Historic homes display Sea Cliff’s storied history

Biannual Landmarks House Tour this Sunday

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The Sea Cliff Landmarks Association’s Biannual House Tour returns on Sunday, inviting residents and visitors to view seven storied homes in the village and take in Sea Cliff’s rich architectural heritage on a self-guided walking tour.

The featured homes include a converted carriage house with a summer cottage vibe, an Instagram-worthy Victorian with eclectic décor, a renovated three-story home reminiscent of a Hamptons beach house, and a cliffside cottage with an ornate interior and a thriving garden.

After picking up a map and a brochure at the starting point, visitors will embark on the tour, an adventure that begins with long walks up hilly, tree-lined streets in search of the marked homes.

“I always say the house tour is like a poem to Sea Cliff,” said Leslie Guerci, president of the Landmarks Association. “So many people volunteer with the idea of opening their community and showcasing its history and pride.”

Guerci and her husband, Alan, moved to the area in 1998, but she was drawn to the village long before then. With a penchant for historic architecture, she scoured the local papers for real estate listings in Sea Cliff in her 1870s Eastlake Victorian in Garden City, dreaming of one day owning a home with sweeping views of the Long Island Sound. That dream is now reality.

Guerci’s Prospect Avenue property, near the waterfront, is one of the seven stops on this year’s tour. Alongside the main house is a cottage that was converted from a dilapidated garage in to a cozy two-bedroom home.

Guerci, who has co-chaired the tour since 2007, chose neutral colors for the home’s décor to emphasize the water views out back. The tan and white tile in the entryway is also found on the kitchen island. A matching glass mosaic tile forms the backsplash behind a white enamel stove, and the whitewashed oak floors upstairs meld with the faux wood herringbone tile in the bedroom downstairs. The sliding glass doors in the master bedroom lead out to a terraced rock garden created by the design firm Emil Kreye and Sons. The Kreye family transformed a yard full of bamboo and rubble into a space that matched Alan’s vision of an Italian hillside.

“We try to have a mix of architecture on the house tour to reflect the eclectic character of Sea Cliff,” Leslie said. “One of the houses on this year’s tour was featured on the tour in 2007, but since then it underwent a gut renovation.”

That house, on 17th Ave., is now occupied by a family of four — the Mitgangs. Guerci said it was exciting to watch Todd and Colleen Mitgang transform the “bones of the house” into a space all their own. Colleen, who grew up in Brookville, said she admired the tightly knit community that she saw in neighboring Sea Cliff. The family moved from their apartment above Todd’s restaurant, Crave Fishbar, to the village in 2014.

The three-story Victorian has four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms and a full-width porch balcony on each level. The interior boasts a distinct design of contemporary wallpaper, playful curtains, colored ceilings and mixed metal fixtures that interact in the open floor plan. “It feels very free-flowing,” Todd said, “but there’s also an intimacy that I compare to a restaurant.”

Most notable are the personal design touches throughout, like the framed portrait of Colleen’s mother, Ann, on top of a custom-made bar cart in the dining room, and the gold-plated pizza paperweight inherited from Todd’s father, Steve, on a shelving unit in the living room.

“There’s lots of mixing and playing outside the lines,” Colleen said of the home’s design. “It’s a fun, entertaining house, and we do endless entertaining inside, outside, on the front lawn, in the backyard.” Colleen pointed out their communal dining room table, which is flanked by chairs from Todd’s first restaurant.

The Mitgangs said they were grateful to offer their home as a stop on the house tour. “The fact that this is something we can be a part of [while supporting] our town [is] the main reason why I said yes,” Colleen said.

Proceeds from the tour will benefit educational programs sponsored by the Landmarks Association, as well as public infrastructure restoration throughout the village. “The village and the Landmarks have been working towards a renewed commitment [to] the stairways and walkways of Sea Cliff, which were an instrumental part of its history,” Mayor Edward Lieberman said. “We are finally at the point where [that] . . . work is now coming to fruition.”

Lieberman said that the house tour demonstrates the spirit of Sea Cliff. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for people visiting to not only examine the homes, but to understand the essence of Sea Cliff,” he said, “and how our heritage plays a tremendous part in [the] village’s vibrancy.”

Laura Lane contributed to this story.