Real Estate: Travel back in time along the bay

09/24/2011 4:31 AM |

PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEVE BERGER When Joe and Liz Komosinski bought this 1908 Craftsman bungalow, the sale included the house’s entire contents. Mr. Komosinski grew up nearby and clearly remembers its owner, Frank Ostroski.

When Westchester County-based interior designer Barbara Horowitz saw a small, vinyl-sided cottage overlooking Peconic Bay four years ago, she knew she would buy it.

The windblown Jamesport house at the end of a dirt road wasn’t winterized, but Ms. Horowitz saw its potential as her weekend retreat.

Now, after gutting the cottage, installing heat and air conditioning and building a gourmet kitchen, she’s opening it up to the public during the third annual Historic Jamesport House Tour this Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s my own Shangri-la on the North Fork,” Ms. Horowitz said.

Most people who step into the cottage want to stay, she said, and feel that her home is a restful, peaceful place. The cottage boasts no particular design element, only beachy, serene colors, she said.

Ms. Horowitz tore down all the walls downstairs, transforming five dark rooms into a flowing space. She also replaced the vinyl siding with cedar shake. This year, she built a patio and interior fireplace.

Her two-story cottage was built by the paternal grandparents of house tour committee member Richard Wines. It sits next door to a similar one-story cottage built by his maternal grandparents, which Mr. Wines and his wife, Nancy Gilbert, still own. That cottage is also on the 10-house tour, as is the couple’s 1836 Greek Revival residence.

The tan-and-dark-red cottage, fronting Peconic Bay, suffered a major blow during Tropical Storm Irene, when the bulkheading washed away and a tree fell on the roof. But the interior is almost perfectly preserved as when it was built in the 1920s, Ms. Gilbert said. Dainty ceramic pieces hang in the kitchen. Some bedrooms have only one wall shielding the interior from the elements. Most modern houses have two walls shielding the interiors, Ms. Gilbert said.

The main Greek Revival portion of Ms. Gilbert’s and Mr. Wines’ home — which also features a late 18th century wing and a modern addition — ties in with the focus of this year’s house tour.

Originally located on Main Road in Laurel, the house was built by Robert N. Wilbur, a whaling captain, Mr. Wines said. Mr. Wilbur helmed a whaling ship named the Washington for James Tuthill, a Jamesport founder, he said.

Mr. Tuthill also named a major Jamesport thoroughfare, Washington Avenue, after George Washington, according to a history of the hamlet provided by Mr. Wines and Ms. Gilbert. And that area is the focus of this year’s tour.

“There’s lots of interesting houses here and we’ve done other areas,” Mr. Wines said of the focus on western Jamesport. “We like to keep the tours relatively compact so people can walk.”

Proceeds from ticket sales for the tour, as in years past, will support the Jamesport Meeting House Preservation Trust, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitated the 1731 structure on Main Road, which is rented out for weddings and other community events.

Revolutionary War re-enactor Nathan Corwin will lead costumed tours of the Meeting House on Saturday. One of Mr. Corwin’s ancestors signed the 1731 deed for the Meeting House, according to Mr. Wines.

A partially restored one-room schoolhouse, moved to the Wines-Gilbert property from Northville in 1992, will serve as a gallery for an art exhibit during Saturday’s event. Twelve local artists will hang their work on the walls of the 1872 structure, which the couple uses for Thanksgiving dinners, parties and some community meetings, Ms. Gilbert said.

Over time, Washington Avenue residents became predominantly Polish, according to the couple’s Jamesport history. In 1930, 70 percent of the homes along the street were owned by first- or second-generation Polish immigrants.

In May 2010, Joe and Liz Komosinski bought a Polish family’s Washington Avenue home, a Craftsman on property lined with well-trimmed evergreen trees, shrubs and hedges. Mr. Komosinski, a descendent of Polish immigrants who settled on the North Fork, grew up on Washington Avenue and vividly recalls the Craftsman structure, formerly occupied by the late Frank Ostroski. He jumped at the chance to own a part of his childhood memories.

“I admired the house,” Mr. Komosinski said. “I remember Frank smoking a pipe, with his hedge clippers, wearing khakis.”

When the Komosinskis bought the home, they also received all of its contents, from furniture to crystal chandeliers to a chalkboard with a 50-year-old note still intact.

In the spirit of the original homeowners — who saved everything, Mr. Komosinski said — the couple repurposed many of the remaining personal items. But they did a major overhaul in the kitchen, which had linoleum floors and a Formica-sided chimney, Mr. Komosinski said.

To warm up the cavernous downstairs space, Ms. Komosinski hung bright floral artwork painted by her mother. A painting created by Mr. Ostroski during overseas duty in the Merchant Marine is on display in another room.

“We’ve made the home ours,” Ms. Komosinski said.

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