HOMAGE TO HISTORY AND HARMONY
A social register of whose who in the world has probably come through the portals of this estate home since the first stone was put in place in 1928
Arguably, one of the best American homes for royal living is Four Fountains, an estate in Southampton that had its beginnings as a private art pavilion built in 1928 across the street from a summer cottage lived in by a larger than life couple named Lucian Hamilton Tyng and his wife Ethel. Mrs. Tyng was very much a theater aficionado and held many evenings of plays performed by the Hamptons Players of which she was a part. The Tyngs also supported musicals and art shows to aid the war effort as well as provided workspace for the many artists who flocked to the area and still continue to do so.
The theater and the Tyng home were designed by the famed architect Archibald Brown, whose wife Eleanor was a decorator in her own right, presiding over McMilan Inc, one of New York City’s premier interior design companies of the time. The Browns eventually ended up owning the theater in 1942, morphing the Art Deco playhouse into their summer home with a 40-by 40-foot great room and 21-foot high arched ceiling – formerly the orchestra floor – that is today still the envy of Southampton residents.
Stepping into the home from the massive doors scrolled with Art Deco bronze peacocks is like stepping into another place and time. “The architectural details are extraordinary with artistic iron work no longer being done; roofs of stone, gutters and downspouts of molded lead, walls twelve inches thick, windows and doors fourteen feet high, and an Art Deco cork parquet floor,” explained the current owner. Where the stage was there are now two ensuite bedrooms. The great room and two upstairs bedrooms, the kitchen, front hall and a small library complete the main house. The second building is a guesthouse that is completely self sufficient with living, dining rooms, kitchen, and four bedrooms with three baths. The third building is the garage and a three-bedroom apartment. On one side of the house is the 60-foot swimming pool and on the other, a 60-foot long reflecting pool.
The story of this fabled home continued to 1978 when CBS Chairman William Paley purchased the home and used the large dimensions of the great room to display his equally notable art collection of Degas, Cezanne, Picasso, Edward Hopper and Francis Bacons, not leaving out the wooden cigar store Indian that had belonged to his father who ran a cigar store.
Paley’s home became the center stage for the Southampton social scene, with endless “Great Gatsby” style soirées lasting well into the night. Legendary designer Sister Parish decorated the house with the assistance of Paley’s well-known socialite wife, Babe.
The gardens too, were renovated with the hand of renowned English designer Russell Page who created five separate and distinct areas: a half acre pond with surrounding natural plants, a cutting garden, a formal Italianate garden with terrace, a reflecting pool lined with an allée of pear trees, and a huge open grass area that connects the other areas.
In 1992, the current owners purchased Four Fountains from the Paley estate after the death of the charismatic Paley. While maintaining all the classic Art Deco style and wonderful architectural details such as the entry courtyard where visitors are greeted by two stone piers, each topped by a large bronze Art Deco falcon, (Mrs. Tyng’s nod to the Egyptian god Horus) or the Russell Page elements of the garden, the owners have imprinted their own style – first and foremost – restoring the estate into a livable and elegant year round home that still retains the grandeur of its history. For the first 18 years it wore the atmosphere of an English country house of the 18th century, then during the last five years, it was transformed into a more contemporary home with art from around the world and Japanese, Chinese, French, and Italian early 20th century furnishings with a few important French and English antiques placed serenely into the mix.
The current owners have enjoyed the property for 23 years and recounted that: “Four Fountains has a unique place in Southampton Village. It is readily viewed by the public and is a place where visitors stop to do ‘selfies.’ It is an icon, modern yet a symbol of the old and glorious Southampton Village. We were drawn to Southampton 33 years ago. Where else in the world can you get fabulous beaches, beautiful homes, interesting and diverse people, and wonderful sports within 95 miles of the most dynamic city in the world?”
The compound spans nearly seven acres that holds the main house cradled by two guest wings; a large, paved, circular courtyard brings one to a caretaker cottage, separate green house, garages, swimming pool, pool house, and of course, the glorious special amenity of a private pond. The four fountains, for which the property is named, originally existed on each corner of the courtyard spewing water into the air.
Broker Tim Davis, of Corcoran Group Real Estate, expanded on the noteworthy amenities of the property: “One of the most appealing features of the compound is that it is located within a five minute walk to the beach. Between the house and the beach is a fourteen-acre Nature Conservancy wetland. The wetlands and the pond attract the most extraordinary bird life, primarily ducks and herons that gather in the trees and preen at dusk. The privacy is superb.”
The property has had only four owners. Each has made substantial contributions to the house and the gardens. The current owner’s modernization of the interior and expansion and simplification of the garden have all contributed to its current beauty. “It has been alternately a theater, a retreat for artists, a summer beach home, a place where high society gathered, and a home,” summed up the owner.
Meanwhile, beyond the gardens and pear trees, the falcon pair of sentinels, whose bronze eyes seem to see every wave of the Atlantic – vast and constant – don’t disappear when the last families migrate for the summer. They stay where they belong guarding this truly stunning historic Southampton home…Four Fountains!
Four Fountains – 660 Halsey Neck lane, Southampton, NY