Briar Patch Road Historic District
The Briar Patch Road Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Briar Patch Road Historic District is located along the northeastern corner of the incorporated village of East Hampton. The Briar Patch Road Historic District includes six residences and one outbuilding for a total of seven contributing buildings. No structures, objects or sites have been identified within the Briar Patch Road Historic District and there are no non-contributing elements.
The boundaries of the Briar Patch Road Historic District follow the lot lines of the six component properties and exclude residential properties lacking integrity or significance to the north, south and east. The west boundary follows the irregular shoreline of Georgica Pond, a large freshwater pond separated from the ocean by a narrow sand bar to the south. The Briar Patch Road Historic District is approached by way of Briar Patch Road, a narrow, unpaved lane extending west from Georgica Road. Briar Patch Road branches north and south near the center of the Briar Patch Road Historic District and parallels portions of the district's eastern boundary. The Briar Patch Road Historic District and its immediate surroundings are heavily wooded with scrub pines and oak. Residences in this area have retained this natural landscape character to a large degree, contributing to the Briar Patch Road Historic District's secluded and private character.
The majority of the buildings in the Briar Patch Road Historic District are built of frame construction with shingled exteriors and are unpretentious in design. Construction dates range from 1897 to 1932. The earliest surviving house within the Briar Patch Road Historic District, the Howard Ogden Wood House, is a two-story gambrel roofed building with a recessed piazza across the front and gabled dormers at the second story. Palladian windows are located in the upper portion of each gable end. The Roudebush House and Aspinwall House, built in 1902 and 1904, respectively, both feature modified saltbox configurations with informal arrangements of windows, entrances, porches and shed-roofed dormers. The 1901-1906 Augustus Thomas House is characterized by its cubic massing, recessed corner porch and gently pitched hipped roofs. It is the only building within the Briar Patch Road Historic District sheathed in clapboards rather than shingles. The H.H. Abbott's Servants' House, now a private residence, was built c.1920 as a dependency to a large house built in 1889 and replaced in 1931-1932 by the Shephard Krech House. It features an I-shaped floor plan and a formal two-story entrance facade with flanking pavilions and a hipped roof. The last house built within the Briar Patch Road Historic District is the Shephard Krech House, an imposing Colonial Revival style mansion with a pedimented facade and an octagonal, single story entrance portico. Designed by Arthur C. Jackson, the Krech House is finally detailed with leaded-glass fanlights, Tuscan Doric entablatures, pedimented dormers with round-arched windows and panelled shutters.
The Briar Patch Road Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an enclave of late nineteenth and early twentieth century houses and studios initially developed by members of East Hampton's art community between 1897 and 1932. Characterized by its secluded natural surroundings alongside Georgica Pond, the site of the Briar Patch Road Historic District appealed to landscape painters and other artists who began summering in East Hampton during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Some of these individuals built unpretentious seasonal retreats at the location, including painters Robert Sewell and Amanda Sewell, muralist Edward Simmons, sculptor John Heywood Roudebush, artist and playwright Augustus Thomas and prominent New York City architect James Lawrence Aspinwall. The designs of several of these houses appear to have been inspired by East Hampton's eighteenth-century vernacular traditions and may represent the work of Aspinwall. Others illustrate manifestations of nationally popular styles, notably the Shingle and the Colonial Revival styles. Despite the loss of two important houses connected with the early development of this district, its historic natural setting and the integrity of its architectural resources are both well preserved.
The first individuals to build within the Briar Patch Road Historic District were Robert V.V. and Amanda B. Sewell, who built a residence in 1889 on the present site of the Krech House. Although their occupancy within the Briar Patch Road Historic District was brief, ending in 1900, the presence of these two artists at the site may have introduced other artists to the natural beauty and privacy of the area. The second owner of the Sewell House, the Reverend R. Heber Newton, named the Sewell retreat "Briar Patch," and this appellation quickly became established for the general area and the narrow lane leading to it from the village. The house itself was demolished in 1930.
Other early arrivals to the area included Howard Ogden Wood, Edward Simmons, Augustus Thomas, John Heywood Roudebush ad James Lawrence Aspinwall. Wood's house, built in 1897, is the oldest to survive in the district and is a typical example of the Shingle style as practiced throughout East Hampton's Summer Colony during the 1890's. (Wood's background and association, if any, with other artists in the village remains unknown at present). The houses of mural painter Edward Simmons, sculptor John Heywood Roudebush and architect James Lawrence Aspinwall, built in 1900, 1902 and 1904, respectively, were similarly designed with modified saltbox configurations, shingled exteriors and informal fenestration, recalling elements of the village's vernacular eighteenth-century architectural traditions. Roudebush's and Simmons'[†] houses both included large two-story high studio spaces. The similarities of scale, design and detailing of all three houses strongly suggest the work of a single architect, such as Aspinwall, himself a resident of the Briar Patch Road Historic District. Additional research may be helpful in resolving this question. The 1901 house built for Augustus Thomas, a prominent illustrator, sculptor, actor and playwright, is more conventional in its form, massing and use of clapboards as exterior materials but was well integrated into its wooded site through the design of porches, exterior stairs and lattice panels, some of which were removed in 1956.
The last major house in the Briar Patch Road Historic District was built in 1931-1932 for Shephard Krech, a prominent New York City surgeon. Built at the center of the Briar Patch Road Historic District on the site of the former Sewell House and designed by architect Arthur C. Jackson, the Krech House represents one of East Hampton's finest examples of the Colonial Revival style. The large two-story frame house includes a formal center block with a pedimented center entrance facade and sophisticated design elements such as its octagonal plan entrance portico and finely detailed fanlights. While contrasting from the earlier buildings in the Briar Patch Road Historic District in its large scale and degree of formality, the informal, landscaped character of its immediate grounds softens these differences.
The East Hampton Multiple Resource Area (MRA) includes a number of properties associated with the popularity of the village among artists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the houses and studios of Thomas Moran, Childe Hassam and Albert Heiter and boarding houses such as Rowdy Hall. The Briar Patch Road Historic District, however, represents the only surviving concentration of buildings remaining in their historic setting which recalls this important era in village history.
[†] The Simmons house was severely damaged by fire c.1985 and has been excluded from the district due to a subsequent loss of integrity.