Composer and conductor John Philip Sousa’s historic home in Sands Point sold for $6.5 million in December, and the now previous owner is moving out after 29 years, longer than Sousa himself lived in the home.
The home, which is a National Historic Landmark and a landmark within the Village of Sands Point, was built in 1907 as a summer house for architect Alexander Buel Trowbridge. In 1915, it became Sousa’s home, which he occupied until his death in 1932.
Sousa, the “American March King,” is known primarily for his American military marches. His most notable compositions include “The Stars and Stripes Forever” – the national march of the United States – and “Semper Fidelis,” the official march of the United States Marine Corps.
The 5,997-square-foot home sits on 2.6 acres on the Manhasset Bay waterfront, and includes a tennis court, six bedrooms and a dining room with handpainted wallpaper that portrays the surrounding natural landscape with historical accuracy.
Bridgette Hirsch and her family moved into the Sousa house on Memorial Day in 1994, moving out just shy of 30 years in the home. She said that is the longest she had lived in a home.
The house had been on the market since 2019, but Hirsch said she wanted to ensure she was selling the house to a family who would care about it and its landmark status.
Since Hirsch moved into the home, she has completed various projects – like installing a central air conditioning unit – but her mission has been to keep the home true to its historical purpose and preserve its original aesthetics.
A lot of the work she did to the house was putting it “back to plain,” she said, as the previous owners had decorated the home more extravagantly than the original intent had been.
The landmarking was a “huge sticking point” for many of the people who sought out the house, Hirsch said.
She said that landmark status theoretically allows the homeowner to completely gut the inside, as long as the exterior stays the same or stays true to the essence of the home.
Many potential buyers wanted to turn it into a “McMansion,” something Hirsch said is not what the house is meant to be. She said the house was not built to be extravagant, but rather a simple and ordinary weekend retreat for the Sousa family.
In a curated book with historical photos and documents of the home, Hirsch referenced a pamphlet that includes the home in a collection of “distinctive homes of moderate cost.”
“It was just a really plain house,” Hirsch said.
While the house did not sell at the original listing price of $9 million she wanted, the home is going to a family that Hirsch has been assured will take care of the dwelling and preserve its historical value and importance.
“I’m very happy that these people are buying the house,” Hirsch said.
As the house has been for sale for four years, she said she’s been gearing up for the moment she has to move. But as it has become official, the move is still bittersweet and wrought with emotions.
She said there was a moment when she drove into her driveway and got teary-eyed, thinking about how she will no longer be living in the house.
Hirsch had experienced many unique moments as the owner of Sousa’s historic home, including the time when the Marine Marching Band performed at the home and had tears in their eyes while they played Sousa’s music.
“Who ever knew John Phillips Sousa would mean anything to me?” Hirsch said.
The house was listed with Douglas Elliman’s Maggie Keats.