Southold Historical Society selling Pettit Center for $385K

Pettit CenterIn an effort to grow its endowment, the Southold Historical Society is now embracing both new and traditional ways to raise funds.

While some approaches, like this weekend’s art auction, are not uncommon for a historical society, other methods — like selling the house previously occupied by a former director — are unique.

“We really want the community to know that we need support,” said current director Karen Lund-Rooney, who has made improving the nonprofit’s finances a priority since taking over last year.

The house, located off Main Road in Southold, is known as the Pettit Center. It is owned by the society but is not part of its historic collection. Plans to sell the house developed earlier this year and it was recently listed with Century 21-Albertson Realty for $385,000.

Former society director Geoffrey Fleming lived in the Pettit Center during his tenure, but it has been empty since. The house, built in 1970, was donated to the organization by Southold resident Bob Pettit, who was an active society volunteer.

Ms. Lund-Rooney said the society is looking at new ways it can grow down the line and continue to fulfill its mission. She said she’d like to see the organization host more events that engage a broader spectrum of the community.

The art auction, which the society hosts annually, is scheduled for this Saturday, Aug. 27, at 6 p.m. at Castello di Borghese Vineyards in Cutchogue. This year, the society accepted only about half as many submissions as it has in the past in order to keep the event more exclusive, smaller and intimate, Ms. Lund-Rooney said.

A maritime painting by Joseph B. Smith of a two-masted schooner, the Annie Lewis, is the centerpiece of this year’s auction, with a starting price of $48,000.

“[Mr. Smith’s paintings] have gone up to $65,000, but we don’t know what the market is like,” said Lee Cleary, a vice president of the historical society.”It’s the most expensive painting we’ve ever had in our auction.”

The Annie Lewis was launched in 1863. The 24-by-40-inch painting shows it sailing through the Narrows, New York City’s maritime gateway. Also depicted are Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island.

 "The Annie Lewis” painting by artist Joseph B. Smith is the most expensive painting in the Southold Historical Society’s art auction on Saturday. The painting has a starting price of $48,000.
‘The Annie Lewis’ by Joseph B. Smith.

Mr. Smith was an American maritime painter who worked out of Brooklyn with his son. The painting was passed down to a distant relative of the real Annie Lewis and once hung in a home in Southold. The present owner, who inherited the painting, lives in Alaska, so it was put up for auction rather than transported across the country.

The auction features artists and paintings with connections to the North Fork. Other artists represented this year include graphic artist S. Neil Fujita, who designed the book jackets for “In Cold Blood” and “The Godfather.” A floral print graphic design by Mr. Fujita, who lived in Greenport before his death, is among the items on the block.

North Fork photographers Randee Daddona and EJ Camp also have pieces up for bid.

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Top photo: The Pettit Center on Main Road in Southold is currently on the market for $385,000. (Credit: Krysten Massa)