Around the Island

Living history and the choices we make

COURTESY PHOTO | This 'brother' to the Havens House is among the homes on view in the Shelter Island Historical Society's biennie House Tour on August 5, 2017.
COURTESY PHOTO | This ‘brother’ to the Havens House is among five homes that will be on view in ‘Living with History/Making Choices,’ the Shelter Island Historical Society’s biennial House Tour on August 5, 2017.

Shelter Island Historical Society’s biennial house tour “Living with History/Making Choices,” will be offered on Saturday, August 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. On view will be five fabulous Island houses which present “choices” made, ranging from the minor to the radical. 

Two hundred and thirty years of incremental change is evident in a house owned for many years by an architectural historian, and more recently by an archeologist and a lawyer/designer. The owners of this “brother” to the Havens House exposed the bare bones and adapted a historical gem to modern living. The home was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article.

Two houses on the tour illustrate the possibility of totally re-envisioning a house and property. One is a formal Tudor style with a five-car garage (built by a Lincoln/Mercury dealer) on a bluff overlooking Dering Harbor. The current owners -— an architect and an art historian — have remade it into a relaxed summer home through extensive renovation, including repurposing driveway as patio. The other, a small 1960s ranch, is owned by a graphic designer who has made it into an Art Deco monument, both inside and out. A steamship smokestack replaces the chimney while the second floor provides living area and more space for her fabulous collection of Deco furnishings and art. She aptly describes her house as an “ocean liner.”

The final two houses on the tour feature the rebuilding of the old as new. First is the rebuilt “Dering Farm,” a venerable Island property which the owners lived in for 10 years before deciding, together with their local architect, to totally rebuild, drawing upon original plans and salvaged materials that show its provenance and celebrate its history.

In the other home, an award-winning local architect/design team took another approach to “living with history” by combining pre-existing buildings — a one-room 1920s cottage with a contemporary indoor/outdoor living area — to create a “new” house, which was featured in Hamptons Cottages & Gardens.

Tickets to the Shelter Island Historical Society’s “Living with History/Making Choices” house tour are $40. To purchase, visit or call (631) 749-0025