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Jan 4, 2011 6:14 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Old Town Hall Lives On

Jan 4, 2011 6:14 PM

As of October, most East Hampton Town government offices had been moved to a new home: the cluster of six cedar-shingled buildings on the front lawn of its campus on Pantigo Road.

But with the absence of all but two departments, the old brick Town Hall building that was constructed in the early 1960s continues to live a somber life in the background. Most of its inhabitants have moved on, leaving behind decades worth of history, some scattered piles of boxes, a maze of empty offices and, most notably, an overwhelming quiet.

An electric hum from lights, interrupted occasionally by faint voices coming from the Human Resources Department, is the only sound heard. The Town Clerk’s office still makes its home near the entrance, but will move out once some carpentry work is finished in the new complex.

Across the way, the lights are off in the auditorium where the Town Board once met, and the calendar on the door still reads “October 2010”—the last month a Town Board meeting was held there. Next to the dais, a map of East Hampton Town hangs; one of its corners is beginning to peel off the wall.

Outside, still hanging near the main entrance, are long rows of black-and-white photos—most of them fading—that depict past town supervisors and Town Boards.

In another part of the building, in the room that once housed the Bookkeeping Department, a bulletin board leans against one of several empty desks. On it, a lone message is pinned: “Someday we will get to the place where we really are.” It is the most cryptic of several artifacts that are still hanging around in dark—and sometimes locked—offices: a pair of glasses, a set of computer speakers, a bin brimming with old schematics.

The biggest mystery remains: What will happen to the building now that its occupants have almost completely moved on to new digs?

Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione and Councilwoman Julia Prince both said the fate of the old Town Hall remains up in the air, and Mr. Stanzione said the town could even end up razing it some day. A plan for the building will likely materialize when the Town Board plans its capital projects for 2012, he said.

Whatever happens, both board members said they would like to see the town government’s campus eventually unified by some kind of long-term vision. Mr. Stanzione pointed out that the East Hampton Town Justice Court building appears to have been built backward, and a row of trailers still sit, unused, next to the main parking lot.

“The idea is to create a campus-like atmosphere there,” Ms. Prince said. “We’re definitely going to have to do something with that building.”

Mr. Stanzione, a critic of the Town Hall transition, said the drab scene of the old Town Hall stands in sharp contrast to the aging building’s former vigor.

“It was filled with people and, you know, people talking in the foyer, in the hallways, the clerk’s office was bustling and busy, there were people congregating out front and talking,” he said of the old building. “It was a meeting place … But the new Town Hall is so ill-conceived that no one even wants to hang out there. There’s no public space, there’s no place to sit. It’s—I don’t know what the word is—sterile?”

The buildings that make up the new Town Hall came to Pantigo Road in 2007, in the form of six houses and barns that date back to the 18th century, and which were donated to the town by resident Adelaide de Menil and her husband, Edmund Carpenter. The town fixed up the structures and connected the four main ones with a glass atrium. The project ended up costing 
about $7 million, according to Mr. Stanzione—more than the $5.5 million than the prior administration originally estimated.

Like Mr. Stanzione and most of the current Town Board, Ms. Prince took office after the project was already well under way. She said she disagreed with how the new Town Hall came about, but prefers it to the old one.

“It was busy, but you could still feel the age on it,” she said. “There was no getting around it … Don’t get me wrong, we needed a new Town Hall, that’s for sure. It was just the way they went about it.”

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"The biggest mystery remains: What will happen to the building now that its occupants have almost completely moved on to new digs?"

Good place to put a McDonald's or a Burger King. the town of east hampton could make a fortune off the rent

By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Jan 5, 11 6:48 PM
Quack! Bite your tongue....PLEASE, NO McDonalds or Burger King in East Hampton EVER. How about a co-operative Fish Market, let's support our local guys and keep the money in this community instead of sending it out of the community to global corporations.

By SisBoomBonacker (106), Hamptons on Jan 6, 11 3:03 PM
with the courthouse right there a McDonald's is a no-brainer. I don't think that type of "clientele" would buy fish. Unless it was a Filet-O-Fish sandwich of course. plus you have the municipal yard and office on that property too, right? and the rent the town of east hampton could charge a global corporation would be a great deficit reducer and a global corporation is sure to pay rent on time. Its a win-win situation. think about it.
By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Jan 7, 11 8:06 AM
How about making it a jail and locking up McGintee, Foster,Loewen, Hammerle, and Mansir.
By montaukman (98), easthampton on Jan 6, 11 6:05 PM
Nah, give em what they deserve and send um all up-state to their own jail cell with a big guy named BUBBA
By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Jan 7, 11 8:09 AM
can someone help me? Either April or May of 1989 a group of men forming the Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Korean War Veterans met with the East Hampton Town Clerk in the old Town Hall to have the chapter charter validated. I need the name of the Town Clerk. I am writing a history of the chapter. I have pictures of the event but do not know the name of the Town Clerk.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jan 7, 11 9:48 AM
Fred Yardley was the town clerk at the time.
By Bill Sutton (117), Westhampton Beach on Jan 7, 11 3:07 PM
As an alum of '80s Town government, I must admit this story made me sad. Some extraordinary public servants toiled in that old brick edifice (a Dave Webb, Sr. design by the way), doing many courageous and innovative things on behalf of current and future town residents -- even pulling off a few minor miracles from time to time. Soon those fine folks and what they accomplished before moving on to bigger arenas will be lost in history and forgotten. And now it seems there won't even be a building ...more
By rss0246 (23), East Hampton on Jan 10, 11 3:02 PM
And now it seems there won't even be a building you can poke your head inside and say, "Here's where it all went down..."
By rss0246 (23), East Hampton on Jan 10, 11 3:04 PM
The place has Mc Donalds written all over it. last time i was out east i remember the town hall was set up like a drive thru anyway.

when will you people wake up and realize the potential????

By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Jan 10, 11 10:06 PM