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The Tale of Henry F. duPont First Seeing His Meadow Lane Home

A great story.

There is nothing like a great story on a cold winter’s day.

With all the damage done by Hurricane Sandy and all the rebuilding going on in communities along the East Coast of the Atlantic Ocean, a look back to a Southampton construction story from 1927 may sooth the spirit a bit.

Southampton’s Meadow Lane is where some of the great trophy homes of the Hamptons are located. This is the story of the birth of one such home, circa 1927.

Henry F. duPont of the historic DuPont chemical company of Delaware had decided to build his wife a new iconic summer home in the Hamptons. He hired Donnelly and Corrigan, a fine Southampton construction contracting firm known mostly for amazing interior wood craftsmanship. With no expenses spared the home had a full crew working all week and on occasion even weekend work was done as well.

Buck Jones, a now deceased life-long Southampton resident recalled how his dad, a worker for Donnelly and Corrigan, was selected to be the weekend “Security Man.” The story goes Mr. Donnelly told Jonesie (Jones' nickname), “Jonesie nobody goes on the property or in the house unless they clear it with me and I tell you first. Nobody!” And so things progressed magnificently with the trophy home totally completed by Spring, 1927.  

The last weekend of construction when only a few master craftsmen were completing some of the woodwork inside the mansion that Donnelly and Corrigan were renown for, a big black limo worthy of the president of the United States pulled up in front of the home on Meadow Lane, and then into the driveway.  As a pleasant sea breeze swept across the circular driveway the chauffeur stepped out of the car to open the back door. Emerging from the car, a smartly dressed couple began to walk toward the entrance of the mansion only to be stopped by “Jonesie”. He reportedly said, “Excuse me, who are you and what are you doing here?”

“I am Henry duPont, the owner of this home,” came the reply.

“Jonesie” stopped and looked at his clipboard, which had all the names of the weekend workers. Then he looked up and said, “I am sorry you are not on this list and Mr. Donnelly told me, nobody — absolutely nobody — goes in unless they check with him first and are on this list.”

The story passed down is that Mr. DuPont without saying a word went back into the car and drove to the office of Donnelly and Corrigan, then located on the corner of Windmill Lane and North Sea Road (next to where Bank of America is now). A few minutes later when the limo returned a red faced Mr. Donnelly emerged from the car with the duPont’s and with total disgust passed by “Jonesie” and gave the duPonts a complete tour of the interior of the home.

Finally when they all reappeared out the big front door, Mr. DuPont reportedly said, “So the work will be done by next week?” And Mr. Donnelly replied, “Yes and all the men will be out of the house and off the premises and….” Mr. duPont interrupted and said, “Except for this chap,” as he pointed to Jonesie, “I want him working for me — as a security caretaker.”

The home went on to become infamous in the late 1980s and 1990s, known as  “Dragon's Head,” owned then by Barry Trupin. Now it is owned Calvin Klein, who hired architect, Michael Haverland, to completely rebuild the home into the super trophy home it is today and pictured with this story.

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muskrat January 27, 2013 at 05:58 PM
I remember Mr Dupont having a dredging barge in Shinnecock Bay in the early '60's to siphon up sand which was deposited on the beach in front of his house and to its west. The sand was pumped through a large diameter black iron pipe that ran along Dune Road, as Meadow Lane was called in those days. Twenty four hours a day the pipe spewed a slury of sand, clams, stones and the occasional fish onto the beach. The pipe was always attended by a worker who moved the open end of the pipe as the sand built up, which it did fairly quickly. He had a small hut he could go into that was shifted from spot to spot as the dune grew. Eventually a massive protective dune was built that ran from in front of the DuPont house to almost 1/4 mile west. He generously put sand in front of land he did not own but he felt needed protecting, stopping just east of the next existing large house. The only structure along that stretch back then was a little pink beach cottage owned by Mrs Hearst. She may have chipped in, but the rest of the properties were unbuilt and owned by others. I doubt any cared. You could hear the clinking of the rocks and clams being swept through through that pipe all night long.
PJ Delia May 22, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Local lore says that Southampton came to have such gorgeous hug e manses because the Fords and Morgans and other non-WASP families were not really welcome in East Hampton. They made their Hampton much more to look at. Some of the very expensive homes in the village were originally guest houses with the main house close to the beach.
T.J. Clemente May 22, 2013 at 02:58 PM
PJ perhaps some of that is true but another version was until 1895 the LIRR only went to Southampton, thus the trunks, and other summer season gear was unloaded to the horse driven wagons. When Henry Ford II married in Southampton to a local, Henry Ford came in his personal Railroad car.

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