public hearing this Tuesday, May 10, at 1 p.m. to consider whether the property, at 1380 Flanders road is “unsafe and should be removed.”

But Jamie and Keri Minnick, who bought the property for $150,000 in 2014, have been developing an $8 million plan to renovate the building and turn it into “The Brewster House Hotel,” with a restaurant and a swimming pool for the community to use.

The property was in the hands of publisher Hugh Wyatt for many years — Mr. Wyatt had alternately listed the property for sale as a “turnkey 28-room hotel” and tried to rally support to turn the building into an African American history museum during his time as owner.

A 1910 postcard of the boarding house
A 1910 postcard of the boarding house

The Minnicks have spent the month since the public hearing was announced circulating petitions and making the rounds of public meetings asking the Flanders community to rally behind their plan.

The public hearing is being held after members of community groups compiled a list of the 15 most blighted properties in the hamlet, asking the town board to look into cleaning up the neighborhood.

The Minnicks’ company, Restoration Equity Group, outlines their plans on their website, which is online here, and has started a Facebook page to rally the community around the project.

The Brewster House holds an important place in Flanders history. It was once considered one of Flanders’ “grandest hotels,” according to Southampton Town’s Flanders Hamlet Heritage Area Report, online here. It has been known throughout its history as The Grove House, The Hallock-Fanning House and The Brewster House.

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Pleading for preservation

Captain Robert W. Penny began operating the boarding house as The Grove House in 1880. The exclusive Flanders Club was built next door in 1891, and the sportsmen at the club slept and ate at the Grove House, according to the town report. In 1905, Captain Penney signed a 10-year contract with the club giving them virtual control of the hotel’s operations, stipulating “that summer boarders could only be taken at the club’s discretion, as the majority of the rooms had been apportioned to the club’s members, and it reserved the hotel’s usage during the hunting and fishing seasons exclusively for club members and their guests.”

The Brewster family began operating the boarding house in 1922, and around that time the Flanders Club building was moved to behind The Brewster House to serve as a kitchen. According to the town report, the building served as a police headquarters in the 1950s, and Police Chief William Ashauer committed suicide there in 1959.

According to Restoration Equity Group’s website, they’ve taken community suggestions into account in their design plans, which include an indoor swimming pool which can be used for a local swim club, a small and stylish restaurant, a ‘library style coffee shop for guests and locals to meet,” a garden and good wedding site, and “a place that the community can be proud to be a part of.”

The public hearing will be held this Tuesday, May 10 at 1 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall, 116 Hampton Road in Southampton.

 




Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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