The Dutch colonial barn was a beauty. Set back on the Avery property, you could see it was a solid, well-kept building, even at 90 years old.
“This is the centerpiece,” said Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) on a stroll through the grounds. “It has a neat construction. The roof has a peak that was designed almost like a suspension bridge. It’s a fairly new roof and you can see the paddocks.”
The Avery family ran a landscaping business out of part of the barn; the back section housed horses and mules. Their 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 passed in 2017.
The Avery family, starting with Humphrey Avery, has owned and inhabited the site since the 17th century, and it is this stately East Patchogue property of a family dynasty who staked roots here since the Revolution that Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town have agreed to help preserve.
The county passed an appraisal resolution in an agreement to partner with Brookhaven Town on the Avery Homestead Oct. 6 in a 17-0 vote; the Brookhaven Town Board unanimously agreed to the county collaboration on Oct. 1, setting the wheels in motion for assessing the property’s worth, coming up with a figure which the town will agree with, then the seller’s acceptance, as well as finding partners, nonprofit, for profit or both, that will help run and maintain it.
Calarco pointed out the barn’s major appeal: it’s potential as a catering house.
“People spend big bucks for a barn wedding out east and you can have a beautiful wedding here,” he said. “As long as the partner upholds the historic integrity.” Local caterers at the West Sayville and Timber Point golf courses have successfully upheld county stipulations at the historic mansions they work out of at Meadows Edge and the Timber Point Mansion, both catered by Lessings.
The Queen Anne home might become a bed and breakfast; the gambrel roof 1820s house, if fixed up, might become a small shop with historic items.
No doubt there were family records still within, awaiting discovery.
Councilman Neil Foley pushed the town resolution through. He met the descendants, Charles Wakefield and his sister, along with Calarco, who had contacted them last year without success. Now they agreed to talk.
“I certainly feel more properties than ever in Brookhaven Town should be saved, and the supervisor agrees,” Foley said, referring to Union Avenue in East Patchogue that was a recent acquisition. “I toured the homestead with Rob three months ago. It grabs you that it wants to be saved and I’m glad we’re both part of it.”
Bellport resident and author Victor Principe, who met with Barbara Avery while she was still alive, has been zealous in his preservation attempts of this property for East Patchogue. “The whole idea is not to make museums of these buildings, but to make them self-sustaining buildings that are relevant today,” he said. “They define who we are and give us a sense of place. That’s called culture.”
He agreed with the barn’s potential use and the other possibilities.
This 11.5-acre East Patchogue property is bordered by South Country Road, Robinson Avenue, and Montauk Highway. It is already along a historical gateway, passing Patchogue and its Lakeview Cemetery, the Carnegie Library and Patchogue’s Main Street, with Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts and East Patchogue’s evolving transformation. The Swan River Schoolhouse, built in 1858, is walkable, off Roe Avenue, and a couple of miles away is Bellport Village.
While quietly set back behind a multitude of trees, its history is profound. 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 once encompassed 200 acres.
Humphrey Avery had two plaques made that were fixed on a boulder in front of the 1820 house in 1976, noting timelines of descendants with the names of family members that can be seen from the sidewalk.
One thing was certain. Barbara Avery loved the homestead, was proud of her heritage, longed for the property’s preservation after she was gone and expressed it to Principe. Her 2002 will chronicles her longing to preserve the property, but did not add anything concrete.
“We are committed, but in today’s age there is a competition for county preservation,” Calarco said of his hope for a quick resolution.