The Mast-Head: Just One Gate

Time was when there was just one gate across a driveway in the Village of East Hampton

Back when my reprobate buddies and I were in high school and had our first cars we would nervously drive past a place we called the Mafia House down near Two Mile Hollow Beach. Because there was a heavy metal gate across the twisting driveway we concluded that the residents had something to hide. It was the 1970s, and tales of the Cosa Nostra were in the air, you know. 

As strange as it may seem now, time was when there was just one gate across a driveway in the Village of East Hampton, and probably in the whole town, too. Now they are ubiquitous and at least one property owner, Ronald Perelman, doubles down by posting guards in idling sport utility vehicles near his driveway. Mr. Perelman’s gate not that long ago drew the attention of officials, who said it was too tall.

Some might blame deer as the reason why gates have become an all but essential aspect of the South Fork roadscape. I’m not so sure; perhaps deer are to blame in some cases, perhaps not. 

It’s not as if gates present all that much of a security deterrent or that there are hordes of curious interlopers creeping in for a look at the average, run-of-the-mill Hamptons homeowner’s house. No, it’s more than that.

Personally, I don’t like them, but then I don’t like a lot of what passes for contemporary taste. For example, don’t get me started on Belgian block driveway aprons, eyebrow windows, or outdoor lighting pointed up into the trees.

Had we had a gate at our house, my own one real brush with crime would not have been prevented. This was an incident in which I surprised a young man from out of town whom I caught rifling through my truck one dark night. Fast and wiry, he could have easily scaled anything we had put up to bar the driveway.

I know that there is no way East Hampton is going back to the days when gates were the exception rather then the rule, when picket fences with trailing pink roses were prevalent. Still, we could do with a little less of what they represent.