The house was built in two phases. The north portion is two 1-bedroom apartments built in 1929 and two 2-bedroom apartments were added to the south side in 1935. In 1983, we combined the two south apartments (upstairs and downstairs) into one larger 4-bedroom residence. The two north apartments still remain as separate apartments. Until 1998 the house was named “The Portside Apartments”, at which time our family stopped renting any apartments, as three generations of family began using the house the entire summer. We did another major exterior renovation in 2017 (siding, doors and trim). The house was never raised and has not had water levels reach the floors – although it came within inches during “Superstorm” Sandy.
Life of the House
Our family has owned the house since 1972 when my parents, G. Allen Houpt 3rd and Joan Houpt (I am G. Allen Houpt 4th), bought it from Raymond and Mabel Watson. My dad was a real estate appraiser who always said he bought the “location”, as the house and docks were in very poor shape at that time. His foresight delivers us unobstructed sunset views all year long to go along with the 230-degree water view. Sitting on the dock for a morning coffee and for a drink during sunsets are daily events in the spring, summer and fall. Five generations of our family have been big boaters and sport fisherman in Stone Harbor, with the last four calling this house their summer home. The later generations added activities like surfing, wind surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding to the daily fray. While we love going to the beach, we really love the bay; my dad always said “You can always go to the beach, but you can’t easily go to the bay.”
It’s not all fun and games on the water though. Being surrounded by salt water requires constant maintenance. And then there are the storms. We stayed in the house during Hurricane Belle in 1976 which almost sank our 28’ boat. It also elevated a floating dock over its pilings; my dad and I watched the dock as it blew across the basin, where we eventually floated it into someone’s side yard and tied it to their fence. What an effort it was to get it back in the water the next day. Also, sometime in the early 70’s I was at the house alone when a tornado blew water through the frames of closed doors and windows to deliver an inch of rain water in the bedrooms and living room. It also tore a metal shed off a concrete foundation and placed it 40 feet up in a tree that used to be in the front yard. In 2012, we secured the house and left the island as Superstorm Sandy approached. It did extensive damage, destroying all our docks, collapsing our sunroom ceiling due to water infiltration and making our backyard look like a warzone (see picture). In the end, it’s still worth being on the water.
Currently, my brother Brad Houpt and sister Betsey Oeschger own the house along with me. My mom and our 6 kids enjoy the house every summer (often all at the same time). Our family history in Stone Harbor goes deep into the past; five generations of our family have rented or lived every summer in Stone Harbor since the early 1900’s. I remember my great grandmother telling stories of houses costing less than $1,000, and the ride from Philadelphia to Stone Harbor often including two tire blowouts and taking most of the day. Since 1972, those five generations spent most of each summer here, with my brother, sister and me and our 6 kids working various jobs at The Wetlands, Springers, The Golden Inn, Henny’s, Donna’s Place, The Concord, The Beach Patrol as life guards and beach tag checkers, and Global Pursuit. My sister even met her husband at the dart board at Fred’s Tavern.
The house has special meaning to each person and family. It actually has helped keep our family very close. And this goes way back before our family purchased the house. A few years ago I found an elderly gentleman, Don Haven, standing in the street looking starry-eyed at the house. He asked me, “Is this the old Portside Apartments? I think it is, but it looks much larger than I remember.” I invited him and his wife out to the dock where we chatted for an hour. He conveyed that his grandfather built the original north apartments of the house and spent time in his childhood staying there. He also mentioned Oliver Mengle (maybe his grandfather) built the original seawall and dredged and filled the lot. He recalled many fond memories including pretty much living off crabs and fish they caught off the docks. He was almost in tears as he told story after story, just like the ones we have shared here.