June 3, 2010


Lately, I've been hearing the expression "it's the end of an era" a lot. Let's hope it's true indeed, when we talk about corporate greed. It's sad but true when we talk about the health of our oceans. Oceans are extremely important to me because I spent my summers as a child in the ocean, in Amagansett. Two nights ago, the house my grandfather, Alfred A. Scheffer designed and lived in for most of his life, was struck by lightning and burned down. He built another house behind this one through a cool shady path covered in dune shrubs where we stayed as children. But every evening, this was the house where we would all congregate. I am deeply sorry for the current owners of Scheff's house. My brothers and sisters and I know well that special people buy Scheffer houses. I guess it's the end of an era but I will still wake-up each summer morning with this memory:

My hair was platinum and my skin smelled of Sea & Ski. All day in the waves with lunch packed in plaid scotch coolers, that were opened with can-openers attached with string. Knocked out and tossed in the yellow-green whirl of sand twisting in the powerful waves. White foamy ocean with divine briny smells and horseshoe crabs and stingrays. Little translucent orange shells piled on the corners of beach towels. Woven-strapped lounge chairs used as stretchers to transport badly knocked out victims of intense waves to the back of wood-sided station wagons. Bikes and sandy lanes with pools of collected water splashing on sand-covered feet, with splinters from boardwalks. Seeing the first modern house designed by Charles Gwathmey as we chased across miles of dunes to the Good Humor truck. The sound of distant trains on the hill above Montauk Highway that were 100 cars-long and bound for faraway places. Nights at Devon Yacht Club dancing to the Rolling Stones with our friends and cute boys from Greenwich {yes, Davey}. Evening and grown-up cocktail hour with bow-tied grandfather who called me Bobbie as he drank his martini sounding so handsome and tall. Sneaking back to the beach every sunset with cozy, rolled-up wet and sandy corduroys and finally melting into cool, cotton sheets with the sound of crashing waves, and the smell of wooden beams and suntan lotion in our cozy summer rooms.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~ Kahlil Gibran

On the left is the house our grandfather Scheff originally designed and built for us. Read the story about the remodel in the current issue of The Old House.

House photo left: courtesy, This Old House
Beach photo: courtesy, TimeOut NY


  1. the houses we love and their memories are fortunately carried along after we leave them with the sentiments you so beautifully express. Those people we share them with may go to-but they are never far, always nudging us with some waiting memory that makes us who we are. Gaye

  2. Absolutely Gaye. I can still smell all of it and it's always a delightful memory. My grandfather's houses were built from the inside out. He loved charm + simplicity. Once called the "dean" of East Hampton architects, he replied, "I guess that means I'm the oldest."
    ; ) Barbara

  3. AnonymousJune 04, 2010

    It has been an honor for Jack and I to live in "Scheffs" house. I loved it the minute I saw it-We have lived there half the year for almost 18 years now. There has never been a time when I tired of walking in the front door,it was always like the first time,always something new to see that you had seen,but saw in a different way depending on the way the light hit it. The Scheffer window was my pride & joy,the beams always made me feel strong and the stone mixed with wood floors always put a twinkle in my eye. The stone patios and flowers completed the picture. It was the most special place,charming & funky,and everyone who spent time with me there loved it so, and are crying with me today.It's like losing one of your closest friends,it told a never-ending story,one I never wanted to finish,ever. We will try to rebuild it to honor Scheff,something that would make him proud,something that would make him smile.
    Linda Carol Accardi

  4. Dear Linda,
    It is lovely to hear from you and we are so sad to hear of the news. Your love for the house would absolutely delight Scheff. The patina and textures of his house were always so wonderful... wood floors from barns in New England, unique pickling colors and techniques... aged brick. The large artist window was in the room he called "the studio".... he built a studio addition on our house in Connecticut. Scheff loved charm and the enclave of houses he designed right there in your neighborhood are full of charm and are so well integrated into the dune landscape and vegetation. My brothers and sisters send our best to you and your family, and we know you will rebuild in the right spirit. Scheff will be proud, I'm sure of it!
    Kindest regards, Barbara {Bobbie}

