Pushing a happy (historic) ending


The process to finally acquire the 11.5-acre historic Avery property in East Patchogue for preservation has been quietly progressing.

“We’re working through Phase 2,” explained Suffolk County Legis. Dominick Thorne, of the behind-the-scenes activity. “The homeowner has to remove the asbestos wrappings and oil tanks. There are also several encroachments from adjacent buildings, one being an active cesspool. We’re also awaiting additional environmental testing from Nelson Pope & Voorhis.

“The seller [Charles Wakefield] is anxious to close. We’re looking at spring 2023.”

Suffolk County Division of Real Property, Acquisition and Management made the offer last year.

It’s been a heavy lift bringing the preservation of the Avery Homestead over the years to this point. Former Legis. Rob Calarco began the process with councilman Neil Foley. Both proposed resolutions that passed for a county/town partnership of 70 percent, 30 percent. But the support from local preservationists also helped in the decisions, including those of Victor Principe of Bellport, who pushed for its saving and knew Barbara Avery.

There are two 19th-century buildings situated there: one, an 1880 Queen Anne home where Barbara Avery lived that’s in decent shape; and an 1820 gambrel-roof house built by John Avery in need of great repair; and a beautiful 92-year-old Dutch colonial barn that is beautiful and sturdy. The property is set back as South Country Road heads east before Robinson Avenue, and meanders with many trees.

Various negotiations are still required. The Greater Patchogue Historical Society has expressed interest in creating a space in the Queen Anne home, and/or it might be a space for a small store.

But the big advantage is the Dutch colonial barn, which could be utilized for restaurant/catering. There would be plenty of parking.

“It’s in the early stages on that, and we’re looking at possible vendors,” Foley said.

Last year, two local businessmen expressed interest. But since then, Lessing’s has come into the picture.

“I have expressed to the town councilman and county legislator our client’s strong interest in guiding the Avery Barn to becoming both a historically sensitive public facility and self-sustaining event venue in Suffolk County,” said attorney Brian Egan, of Egan & Golden in Patchogue, in an email. “Lessing’s has an over 130-year family history as a successful steward of many historic properties for local government, including Coindre Hall, the Barn at Old Bethpage, the mansions at Timber Point, Oyster Bay and West Sayville, and Whitby Castle in Rye. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the town and county to get this property right, and we are ready to partner with them for the long-term rehabilitation and repurposing.”

The Avery family ran a landscaping business from part of the barn; the back section housed horses and mules, whose names are still visible on the stalls. 

Barbara Avery, daughter of the last descendant, loved her miniature horses and kept them there.

Nearby was the 1820 gambrel-roof house that became the landscape office and the 1880 Queen Anne home Barbara Avery grew up in. She died in 2017.

Humphrey Avery, of Connecticut, was one of the earliest white settlers of East Patchogue, who purchased the land from the Unkechaug Tribe in 1752. Generations of Averys owned the land here. John Avery built the 1820 house that’s now in dire need of renovation, but his son, grandson, and great-grandson were born in this home. The Queen Anne house built in the 1880s was where Humphrey R. Avery, who inherited Swan River Nursery—started in 1898 by his father, Charles W. Avery—lived with his wife, Mildred, and daughter Barbara, until his death in 1983.

The nursery encompassed 200 acres once.

You can see from the sidewalk the two plaques Humphrey R. Avery had made in 1976 that were fixed on a boulder in front of the 1820 house, noting timelines of descendants with the names of family members.