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Mar 2, 2009 5:40 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The legacy of William Bottomley lives on, but for how long?

Mar 2, 2009 5:40 PM

In every community there is always an architect who “gets it,” who understands the social and cultural history of the community as well as its architectural fabric. One of those architects was William Lawrence Bottomley (1883-1951), whose family built a late 19th century summer cottage on Mill Pond in Water Mill.

Mr. Bottomley, who did renovations on the house before going to college, later became a nationally renowned architect designing 11 country houses on Long Island as well as prestigious commissions from Florida to Maine. He possessed an architectural pedigree second to none; a bachelor of science degree in architecture in 1906 from Columbia University, the McKim Fellowship in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1907 and studies that took him to the successful completion of the program in architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Mr. Bottomley returned to the states in 1909, married, and by 1911 had established the firm of Hewitt and Bottomley.

In 1912, one of his first major commissions was Southampton High School, known today as Southampton Town Hall. At the time of its completion, the building ranked among the best examples of classical design in New York State.

Having won the commission in a national design competition, which required a Colonial design that would meld with the existing idiom in the town, Bottomley’s solution employed Georgian design. In what would become a trademark signature of his extraordinary sense of scale and proportion, this architect created a red brick exterior dressed with marble trimmings and a stringcourse at the base of the second floor windows. Two wings flank a projecting, pedimented portico supported by ionic columns. Just behind this ceremonial entrance is a hipped roof attic with an elegant cupola donning the peak. Splashes of detail in the form of swags and wreaths in the pediment and delicate muntin bars in the windows of barrel dormers illustrate both his restraint and knowledge of Georgian detailing.

Although Mr. Bottomley worked in many styles, the architect was well known for his town and country residences and for his classical Georgian designs,

many of which still exist in the Richmond, Virginia area. Additionally, during the Great Depression, he edited a two-volume book, “Great Georgian Houses of America.”

In 1915, Mr. Bottomley designed a house for Edward E. Bartlett Jr., a partner in Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane, which was the complete antithesis of Town Hall. The Amagansett residence, really a French chateau by the sea, presented a linear structure divided into asymmetrical wings of varying heights, all coated in a cream stucco finish over hollow tile.

Irregular blue slates connect the roofs and a system of collector heads and leader pipes were used decoratively to define the entrance. The interior details are both simple and exquisite with plaster medallion ceilings and an ingenious use of glazing in the living room. Mr. Bottomley cased mirrors that were identical in size to the windows so that the view out would be reflected throughout the room. One of the mirrored openings was actually disguised as a hidden door to the garden.

Also redesigned by the architect was a rebuild of the original Canoe Place Inn structure, which was originally erected in the 1640s, and whose charter as a stagecoach inn dates to 1707. This structure served as the headquarters for British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

Numerous additions were built onto the structure over 200 years and, on July 4, 1921, the historic inn burnt to the ground. Julius Keller, owner of Maxim’s in New York, commissioned Mr. Bottomley to re-create the historic inn. Mr. Bottomley’s approach reflected, according to Susan Hume Frazer, author of “The Architecture of William Lawrence Bottomley,” two of his great strengths—his astuteness as an observer and his picky and detailed regard for execution.

This was an architect who meticulously studied locales and knew their vernacular. Mr. Bottomley noted that if a building could be “invested with style ... that intangible quality, that stamp, which gives it life and individuality will be both sound and original.” The reinvented Canoe Place Inn, conceived by Mr. Bottomley, did, in fact, imbue these attributes.

The original inn, a ramshackle affair of multiple parts, spread across its site in add-on colonial glory. The new inn was anything but a clone of the original.

The architect built a structure that looked as if it had been added to over time. The different wings varied in height, but were unified through the use of materials, scale and proportion. Although linear, Mr. Bottomley used dormers and breaks in roof configurations to dispel any kind of lengthy appearance while arranging a second floor veranda to serve as both open and covered porches with square columns.

The interior of the rebuilt Canoe Place Inn included all of the amenities to be found in a high-end establishment while the architect captured the spirit of the old inn in his design.

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The destruction of this Historic Inn would be a great loss to the hamlet of Hampton Bays. Much of its history has already been lost. The hamlet does not need a hugh monstrosity such as the author described.

Wake up Southampton Town! Don't lose this historic spot to greedy developers!
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Mar 4, 09 3:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
bb you need to get out a little more.The CPI is nothing more than a magnet for bringing people with no class into this town. It has been this way for at least 20 years now.Frankly we could use a little more luxury and a little less vagrancy around here. I would like to see a little more East Hampton and a little less Riverhead for the future of this very special place. You are living in the past. Its 2009 not 1947, Put down your coffee table book and make some decisions for this town that will help ...more
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Mar 8, 09 2:17 PM
joe hampton, You obviously missed my point. No where did I say that we need to save a bar, nor did I say that we want to attract people with "no class". The entire point is that this should be developed in a good way. How building 75 condos is going to add to our area I am unclear. All because the Inn has been allowed to deteriorate does not mean it can not be preserved and incorporated into a new construction. Developing in a "good way" is exactly what we need. Ugly condos or a deteriorating ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Mar 8, 09 5:20 PM