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The Bridgehampton Historical Society was founded in 1956, and is chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. It is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. It currently owns and occupies two acres on Main Street in the Hamlet of Bridgehampton on which are situated two contemporary barns, a c.1870 wheelwright’s shop, a 1907 jail, a c.1890 outhouse, and the c.1830 Corwith House (listed on the NYS Register of Historic Places). The Society has recently become the stewards of the 1840 Nathaniel Rogers House, and in collaboration with the Town of Southampton has embarked on a major restoration project of that house (also listed on the National Register of Historic Places).

 

It's hard not to notice the old house that lies on the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road, just past the Bridgehampton Monument. It stands alone, melting into the landscape with its two-storied columns held more or less in place with two by four boards. Few, perhaps, know the history of this extraordinary building, or the case for restoration of this once magnificent structure. The Nathaniel Rogers House is important for its architectural significance, its critical location, its rich history, and its potential as a repository for the history of Greater Bridgehampton.

To some it is known as the Hopping House, and to others as the Hampton House, but it is rightfully named after the visionary who created its architecture. The monumental Greek Revival temple front, the grand setting and the refined interior, products of Nathaniel Rogers extensive remodeling in 1840, make this prominent architectural landmark, listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places, one of the finest example of a residence in this style in New York State.

As it stands today, the Nathaniel Rogers House represents three historic construction periods: the original house built by Abraham T. Rose about 1824; the remodeling by Nathaniel Rogers about 1840; and the extensive interior renovations and modest exterior additions by the Hedges and Hopping families for the Hampton House hotel following their purchase of the house in 1894.

Rogers, an accomplished artist, was born in Bridgehampton in 1787, grandson of a famous patriot of the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the American Academy and a founding member of the National Academy of Art and Design. He is said to have had a hand in some of the design of the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, and by his retirement, he had painted most of the New York City fashionables of his day. Nathaniel Rogers died in 1844, shortly after the remodeling of his house was complete. The house remained in his family's hands until 1857.

Subsequently, it was sold to Captain James R. Huntting, an extraordinarily successful whaling captain, and then, in 1873, the Hunttings sold the house to Mary S. DeBost, wife of Augustus B. DeBost who with his brother Leon ran DeBost Brothers dry goods business in New York. Leon D. DeBost was a founder of the Southampton summer colony. A decade later, they leased their home to E. P. Storm who operated it as the ‘Hampton House,’ a boarding house, from at least 1886 to 1888.

In 1894, new owners, John Hedges and Frank Hopping transformed the by-then somewhat rundown residence into the most elegant Inn in Bridgehampton. Their fifty-year period of operating the Hampton House hotel has made that name part of Bridgehampton lore. The house operated as an inn until 1949.

The last inn-keeper, Caroline Hopping, leased the front yard to a gas station in 1952. She died later that year, and at her death, the assessment of the property read “a house which is very old and in run-down condition.” For the next half century, it was the residence of James B. Hopping and his family.

Its life had been evenly divided between a grand residence and famous inn, until the Bridgehampton Historical Society purchased it and donated it to the Town of Southampton, maintaining a long-term stewardship of the building. Their goal is to make the Nathaniel Rogers House once again a landmark and a facility that will serve as the headquarters of the Bridgehampton Historical Society and as a cultural resource center for the community. They are working closely with the Town of Southampton in their preservation efforts.

Ultimately the house will encompass a visitor's welcoming area, a gift shop, exhibition spaces, a research and study area with computerized retrieval systems, archival collections of photos, maps and documents, recording space for the ongoing documentation of community memories and administrative space.

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