Drive or stroll through the center of East Hampton in Long Island, New York, and you’ll see, along with luxury boutiques and surf shops, a cluster of rustic buildings, some more than 300 years old. Devoid of brand names or celebrity clientele, Mulford Farm, as the grey-shingled house and its outbuildings are known, is a source of wonder for locals and tourists alike as much for its history as for its fragile state. It requires careful care and attention. In summer 2008, Ralph Lauren partnered with the East Hampton Historical Society to refurbish Mulford Farm inside and out, committing nearly half a million dollars to its rehab. This year, the two organizations are zeroing in on a new project: bringing the historic Hedges Barn to the farm in order to rescue it from dilapidation. Although the barn, built circa 1795, is already native to East Hampton, this move will give it a more prominent location since it will become part of an established landmark.To learn more about the project, RL Magazine spoke with Richard Barons, executive director of the historical society, about what to expect when Hedges Barn is dismantled and rebuilt this summer, why the preservation effort is so vital and how community members can learn more about the treasures of the past.
RL Magazine: The East Hampton Historical Society has had a long relationship with Ralph Lauren in the restoration and preservation of historic sites. How is this summer’s Hedges Barn project different from others that have been tackled?
Richard Barons: The original Ralph Lauren grant was very much involved in a total plan to better interpret the entire Mulford Farm property. This plan looked over the changes during the life of the farmstead, which included the different periods of the standing buildings as well as historic photographs, paintings and drawings. That helped illuminate a story that could be datable to about 1775. [The plan] included clearing the back field of bushes, weeds and broken fencing; reroofing all the buildings with cedar shakes; upgrading the electric and the plumbing; and grading and reseeding the lawns.
Why do you think the society’s historic buildings and grounds are so integral to the local community? What do they provide for East Hampton that other properties cannot?
The village of East Hampton has carefully preserved much of its historic look with the help of preservation laws and several dedicated community organizations that pride themselves on their attention to streetscapes. Together with the village-owned properties, which include the Hook Windmill and the Beecher House, the EHHS really creates a rare and vital collection of important historic structures that can be appreciated from merely walking or driving by or by a visit that allows one to enter the past. If you add into this equation the private citizens who have preserved their personal dwellings, you have a real 3-D colonial world before your very eyes. Rarely do we find such a combined energy to honor our village’s past.
For adults and children, [there will be] cemetery tours, colonial-herb-garden tours, walking tours of Newtown Lane, the Hamptons Shakespeare Festival, the East Hampton Antiques Show and numerous programs at our East Hampton Town Marine Museum in Amagansett.
What do you love most about living in East Hampton?
I think I love everything about East Hampton. It is beautiful, it is on the ocean and the choices of music, art, restaurants, theater, farm stands, movies, fresh seafood and wonderful people are vast. Its rich cultural life makes for something interesting to do every evening in every season.
What is next on the society’s list of projects?
We have a blacksmith shop to restore and [for which to] find a smith to delight our audiences. We have much work to do in our marine museum, and who knows what treasures will come out of an attic at the next tag sale or what historic structure might be waiting for some needed help?
Learn about phase one of Ralph Lauren’s partnership with the East Hampton Historical Society here.
Learn more about the East Hampton Historical Society here.Explore the East Hampton Historical Society Collection here.
- ILLUSTRATION BY BERND SCHIFFERDECKER
- PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE EAST HAMPTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY