A Brief History of the Building
The Reichert Family Center and Cosden Price Gallery was known locally as the Beckwith store. It is located on the north side of State Route 25 in the hamlet of Southold, Suffolk County, New York. Located on property once owned by early 17th century Southold settlers John Conklynge, Richard Cark and John Salmon, the building was built by the Lester family before 1850. The Hon. Thomas S. Lester Sr. (1782-1817) was a prominent local resident and states attorney whose son, Col. Thomas S. Lester Jr. (1811-1885), amassed a fortune and donated the first clock for the steeple of the Southold Presbyterian Church.
The store building was sold by Thomas S. Lester, Senior’s widow, Mary H. A. Lester, to G. P. Horton in 1858 along with eight acres of land. George P. Horton was a master builder in Southold during the mid-19th century and was responsible for many important structures, including his own mansion which was later known as the Albertson House, located on the corner of Youngs Avenue and Route 25.
In April of 1864, the building and four acres, were acquired by Capt. Sherburne Beckwith (1822-1896), who hired local carpenter William H. Corwin in 1867 to build his new home just west of the store building. Beckwith came to Southold from Connecticut in 1849 to run a ship chandlery in Greenport, located east of Southold. He retired to Southold in the 1860s where he ran a small dry goods business from his store building. His descendants would own the building until 1984.
Following Beckwith’s death, the store was leased to and occupied by Frank T. Wells, who ran his own dry goods enterprise from the building in the early 20th century. The building was leased by Arthur F. Gagen for his insurance business in later years. During the mid-20th century, part of the shop was subdivided into two spaces, with Capt. Beckwith’s grandson, Joseph Beckwith Hartranft (1890-1982), using his portion as painting studio and gallery. Hartranft was a very successful local painter, continuing a tradition that began with the arrival of many other artists during the 19th century.
Following his death in 1982, the building and neighboring Beckwith house were sold separately, the store being acquired by Robert W. Gillispie, III. Gillispie ran his “North Fork Real Estate” business from the shop for almost thirty years until his own death in 2009. He was a life member of the Southold Historical Society, and it was from his estate that the Society purchased the building in 2011.
Today, the building is used as an exhibition space for the Society. It has been named in honor of the Reichert family, who helped to fund the restoration of the structure. In addition, the inside gallery is named for the late Carol Cosden Price, whose generous bequest helped make the purchase of the building possible.