  5. Aha, no wonder you adore the ocean so!

  6. Casey... now you know!
    Have a wonderful weekend...it's beautiful at the moment. ; )

  7. Thank you Barbara for sharing this moving story with us.
    This is real life you know....not "the latest kitchen re-do" but real life.
    Your words and the words of the lovely woman who was living there are a testament that a good life is filled with great memories and not just things.
    xo Lisa

  8. Hi Lisa! You are so right and what a great message to read from you on this lovely Friday afternoon. ox B ; )

  9. david j. manginiJune 06, 2010

    barb. your thoughts have captured the spirit of scheff's magical home in a beautiful way. One doesn't recollect the sticks and stones, mortar and brick as readily as the light, texture, scents, colors and especially the mood. perhaps, only when one designs for oneself can this rarity be achieved. your post has brought me sweet memories of first kisses, fresca, family, lobster dinners, sand between the sheets, aqua blue kool-pops quickly melting in their sleeves, and all of my earliest august birthdays.

    i wouldn't worry so much about that era ending.....it seems to be living pretty fat inside of all of us. thanks, your bro, d.

  10. I love you David. I think we could create a never-ending prose that could match Proust. Well, almost. Might be an idea for a sibs gathering soon. love, boo ox

  11. AnonymousJune 09, 2010

    We've been neighbors since my parents bought the southern-most house on the same square block (on Central) in 1962, and the next southern-most house on the block (on Maidstone) in 1972. My parents knew 'Mr. Scheffer' -- as I addressed him, when I was a kid. I have always viewed The Scheffer Houses as unparalleled in how their charm and harmony with the countryside have graced the dunes with an understated and timeless elegance. As much as this news was upsetting, especially as it involved the original Scheffer homestead; your quote from Kahlil Gibran rings true. This event gives pause from our busy lives, to reflect on a house, and on a vision realized by a very special architect.
    Barbara, you have encapsulated the essence of a heart-felt slice of Beach Hampton life. Linda, likewise - and may the spirit of your house continue its never ending story.
    - Jared Weisman

  12. AnonymousJune 09, 2010

    When have I thought of Sea and Ski ? The smell came to me when I read the words. I lost the home I grew up in to a fire. It is a strange death. Wonderful post.
    Becky in south Georgia

  13. Oh Barbara such a post that tears at your heart-strings. You've wrapped many of your best memories all up in that damp beach towel covered in the scent of 'Ski & Sea' and dusted with sand. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your grandfathers home and I'm hoping that the current owners are able to re-build it to it's former glory (I remembered when you wrote of it before & I was so taken with it's architecture). I think of homes such as that like humans. They can hold all the best of our childhoods just like you've shown us. You are such a marvelous writer. I think I still have the marks on the back of my legs from those lawn chair fiberglass type straps! Thank you for sharing this story with us Barbara, you always touch my heart xx

  14. Dear Jared... thank you so much for commenting here! It's lovely to hear from old neighbors and Scheff cottage dwellers! I spoke at length with Anne Robins today... it so was lovely to hear her voice. I just loved those early Beach Hampton days. Best to you, Barbara

  15. Love to you Deb!! And, glad you're back at DT. ox

  16. The memories we carry in our heart live forever.
    My parents live in the same home I was born and bred. I know the day they and that old homestead are gone will be a sad day for me. Sorry to hear about your old family spot. May the memories you share live in your heart and the spirit of the walls re-built.

  17. pve... Thank you for your lovely comment and I know just what you mean about family homesteads! When our Connecticut house was sold after we had all grown up and moved on... my sibs and I felt a bit like ships without anchors. And, yes indeed! We do hold the memories in our hearts. My grandfather's house will always be a part of us. ox Barbara


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