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The James L. Breese House also was known as The Orchard and is now part of the Whitefield Condominium complex. The core of the building incorporates the original 1858 cottage from this property, once owned by a sea captain named Drake. The sprawling, U-shaped house was designed as a summer home and built between 1897 and 1906 on a 30-acre tract. The house is one of the largest homes ever built on the east end of Long Island. A famous architect, Stanford White of the firm McKim, Mead & White, designed the house for Breese, a Wall Street broker and good friend of White's. Spectacular gardens graced the rear yard. The next owner, Charles E. Merrill, left the house to Amherst College in the 1950s. A later use of the property was the Nyack School for Boys, which closed in 1977. A developer purchased the vacant house in 1980 and created five condominium spaces within the mansion and built 24 townhouse condos along a curved drive near the 16-acre property's edge. The James L. Breese House was listed in the National Register in 1980.

Main facade of Breese House in 1977 photo (Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities [SPLIA])

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Fountain by Breese House in 1912 hand-colored lantern slide (Johnston & Hewitt)

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Walkway to Breese House conservatory entrance in 1912, hand-colored image (Johnson & Hewitt)

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1912 view along brick path in flower garden leading to back of Breese House (Frances B. Johnston & Mattie E. Hewitt)

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View along brick walkway parallel to Breese House leading to portico in 1912 (Johnston & Hewitt)

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The Music Room in the Breese House in a 1977 photo (SPLIA)

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1906 floor plan of Breese House, from NRHP nomination (O'Brien 1980)

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Breese House/ The Orchard on 1926 Sanborn Insurance Map of Southampton (north on right side; p. 13)

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East & rear facades in 1977 photo of Breese House (SPLIA)

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Stanford White worked on the James L. Breese House from 1897 until the day he was murdered in 1906 by Harry K. Thaw, the millionaire jealous husband of White's former flame, actress Evelyn Nesbit. Ironically, White was murdered while watching a musical in Madison Square Garden, a New York City building he designed. White - deemed the quintessential Beaux Art architect of his time - was all about the opulence when designing homes for wealthy clients. The two-story columned piazza along the front of the mansion is said to be modeled after the piazza along the rear of George Washington's Mount Vernon mansion. White's last project may have been the "Music Room" in the Breese mansion, a 30-by-70 foot space with tall walls covered in mahogany, a coffered ceiling with hand painted decoration, and a monstrously large fireplace. An Aeolian pipe organ on the north end of the Italian Renaissance styled room survives; the walls were decorated with moose and buffalo heads and a tiger rug covered part of the floor.

James Lawrence Breese enjoyed the 32-room house in Southampton in the summertime through 1925. Breese was born in New York City in 1854. He married Frances Tilston Potter in 1880; the couple had four children: Frances, Sidney, James, and Robert. Breese was a partner in the brokerage Breese & Smith. After Frances T. died in 1917, James L. married Grace L. M. Gates in 1919 but they later divorced. James L. enjoyed photography and building and racing cars as hobbies; he was a founding member of the Southampton Club in 1899. James L. died in 1934 at age 80 at his home elsewhere in Southampton and was buried in Southampton Cemetery.

Charles E. Merrill bought the house and a subdivided part of the 30 acre tract in 1926. If his name sounds familiar, it's because Merrill was one of the co-founders of the financial firm Merrill Lynch & Company in 1915 with his firend, Edmund C. Lynch. Merrill owned the home for three decades. Merrill had three children: Charles E. Jr., Doris, and James. Merrill attended Amherst College for two years before studying law from 1906 to 1907 at the U. of Michigan. Before his death, Merrill donated The Orchard to Amherst College in 1951, who then sold the property to a private school. The Nyack School for Boys used the mansion as a dormitory, offices, and classrooms until it closed in 1977. Owners of the condo units in the current Whitefield complex can rent the Music Room for private events. The interior grounds of the property, behind the asymmetrical U-shaped mansion, feature an in-ground swimming pool, tennis courts, and a brick-walled rose and hydrangea garden.

Anonymous. "Stanford White's 'The Orchard' in the Spotlight Next Week in Southampton." Southampton Press (Southampton, N.Y.) August 1st 2014. , Real estate news sec.

Cultural Landscape Foundation. Whitefield Condominiums, Southampton, NY United States, Landscapes. January 1st 2020. Accessed June 6th 2021.

Garrity, Pat. The Details about Southampton, NY 11968, January 1st 2021. Accessed June 6th 2021. Whitefield Revisited: Behind the Scenes of a Historic Hamptons Mansion, September 1st 2014. Accessed June 6th 2021.

Hammer, Langdon. Yenser, Stephen eds. A Whole World: Letters from James Merrill. New York, NY. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.

Kroplick, Howard. Southampton's James L. Breese and the Vanderbilt Cup Races, Vanderbilt Cup Races. Blog.. August 4th 2012. Accessed June 10th 2021.

Lowe, Jim. James L. Breese: The Pie Girl Dinner, Accessed June 9th 2021.

O'Brien, Austin. NRHP Nomination of the James L. Breese House, Southampton, N.Y.. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1980.

Reiff, Daniel D. et al. Copycat Houses. Old House Journal. September 1st 2002. 76 - 81.

Roberts, David. Findagrave memorial #70653753 for James Lawrence Breese, Findagrave. May 31st 2011. Accessed June 9th 2021.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

New York State Cultural Resource Information System (NYS CRIS):

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