Century-old boarding house for sale in Flanders

Back in 2016, the owners of the Brewster House in Flanders unveiled an $8 million plan to turn the nearly 140-year-old structure into a hotel with “less than 100 rooms,” a restaurant, a pool and an on-site sewage treatment plant. 

At that time, the four-story blue building, which had been a popular boarding house in the 1920s, was in danger of being torn down, having been badly damaged in a 1987 fire that left a hole in the roof and allowed water to seep into the other parts of the structure. 

Some area residents felt the building was an eyesore that should be demolished; others said it was historic and should be saved. 

The Southampton Town Board had even held a public hearing on a proposal to require the owners to either make the building safe or demolish it. 

The unveiling of restoration plans bought the building some time, as its owner assured officials that “a decent portion of the building can be saved.”

The renovation plans were made public at a Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting in March 2016, at which the property owners, Restoration Equity, presented architectural renderings of the proposed hotel and set up an online petition asking the town not to demolish the structure. 

Southampton Town officials say they never received a formal application for the restoration plans.

Now, Brewster House has new owners who want to sell it. 

In May, Restoration Equity sold the property to a company called SSG RE Holdings LLC — which has a Wilmington, N.C., address — for $285,000. 

A handwritten “for sale” sign sits in front of the site, urging people to call “Linda.” 

Linda, who didn’t give her last name, said by phone Friday that she is working with the current owners and confirmed that the property is for sale. SSG RE Holdings LLC has no plans to try and restore the building, Linda said.

Jamie Minnick of Flanders, a partner in Restoration Equity, said Friday that he abandoned plans to restore the building because of opposition from neighbors. 

He said he believed more people were in support of the project.

“There were 200 people in favor of it and two against,” he said. “I had a plan for the property.”

Ron Fisher, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, had a different recollection. 

“I was only ever skeptical,” he said in an interview Friday. “I never believed he had the ability to carry out the plans he presented. But the FRNCA membership wanted to give him a shot, and that’s what ruled the day.

“Plus, it upset the Flanders Village Historical Society that we were so vocally cheering for demolition,” Mr. Fisher added, “so to keep everybody calm for the short term, we weren’t championing it.” 

“If people ever want to see something nice, they have to look for change and they have to accept it,” Mr. Minnick said. “If everybody wants everything to stay the same, then they can have it the same. That’s basically what you got out of being resistant. It’s unfortunate because I really loved that place. I think that place could have been amazing.”

The bulk of the building is believed to have been built around 1880; parts of it may also date as far back as 1770. 

The 28-room building was owned by Capt. Robert W. Penney in 1880 under the name “Grove House” and was a popular boarding house. It later was run by the Brewster family, according to Southampton Town’s Flanders Hamlet Area Report. In the early 1950s, it was used as a police headquarters. 

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Photo caption: A proposal to redevelop the historic Brewster House in Flanders is no more, as the property has been sold to new owners, who are looking to sell it themselves. (Tim Gannon photo)