When I arrived at Startop Ranch in Montauk, I immediately felt like I was in a very special place. It’s an indescribable feeling. There is a stillness, a spirituality to the place, and as I type this, I cannot think of another time in my life in recent memory where I got a chill down my spine just by pulling up to a driveway. There is magic here—real magic. You can feel it in the brisk Fall air as horses gallop in the pasture in the distance across rolling hills that overlook water from 360 degrees. You can feel the history of it, the legend of Doctor Leon Star, who fell in love with horses, Montauk, and airplanes and then made it his life, bringing his family along for the ride.
I was greeted by his daughter Priscilla, who smiled as she casually walked me through the property that she was raised on, rode horses through, and had childhood adventures that people only dream about. Her appreciation for the property and her loving father is so apparent, and as a father myself, I can only dream of leaving behind such a legacy for my daughters. Ed Bruehl of Saunders & Associates, who is representing the final parcel of Startop Ranch for sale, also greeted me. If you know Ed, he is normally filled with an abundance of energy, however on top of this land, he had a calm, almost Zen-like presence as we walked the grounds.
“The property here tends to do that to you,” Ed laughs.
Priscilla, who is a Montauk legend herself, gave me a full tour of the land as Christopher Laguardia, yes, THAT Christopher Laguardia of Laguardia Design Group Architecture, strolled by us. You could tell his mind was racing with ideas as he walked in near silence with his associate. He was excited about the land, and the more I walked, the more I wanted to talk to Priscilla.
“Tell me the story of this place,” I asked casually.
“Well, my father was a doctor and he also had an interest in racehorses. He started looking for land to buy and decided to buy land in Montauk where he could find a retreat-like property and also pursue his pastime of horses, and to breed them. When he found it here, he built our lives out here. The ranch stretched all the way to the horizon,” Priscilla pointed to as far as the eye could see to the horizon where big sky meets oceanh.
“What was his attraction to horse racing? Would he go to the race tracks at Belmont?” I asked.
Priscilla smiled as I could see her mind remembering the joy her father had when it came to horses. “His mother used to like to go to the track. He thought that was so sweet. She would go to the track and get all dolled up for it, and she loved to place little bets. He got such a kick out of that, and because she loved it, he loved it. It got to the point where he thought, ‘Hey, I have land in Montauk, why don’t I do this.’ I was only 5 years old at the time.”
“And just like that, he would start breeding racehorses?”
“Yes, just like that. He bought a few stallions and a few mares and began a thoroughbred breeding farm right here where we are standing. After all of that work, we became the number one horse breeder in New York all the way up into the ’80s when he passed.”
We walked by the horse barn on the property and took in the view—an indescribable work of nature that you’d never imagine coming up with even if you tried. The whole thing looks like a painting by a genius. I’ve never seen such a combination of rolling hills and trees, along with cascading meadows, horses, and a view of the sea. It’s beautiful. Can you imagine being a kid here?
“Our lives as children were really magical because of this land in Montauk,” Priscilla smiles.
“Our father learned how to fly an airplane so we could get here quickly, and on a Friday, we would get on the plane and fly out to the ranch. My dad was a Renaissance man like that. He kept the plane at Kennedy Airport because he was the Doctor for the airport. It really was like out of a movie. We would ride horses through the trails here that don’t just run through the land, but are also public. The trails go all the way through to Shagwong—they go for miles and miles, and we would ride our horses all the time as a family. I’m hopeful that the final buyer of this property is going to want to do the same thing. That’s really what this property is suited for. You are immediately at the park, and it goes all around endlessly.”
I started to imagine living a life like that. It feels like such a fantasy, but it is very much real in Montauk.
“The property was like an open canvas, and when we inherited the property, I was involved in a lot of the planning so that each house could have a view and didn’t block the other. I had no land planning experience, but I did it and did 11 easements with the town. There were 21 lots in total. The whole ranch spilled all the way down to East Lake Drive, and here we are down to the last piece of property, and this piece is just very special, as you can tell.
“What was the most special memory you had here?” I asked.
Priscilla responded almost instantly. “Watching a horse baby being born. We were little kids, and it was like 4 in the morning, and we were all rushed into the barn to watch and help. It was incredible. The mom would lick, lick, lick, and just like that, her baby was born.
“It truly was.”
As it’s the final parcel for sale, a total of 8 acres, a little bit of bittersweetness is certainly there for Priscilla. When I asked her what she hoped the new owner would do with the property, she stopped and looked out at the horizon, and she paused in thought for a moment.
“My hope is that they stay with it for the rest of their lives and their children’s lives, like a legacy property, rather than just see it as something that they try to step up and out of. I want them to feel the real, real sense of love of being at home here in Montauk, that belonging feeling. That this is home.”
For more information about 101 & 107 Startop Drive, Montauk, please reach out to Ed Bruehl.