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Is This Wooded Enclave the Best-Kept Secret in the Hamptons?

Tucked away from the opulent seafood towers at Le Bilboquet in Sag Harbor, The Surf Lodge’s famously raucous summer soirees in Montauk, and the designer boutiques in downtown East Hampton is a quiet, under-the-radar enclave in the Amagansett North area that is known to those in the know as Devon Colony. Among its laid-back charms are its tiny, no-frills downtown area and its 116-year-old yacht club, its swathes of preserved agricultural land, its authentic fish markets, and historic residences.

Devon Colony, between East Hampton and Amagansett, was founded in 1908 by four wealthy businessmen from Cincinnati: William Cooper Procter (of Procter & Gamble), Richmond Levering (of Lever Brothers), Joseph Rawn, and William Rowe. The men first came across the area during a hunting trip—back then, hunting was common on the East End of Long Island—and they eventually acquired 1,000 acres in the Amagansett Highlands, where they built a cluster of homes they used as their summer residences.

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The enclave was one of the first gated communities in the Hamptons, but because Procter & Gamble’s soap sales helped pay for the homes within Devon Colony, it initially garnered a contemptuous reputation among some of the more high-brow Hamptonites as “Soap Hill.” The foursome also founded the still-standing Devon Yacht Club, which includes a small private marina.

Devon Colony Hamptons
Historic photos of the Procter and Levering homes during construction in 1909.

Mickey, Marilyn, McCartney

“Devon Colony is tucked between Napeague Bay and the Atlantic Ocean; it’s much less crowded than the lanes or dunes of Amagansett,” says Martha Gundersen, a listing agent with Douglas Elliman in the Hamptons. “What people love about it are big plots of land surrounded by the Peconic Land Trust, which is state-owned land. There are 500 acres of New York State land that will remain undeveloped that surround Cranberry Hole Road, which is where many of the homes are. Many successful people seeking an under-the-radar destination own here, including [Galaxy CEO] Michael Novogratz, businessman Mickey Drexler, and entrepreneur Fouad Chartouni, among others.”

Those “others” include Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Randy Lerner, and, on occasion, high-profile renters like Bill and Hillary Clinton; in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller shacked up for a short time a charming cottage converted from a windmill. Still, despite its history of illustrious residents, Devon Colony has largely remained an unheralded hideaway, with neither a Chanel boutique nor a Sant Ambroeus cafe within miles.

More Elbow Room, More Privacy

“For as long Devon Colony has existed, people have taken the environment into consideration,” Gunderson says. “People come out here to enjoy the bird life and slow-paced living. A certain caliber of people don’t just want a house, they want land, privacy, and to be a part of the community. You’ll see Paul McCartney on his boat driving past, you’ll see Randy Lerner downtown.”

Devon Colony Hamptons
The completed Procter home, seen here in 1910.

Gunderson goes on to say that once people get a feel for the landscape of the Hamptons and discover Devon Colony, it appeals because “there’s more elbow room and a more laid-back, less-crowded atmosphere,” she explains. Situated within the elevated Amagansett Highlands, Devon Colony has far-reaching views of Gardiners Bay, the ocean, and the surrounding land. Situated within thickets of forest, horse farms, and farmland, the lack of development is thanks to the large amount of preserved land.

Over the years, Devon Colony has also become known to design- and architecture-loving locals for its historic homes and picturesque gardens. Indeed, homes in Devon Colony are regularly included on the East Hampton House and Garden Tour that’s put on annually by the East Hampton Historical Society.

Yesterday’s Traditions, Today

When the men from Cincinnati built their homes for their families, they crafted four grand stucco mansions and one shingle-style home, which were originally known as ‘the cottages.’ The families tapped Cincinnati-based architectural firm Tietig and Lee to create the Italianate villa-style homes with English-style perennial gardens. This stucco-over-concrete style was unusual for the Hamptons at the time. Not just that, but these homes rivaled the size of other famed mansions in Long Island’s blue-blooded Gold Coast, particularly those in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor.

All five of the original homes are still standing, though they’ve had extensive renovations and alterations. Many of the homes have remained in the same families since they were built. The Levering house was last sold in 2018 for $8.75 million to its current owner.

Devon Colony Hamptons
The original Levering house has undergone several renovations and last sold to its current owner in 2018 for $8.75 million.

At the heart of the community is the Devon Yacht Club, which has remained largely unchanged since its founding in 1908, and that’s just the way members like it. Situated along Gardiner’s Bay, the club has long been popular as a family-friendly club that hosts kids’ sailing and tennis lessons. It’s also one of the few private members’ clubs that still holds old-school traditions true; a dress code is enforced throughout, from the beach to the dining room and the tennis courts. “They still shoot off a cannon at sundown,” says Paul Brennan, a listing agent with Douglas Elliman, who lives and works in the area.

Putting Down Roots

At a time when the Hamptons real estate prices are skyrocketing—and bidding wars have reached an all-time high—agents are seeing increased interest from buyers seeking close proximity to their favorite Hamptons hotspots and the beach, yet with more land, lower taxes, and additional privacy.

Among the current offerings is a brand-new, $5 million modern farmhouse-style estate that sits on three quarters of an acre directly across from a 30-acre preserve and an eight-bedroom residence on two acres that’s just five minutes from the beach and priced at $11.7 million. And just south of Montauk Highway, another new build, a 12,400-square-foot spread that borders the golf course of South Fork Country Club and isn’t too far from the popular Amber Waves Farm, Market, and Cafe, is on the market for $14.75 million.

Devon Colony Hamptons
A brand-new residence on Timber Trail is listed for $11.7 million.

“The thing that attracts me the most—and I think the thing that attracts people like the Randy Lerners and Mickey Drexlers of the world, is that they can step onto the public bay beaches and swim, kayak, and paddleboard without anyone bothering them,” Gunderson says. “It offers clean air and a quiet life.”

A world apart in many ways, Devon Colony is also convenient to the farm stands in Amagansett, downtown East Hampton and popular hot spots like the Stephen Talkhouse music venue. For many modern buyers, the solitude of the forested land and the working farms might not appeal. But once you get accustomed to the open spaces and slower pace of living, it’s pretty hard to leave.

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