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Making History Anew


In Greenport, a couple has restored a saddlemaker’s late nineteenth century home with twenty-first century flair.


Last year, in Greenport, a historic house lover’s dream hit the market, but hardly anyone took notice. The Hartley House, so-called because it was built, in1882, by Charles W. Hartley, a harness maker with premises near First and Front Streets, looked fine on the outside, but the interior was in a state of neglect. (The house had been continuously occupied by Mr. Hartley’s descendants until 2008, when it was bought by a non-Hartley, who stripped away its aluminum siding and other exterior ‘improvements’.) Listed at just under half a million dollars, the centrally-located, two thousand-square-foot, three bedroom house languished on the market for months until it was bought by a New York City couple who dreamed of restoring Hartley House to its earlier glory. ‘We were excited about preserving a piece of Greenport history,’ says the husband, a retired portfolio manager for an insurance company.
To help realize their vision, the couple engaged Steven Shroeder, a local contractor and carpenter. ‘There was no kitchen or working bathroom, and the bathroom on the gutted second floor had been colonized by six racoons,’ recalled Shroeder, whose first executive act was to hire a trapper. He then reframed the house from the inside out. ‘Normally, with old houses, you try to save the plaster but since this one had knob-and-tube-wiring in the walls–scary stuff–it made more sense to take it down.‘  Shroeder installed closed-cell insulation, and put in new wainscotting, crown molding, and new windows.
The owners have largely maintained the original layout, making changes only to gain space. Upstairs, the former servants’ quarters is now a guest bedroom for visiting grandchildren. (In its previous incarnation, the room had a steep staircase that led to the kitchen, which Shroeder tore out.) They also transformed a bedroom into a master bathroom and a guest bathroom, and created a mudroom where the original kitchen stood, relocating the present-day kitchen to the rear of the house and installing windows that look on to the back garden.

Shroeder’s brother, Ted, a housepainter and contractor who specializes in the restoration of old houses, sanded down the banister on the main staircase, which was black with age, to reveal the gorgeous mahogany beneath. He gave the ceiling and white trim the faintest of pink blushes, and restored enamel doorknobs, brass plates, and porcelain hardware. He also removed, he says, ‘nearly a a century of paint from the interior trim.’
‘It’s a delicious little house, one that has intimate grandeur,’ says Jill Dunbar, the associate broker at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty who handled the listing.Today, when visitors walk up the brick steps to the wrap-around porch, they pause to admire the gingerbread molding and the etched glass sidelights flanking the front door.

‘The owners made some very good choices,’ says Shroeder. The result is a warm and inviting interior that speaks of the past in a contemporary voice. As Dunbar observes, ‘The Hartleys were among Greenport’s first settlers. It’s only fitting that their nineteenth house should be restored to its former glory by a twenty-first century couple with a great respect for its history.’

Jill Dunbar
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty
Steven Shroeder Home Improvement
Ted Shroeder Painting