The set-back 11-acre Avery property on South Country Road in East Patchogue, long championed by preservationists for its rich history indelibly stamped on a boulder with family members’ dates and times going back to the late 1600s, was officially purchased this week by Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town.
“The total purchase was $1.9 million,” said Suffolk County director of historic services, Rich Martin. “The county’s share is $1.3; Brookhaven Town’s is $600,000.”
The seller was 39 South Country Road, LLC. “The property was inherited by Charles Wakefield,” explained Martin. “He created that limited liability company.”
Legis. Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue) and councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) have been carrying the preservation ball to fruition.
“This was the last big property in my district I had to handle,” said Thorne. “I’m waiting to hear from county parks commissioner Jason Smegin on how much he needs for restoration. Then I’ll put in a resolution for it. There’s $1 million we have in the budget, so we’ll look into lighting and security first.”
A Suffolk County park ranger relief station is being set up on the property as a presence at all times, said Thorne. A car was already there on Monday after the closing took place. A ranger will occupy the front office of the 1880 Victorian house.
Susan Shiebler, the property’s caretaker for the last six years who checked on the parcel daily with her son, was hired as a county park employee in historic services, said Martin. Shiebler will also occupy an office as well as the park ranger.
“In the beginning, we have to turn on the electric and place the county name there, as well as do some housekeeping and cleaning up the property,” said Martin. “I like to document all existing conditions before restoration takes place, so Susan will do that. We are making it an official county landmark site, which means all the buildings will be restored.”
Aside from mowing and some tree trimming, the property will remain intact. It had been regularly maintained with blue spruce, red maple, dogwood, cherry, holly, pine and spruce trees among the tree population.
Thorne said 60 yards of trash was found on the premises, but the owner cleaned it up before closing.
Martin said parking would be available on existing space on the lawn around the buildings.
Since it emerged in the spotlight, several nonprofits have been interested in inhabiting the Victorian house’s space, including the Greater Patchogue Historical Society. The big carrot has been the Dutch colonial barn, circa 1930, which is in solid, sturdy shape.
Brian Egan, attorney for The Lessing’s Companies, which has expressed interest in running a venue there, released this statement. “The Lessing’s Companies look forward to working with the county and town to making this historic park property viable and sustainable.”
Martin said an RFP process was required first. “We have to put out a request for proposal in a competitive bid to offer it to a private company,” he said. “The Lessing’s have three of our historic buildings already—Meadow Edge in West Sayville, Timber Point in Great River, and Coindre Hall in Huntington—that’s already been done via an RFP, and they won them from their financial terms.”
While officials gathered in the barn, stories and comments emerged. Barbara Avery, its last family inhabitant who died in 2017, raised miniature ponies there. Her grandfather, Charles Avery, opened the 200-acre Swan River Nursery in 1898 on the property to raise horticultural plants. Her father, Humphrey, continued the business and had used big horses at one time. He died in 1983.
“He’d go down rows of plants with his horses to cultivate them,” Martin said. You can still see the names over the paddocks, including Dan and King. “It’s a transitional barn. He was old-school.”
“Barbara Avery would host field trips for kids,” added Shiebler. “She’d show them her horses.”
Vintage treasures peeked out, like an old carriage, sled, and water pumps for fighting fires. A saw dangled from a hook.
Foley mentioned that the property was very close to area sewers as a possibility.
The Avery family, starting with Humphrey Avery, has owned and inhabited the site since the 17th century.
The property has three historic buildings on it: an 1880 Victorian house in decent shape; an 1820 gambrel roof structure, quite dilapidated, that served later in its life as the family landscaping office; and the Dutch colonial barn, where Barbara Avery, who grew up here, kept her horses.
Humphrey Avery (1725-1790) was among the first Averys to settle in the Patchogue area. But it was Humphrey Avery Sr. (1699-1788) who purchased a lot that spanned from Blue Point to Pine Neck. It was land originally owned by Connecticut Gov. John Winthrop Jr., purchased from an Unkechaug Sachem, Tobaccus, in 1664. It spanned from Bellport to the Islip/Brookhaven Town border.
Preservation supporters, starting with Legis. Rob Calarco, councilman Neil Foley, historian Victor Principe, Preservation Long Island, Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society, the Peconic Land Trust and others, began in earnest in 2020 when the county and town agreed to partner. Foley said he’d been approached by several developers since that time, but that would require a zone change.
“I think some places just need to be preserved,” he said.