Just about every summer colony faces the same social reality: a pervasive “local” vs. “from away” attitude that pits residents against each other. The New York Times explores this phenomenon in an interesting piece on how it’s playing out in the Hamptons. While visitors to many summer communities try for years or decades to become accepted and feel a part of the year-round/local social fabric, the Times points out that “East Hampton is now also home to the kind of new money and celebrity that doesn’t care if it is local or not.”
Archived entries for Summer Colonies
I was up with this sun this morning in East Hampton and caught this shot of a few boats in Acabonack Harbor. While the Hamptons may look like many New England summer colonies, the vibe is anything but — especially with East Hampton’s Main Street chock-a-block with Gucci, Tiffany & Co., and Elie Tahari.
As Hamptons Author Steve Gaines told the New York Observer this summer in a piece about the changing face of the East End — especially all the new McMansions going up in former potato fields:
“Money validates you in the Hamptons, money makes you a big man. And the more insecure you are in real life, the more important these kinds of representations are in the Hamptons. It’s like a guy who has a small penis who has to drive a flashy sports car.”
“This is what the Hamptons are, and I make no apology for it, nor is one entitled to make an apology for it. If you don’t want a peacock walk, where people are driving expensive cars and people have houses that are inappropriately big, you should go somewhere else. This is what the Hamptons are, and this is what people enjoy out here. It’s a stage where nouveau society can show itself.”
The New York Times, which has been unusually antagonistic about Canada in recent months, swings things around in the Escapes section this weekend with an effusive piece on the Muskokas, Toronto’s wealthy cottage country two hours north of the city. Goldie Hawn is probably the most famous American in Muskoka, but Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg can also be spotted amid the lush surroundings and increasingly larger cottages that ring the region’s three main lakes.
As in many summer colonies, people are starting to notice the changes in the Muskoka region as the super-wealthy move in begin and have an impact on the usually understatedness and simplicity of the place. All the Toronto Maple Leafs have places there. Middle-class families have been priced out as the area has gone completely upscale. “You don’t see sailboats or canoes anymore,” one fourth-generation Muskokan said. “The new people are anxious to show off their wealth.” And they do so with impressive torpedo-shaped speedboats, mahogany racers, and G.P.S.-guided seaplanes
But my favourite part of the piece was about the couple from Boston who summer in Muskoka. “For anyone casually acquainted with Muskoka, what passes for a cottage these days may come as quite a shock. Take the home of Kevin and Linda O’Leary, a couple from Boston who built a cottage on Lake Joseph five years ago. Now, rising like a wedding cake from the lakeshore, is a periwinkle-blue structure with white trim, wraparound cedar decks, three boat slips and a second-floor sun deck that is larger than some marinas here. And that is just the boathouse.”
“All of Muskoka has become a Millionaires Row,” said Anita Latner, a real estate broker. “Muskoka is to Toronto what the Hamptons are to New York.” Having been to both the Hamptons and to Muskoka, I must say I’d take Muskoka any day for this simple reason: “The air of celebrity is so thick that the novelty may be wearing thin. ‘I’ve seen them at the grocery store, I’ve seen them at the marina, I’ve seen them playing golf,’ said Bob Schultz, a Toronto investor who has been coming to Muskoka for 35 years. ‘Nobody pays attention to them anymore’,” whereaes in Southampton, they haven’t reached that level of civilization yet.
The New York Times Styles section fronts with news that class warfare is becoming increasingly visible in the popular gay enclave of Provincetown as soaring real estate prices and a changing ethos begin to take hold. Could P-town be fading as an inclusive gay resort?
“Friendly, flamboyant, overwhelmingly gay: Provincetown is still all these things and first impressions are not wrong. But stay for a bit and you’ll find a less happy picture. A real estate boom has spread unease, pitting wealthy newcomers and developers against the townies, artists and free spirits who give the enclave its bohemian character and who now fear it is being gentrified out of existence.”
“Friction between new money and old ways is nothing new in summer retreats. But what makes the battle for Provincetown unusual is that it is largely a class struggle within a gay world. For nearly 30 years, Provincetown has attracted the spectrum of people that the rainbow flag represents: gay and lesbian, old and young, rich and poor. Now, many people here say, with its widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots, a town that prided itself on its inclusiveness is beginning to resemble the rest of the United States.”
Andrew Sullivan told the Times, “It’s a microcosm of a broader shift, of the slow seepage of gay culture into mainstream culture. It’s the bourgeoisification of the gay world.” Similarly, the owner of a local liquor store said, “The population of Provincetown is aging, like it or not … It’s about complaining about the situation versus accepting what’s inevitable. It’s an age-old real-estate cycle that’s common everywhere.”
