A ‘Jewel’ Is Available

East Hampton Village is soliciting sealed bids for the summer season for one of the coveted Sea Spray Cottages. Morgan McGivern

       What could be the juiciest rental deal in the Hamptons just came on the market for the summer season. One of the coveted Sea Spray Cottages in East Hampton, a vestige from the glory days of the Sea Spray Inn, which dates from the 19th century and burned down in 1978, can be had by the highest bidder.

       East Hampton Village, which owns the 13 cottages near Main Beach, is soliciting sealed bids for the summer season, May 9 through Sept. 14, through 2 p.m. on Jan. 27 for number 14, a one-bedroom, one-bath cottage (named thus most likely for reasons of superstition).

       In the book “Images of America: East Hampton” John W. Rae writes that the Sea Spray Inn was built as a private house on Main Street, before being converted into a boarding house frequented by artists in 1888. It was moved to the dunes east of the one-year-old Main Beach pavilion in 1902. In 1924, both the inn and the pavilion were purchased by a cadre of summer colonists. When it burned down, only its cottages and a lone flagpole survived.

       The village purchased the 16-acre parcel with 1,200 feet of oceanfront and the cottages after the fire for . . . are you ready . . . $3 million (a true fire sale). The cottages are “nestled behind ocean dunes on a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Hook Pond just east of Main Beach,” according to a page from 2010 on the village website. 

       Though some of the cottages have both ocean and pond views, alas, cottage number 14 has neither. However it is standalone (some are attached), and is “one of the more secluded units,” according to Rebecca Molinaro, the village administrator. It is also located in the picturesque Ocean Avenue Historic District. According to the district’s guidelines, “the open space of the Sea Spray property makes an important contribution” to the beachscape.

       A writer for Forbes, who stayed in one of the cottages in 1976, called it “a grey driftwood beach shack . . . [that] smelled ocean-y and mildewy all at once.” She loved it. Once, the cottages were a true bargain, but rates were adjusted drastically upward when the village decided to award summer leas es by public auction in 2010.

       Rental rates in 2013 ranged from $34,067 to $108,150 for the season. The minimum bid for cottage 14 was $35,000 in 2010 when the leases were last auctioned off. This time it is $40,000.

       “You can’t touch anything like it for that kind of money,” said Nanette Hansen of Sotheby’s.

       “The prices are bargain basement for Hamptons’ standards.” Fifteen months ago Ms. Hansen sold a cottage across Ocean Avenue, in the little-known Bayberry Close (where Andrew Farkas recently bought a 500-square-foot unit for $1 million) for $1.25 million, which her customer flipped in November for $1.7 million.

       After leasing the cottages for three years in 2010, the village abandoned plans in 2013 to put their leases up for auction again because of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, when most of the cottages suffered roof, shingle, and chimney damage. Tenants were allowed to renew and pay rent increases at the time. The vacancy of a cottage is a rare occurrence. As of 2013, all tenants had remained for the duration of their leases. The tenant in cottage 14 has decided not to renew for the 2014 season.

       Speaking on behalf of the village, Ms. Molinaro said, “I’m not sure when the full slate will be up for bid again.”

       As Gene Stilwell of Town and Country Real Estate said, “They’re tiny, tiny, but little jewels and gems, and they’re not making any more of them.”

       Inspection of the cottage is by appointment only. Information can be obtained from the village administrator’s office, 86 Main Street, or by e-mailing jlester@easthamptonvillage.org.