John Steinbeck’s longtime home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., a cozy cottage on a quiet cove where he spent his summers writing and fishing, is on the market for the first time in more than six decades.
The acclaimed novelist, whose works include “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, bought the house, off Sag Harbor Bay, in 1955 with his third wife, Elaine Anderson Steinbeck, a former actress and Broadway stage manager. He split his time between this residence in the Hamptons and their apartment on the Upper East Side until his death in 1968.
Steinbeck referred to the Sag Harbor home as “my little fishing place” in his book, “Travels with Charley,” chronicling his cross-country road trip with his beloved dog. And it was at the home where he began that 10,000-mile journey in 1960, and also where he wrote his final novel, “The Winter of Our Discontent,” set in a fictional coastal town much like Sag Harbor.
The 1.8-acre property, around 1.2 miles from the village center, is being sold through a trust set up by Ms. Steinbeck before her death in 2003. Over the years, the families of both John Steinbeck and Elaine Steinbeck engaged in yasal disputes and feuds over the rights to his works, and, at times, the ownership of the house in Sag Harbor.
The asking price for the home is $17.9 million, according to the listing broker, Doreen L. Atkins of Sotheby’s International Realty. Annual property taxes to Sag Harbor and Southampton, where the village is situated, total $32,295.
The one-story, wood-shingled cottage sits near the water’s edge on a grassy peninsula between Morris and Upper Sag Harbor Coves, with around 586 feet of water frontage. The house is surrounded by oak, walnut and cherry trees and has a free-form pool that family members call the “cement pond” midway through the property. Also near the water are two additional structures: Steinbeck’s 100-square-foot, hexagonal “writing house” that he affectionately called Joyous Garde after Sir Lancelot’s castle; and a 120-square-foot guest cottage, known as the “cozy cabin,” with two twin beds, a bathroom and an outdoor shower. There is a two-car garage with a rear shed and a 60-foot pier.
A free-form pool sits midway into the 1.8-acre property. Steinbeck family members called it the “cement pond.”Credit…Gavin Zeigler for Sotheby’s International Realty
Ms. Atkins called the home “special and rare.”
“Typically you don’t get a pier and you don’t get water,” she said, noting also that the property was “private and protected,” in large part because of its downward slope. “It has historical value because Steinbeck owned it. He was a presence in the village.”
Steinbeck was often spotted around Sag Harbor in his fisherman’s cap and rubber boots, frequenting places like the Cove Delicatessen on Main Street and socializing with his fishing buddies. He was also seen out on his 22-foot cabin boat, the Fayre Eleyne, named for his wife.
Two summers ago the village honored its famous resident by opening the 1.25-acre John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.
Clark Covert, one of Ms. Steinbeck’s nephews and a trustee of her estate, has fond memories of summers spent at the home as a child. “Elaine used to invite each of us to spend two weeks with her — one week in the city and one week out on the point in Sag Harbor,” said Mr. Covert, who runs a financial services company in Austin, Texas. “It was a different world for us.”
He and his older brother, he said, especially enjoyed swimming in the pool, scavenging for shells and crabs on their small beach, and playing croquet on the lawn with their aunt. Mr. Covert and other family members continued to use the property over the years, and he often helped to maintain it. “I would go up every spring to open it up and every fall and close it down,” he said.
But in recent years, he said, the home has gotten less use by his family. “With Aunt Elaine’s and mother’s passing, we lost the most important reasons for all of us to travel there,” he said.
The main cottage, painted a dark gray, sits beyond a long gravel lane. A sign near the front door reads “Eden.” The house measures 1,220 square feet and contains two bedrooms and two full baths, along with what Steinbeck called a library loft.
The home is entered through a small foyer with a skylight that leads to a living room with lofted wainscoted ceilings, exposed wood beams and a grand fieldstone fireplace showcasing a painting of Steinbeck’s standard poodle, Charley, on the mantel. Custom-built bookcases are filled with some favorite books of Steinbeck, who in 1962 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The living room includes a dining space, where there are French doors that open to an outside terrace. Beyond the living room is a sunroom and a kitchen equipped with countertops and a center island clad in zinc. A spiral staircase in the living room connects to the windowed loft, which has additional bookcases and two daybeds.
Off the living room is a guest bedroom. The primary bedroom, which has an en-suite bath, is at the end of a long hallway lined with various photographs of Steinbeck and his family and friends. The suite has sliding glass doors that open to the outside. There is also a second bathroom off the hallway.
Throughout the home are oak floors and several oversize windows that bring in an abundance of light and offer stunning views of the scenic surroundings.
“It’s a small cottage,” Ms. Atkins said. “and it has this quaint feel.”
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