Musical landmark in Cutchogue has date with demolition

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Composer Douglas Moore’s home, Salt Meadow, on New Suffolk Avenue, is scheduled to be torn down this summer.

The cyan-trimmed house on the bay that belonged to Pulitzer Prize-winning Cutchogue composer Douglas Moore is to be torn down this month — even preservationists said its deteriorated condition left it beyond saving.

The house, dubbed Salt Meadow, sits on the east side of Downs Creek on New Suffolk Avenue, where it is highly visible to eastbound drivers crossing the salt marsh.

The property was purchased by Lisa Grattan, a Mattituck native who now lives in New Jersey, for $2 million in January 2011. After Douglas Moore’s daughters, Sarah and Mary, died, former Suffolk Times co-publisher Jeff Miller, a Moore family cousin, inherited the house. He put it on the market in 2010.

A demolition and  building permit for a modern 8,766-square-foot home, designed by Barnes Coy Architects in Bridgehampton, was approved by the Southold Town building department on June 12. The new house is to have six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a gym, spa and in-ground swimming pool. A wetlands permit for the project was approved by the Town Trustees last fall and 730 cubic yards of fill is to be brought in to regrade the property.

Southold Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman James Grathwohl, who for years also served as the chairman of the Douglas Moore Festival concert on the Cutchogue Village Green, said the house has been deteriorating for years.

As chairman of the festival, Mr. Grathwohl frequently visited Douglas Moore’s daughters at Salt Meadow. He said the structure’s wooden underpinnings have been rotting due to exposure to the high water table at the edge of the salt marsh.

Mr. Grathwohl said he’d asked Ms. Grattan if he could photograph the house one last time before the demolition, but she declined. Ms. Grattan could not be reached for comment.

“I think it’s a shame that we are losing another aspect of Douglas Moore’s legacy in Cutchogue,” Mr. Grathwohl said. “Of course, his music is a lasting legacy but that house speaks to Douglas Moore specifically. He designed it. It had special features for the family’s musical presentations and special events. It’s a shame it can’t be saved.”

He said the house has a stage in the living room where the talented Moore family put on musical and theatrical performances and a fieldstone fireplace in the dining room.

Mr. Grathwohl said the house was never designated a Southold town landmark.

“I do understand it has not been maintained over the years. It sits basically on wetlands,” he said. “The underpinnings are all gone. It would be quite an undertaking to restore it so it could be livable again.”

Mr. Grathwohl added that Mr. Moore’s studio, a tar paper shack on Moore’s Lane overlooking Downs Creek, is also in jeopardy of being demolished.

The studio is on a separate piece of property that had once belonged to the Moore family, said Mr. Grathwohl. The owners had been working with the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council to find a way to preserve the studio, but the house was recently sold. Mr. Grathwohl said he hasn’t yet been in touch with the new owners.

“The soundboard of his old piano was pitched out there in the woods,” he said. “We had estimates on the cost of moving the studio, but we had no place to move it to. It’s not a handsome building. It’s a tar paper shack. It had room for a piano and a chair. The builders tell us there’s not enough structural integrity to move it.”

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