Long Island’s famed East End has lost part of one of its most signature sights. Last month, the main house at the Gatsby-era Four Fountains property in Southampton was torn down to make way for new construction, as 27east reported.
According to the outlet, Four Fountains’ other structures, as well as its entry sequence, will remain standing. Supposedly, conservation of the Tyng Playhouse, as the main house at Four Fountains was known, was deemed untenable due to a combination of flood risk and regulatory constraints, and the new owner of the property arrived at the decision to erect a new residential structure in collaboration with the former owners and AD100 architect Peter Pennoyer. A plan to replicate the west elevation of the demolished building is one design solution that the team is said to be considering.
News of the original house’s demise sparked many animated reactions in the design community. The day after the news was shared, interior designer David Netto broadcast the demolition on Instagram. The post, which called the house “now part of great American house folklore,” elicited laments from the wider design community. Some, like AD100 designer Steven Gambrel, shared personal memories of the home. “I went there for dinner once, and left thinking it was the most perfect house imaginable,” he wrote in the comments section. “Every detail was made of cut stone, bronze, slate, wide planks and stucco—absolutely perfect proportions.”
The outpouring of responses is no surprise given the house’s illustrious pedigree. Archibald Brown—a namesake of the esteemed New York–based architecture firm Peabody, Wilson and Brown—designed the masonry structure for Ethel and Lucian Tyng as a playhouse and cultural center. The building, which boasted a soaring, arched main room measuring 40 feet square, was intended to be part of a larger compound that was completed in 1928. That space is also remembered for hosting relief events that the Tyngs arranged on behalf of destitute painters.
At the time, the East End had long been a destination for artists, thanks to the famous Tile Club outing of 1878. Southampton’s special relationship with the arts scene had crystallized between 1891 and 1902, when William Merritt Chase led the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art in a cluster of buildings that became known as Southampton Art Village.
In addition to the playhouse, the original Four Fountains property comprised an apartment garage, guest house, and gardener’s cottage on 7.5 acres located between Southampton Art Village and the Atlantic Ocean. Most of these components were arranged around a square, flagstone-paved forecourt whose four corners were each anchored by a fountain. Although the compound might today seem historicist in its form and in the employment of stucco and stone exterior surfaces, it was included in the 1987 Guild Hall exhibition “Long Island Modern.” At the time, critic Paul Goldberger described the show in The New York Times as an exploration of the “natural, if unorthodox, marriage between the utopian world envisioned by the modernist architects and the relaxed world of the beach house.” Notably, Russell Page designed the grounds of the property.