Storied Sag Harbor House Sold at Last

Mitch Winston and his brokers Christian Lipp, left, and Scott Strough, right, surveyed the property at 6 Union Street in Sag Harbor for the first time yesterday since Mr. Winston and a partner closed on their purchase of the house. Durell Godfrey photos

It was a long and winding road, but the dilapidated building at 6 Union Street in Sag Harbor Village, commonly known as the Morpurgo house, finally changed hands this week. 

An agreement that followed an auction in June, after a near 20-year battle over the condition and ownership of the 210-year-old house, closed on Tuesday. A group including Mitch Winston of Amagansett and Mark Egerman of Beverly Hills, Calif., purchased the property for $1.325 million.

“Now begins the long process to bring the property to its former glory, thereby ridding the village of an eyesore once and for all,” said Christian Lipp, a Compass real estate agent who, with Scott Strough, brokered the deal. 

Though it is badly run down, preservationists have called the two-and-a-half-story Federal style-Italianate structure a contributing resource to the local and national historic districts. 

Both agents will continue to shepherd the project, Mr. Lipp said. The first order of business is to properly secure it. Village officials have long deemed the building a hazard to public health and safety, and even considered knocking it down. The concern was that children might get hurt wandering around the place, which has an open septic tank and a crumbling porch, among other dangers. The village wanted better safeguards, and the bank involved in the foreclosure had a fence erected as the process came to a close.

The 4,000-square-foot house, which sits behind the John Jermain Memorial Library, has been abandoned for many years. It was neglected for decades while two sisters, Annselm and Helga Morpurgo, fought over it. Twice, a judge ordered it auctioned, starting at over $1 million, but it never sold. One sister tried to sell it on eBay for $19 million, with no takers. It had neither running water nor heat when the village took action in 2007, saying the house was unfit for human occupancy and ordering the remaining sister out.

The drama continued, though. A corporation bought the house later that year and it soon went into foreclosure, wrapped up in the phony mortgage schemes that landed former Suffolk Legislator George O. Guldi in prison. The lengthy foreclosure process was only completed this year, followed by the auction in June. 

There would be one more chapter to add to the saga. In July, before the scheduled closing, a Dix Hills woman brought a lawsuit against several individuals and entities involved in the sale, claiming she had a financial interest in the property and had not been notified of the auction. A Suffolk County Supreme Court judge dismissed the suit late in the summer. The woman did not appeal the decision, and the new closing was scheduled. 

The new owners will document the building’s interior and exterior as they assess its condition to determine whether it can be salvaged, Mr. Lipp said. “Although the house is a wreck, we would hope to preserve numerous aspects of the home, of course,” he said, including any recoverable elements. The goal is to re-create the original facade. 

The owners’ architect and builder will work with the village, especially its board of historic preservation and architectural review. “I am expecting this will be a somewhat lengthy process, but we are hoping to adhere to the guidelines set forth and ‘color within the lines,’ so to speak, so that it’s as efficient and prudent a process as possible for all parties involved,” Mr. Lipp said. “We’ll have to be a team effort, no question.”

The house has major problems, like a collapsing porch and an open septic tank.
Christian Lipp started the process of documenting the building.