The piece ended with a zinger: “Others are more wistful. Patrick Lamerson, a high school teacher in Boston who has been coming to Provincetown for nearly 10 years, said that the rift in town was less between rich and poor than ‘between gays who need community and gays who don’t.’ And those who don’t, he said, will probably prevail in the end and the Provincetown that he has known will go the way of other bohemian bastions that had their moment and then faded. In any event, he said, gay Provincetown has had a good, long run. ‘It should be documented and mourned and remembered,’ he said, ‘and then people can move on.'”
The New York Times ran an excellent piece in the SundayStyles section that eerily mirrored a good chat I had on the ferry back from North Haven on Sunday with one of my contemporaries about our shared experience of spending 20+ summers in a summer colony better known for its understatedness than anything else.
Our discussion was spurred by a comment made by my friend’s friend back in Boston. From a small town somewhere in the Midwest, she said her dream was to have a house in Nantucket, a dream that those of us in North Haven, in our own little bit of reverse snobbery, would probably mock. “Some people are snobbish about being not snobbish,” the piece said.
The wealthy and powerful who go to Maine do so for its comforting simplicity and lack of pretentiousness, while people go to Nantucket to show off — or at least so the conventional wisdom on summer enclaves goes. The Times piece examines the related trend of bumper-stickering your preferred summer resort in order to show off your social status. You know the stickers — ACK for Nantucket, EH for East Hampton, MVY for Martha’s Vineyard, etc.
“There was a time when what people did on their summer vacations was no one else’s business. Summer getaways were family time, and there was no need to fetishize or advertise one’s preferred burg for unwinding…those oval bumper stickers stand out as the ultimate in gratuitous boasting, in a class apart even from peacocking around town covered in luxury brand logos.”
But stickers are not the only evidence of one’s summering proclivities. T-shirts are also among the usual suspects. And “when it comes to showboating, the more obscure the reference, it seems, the better. Just as the cachet of the once ubiquitous Black Dog t-shirt came from the assumption that only travelers to Martha’s Vineyard understood its origin, surely only a few people could possibly be aware that the letters ACK on a t-shirt, hat, or bumper sticker refer to the code for the airport on Nantucket. But over time, as word gets out and the masses come to understand the references, they lose their power and can acquire a patina of gaucheness or cluelessness.”
(Thanks David for my snot-on-the-water snap)
After the New York Times struck a chord weeks ago with a report on a changing Nantucket, now everyone is musing about coastal New England communities and their shifting demographics. Today the Boston Globe offers their own take on the situation on Nantucket.
Worrying about the island, they write, is “once again a popular pastime. In recent years, ‘It’s Nice in Nantucket’ bumper stickers have been replaced by the trendier ‘It Used to Be Nice in Nantucket.’ Trophy houses and Hummers are today’s harbingers of the island’s doom.”
Every now and then, a perspective hits too close to home. This one, in particular, reminds me of my own experience in Maine: A longtime summer resident told theGlobe, “Everybody complains. The upside is that it gives people who would otherwise have to talk about real things something else to say. Now they can always talk about the changes and the new money..”
I’ve (shockingly) never been to Provincetown. But I do feel a bit of sadness to read that the Boatslip, a P’town institution known for its nightly tea dance, is up for sale, listed for $14.5 million — double the price paid for the oceanfront resort in 2001 — and poised for a dreaded condo conversion.
According to a piece in the Globe, “More than money is at stake here. What is happening in Provincetown is also about character. Some locals worry that their erstwhile fishing village is turning into another Nantucket. Or worse: Key West, an upscale beachside town where high prices have driven regular folks to the fringes.” One visitor told the paper, “The condo-ization of Provincetown is hurting it. I think it is becoming another Nantucket. Nantucket’s nice…but it’s definitely changing the makeup of the town. It’s not a funky fishing village anymore. That’s gone forever. It’s a commercial product now.
• Another condo conversion is in the works, this time for The Garment District, the famed, chaotic bargain basement in Cambridge that was once a soap factory
• Read my own related piece on the changing face of Maine’s Midcoast region
The New York Times continued their special focus on social class this weekend, with a fantastic piece about the changing face of Nantucket, where the average home price has soared to nearly $1.7 million, and longtime locals have found themselves priced out of the market. Those of us who were raised in or have spent a significant chunk of our lives in a summer colony easily recognize the changes and inevitable tensions these communities face as old money and new money begin to clash. “Shame has somehow gone out the window,” one long time summer resident told the Times. “There is no incentive to exercise control.”
“At least one new family has built a hedge to avoid people seeing them as they pass by…those open paths had an old-fashioned elegance to them. It is part of an old and fading spirit of community. Blocking them off is an unfriendly and antipublic thing to do.”
“Now that the hyper-rich have achieved a critical mass, property values have zoomed so high that the less-well-off are being forced to leave and the island is becoming nature’s ultimate gated community.”
“It’s a castle with a moat around it,” said Michael J. Kittredge, who founded Yankee Candle.