The historic farmhouse and tavern where Thomas Jefferson and James Madison once stayed in Center Moriches welcomed visitors Saturday for an Independence Day celebration in its restored space.
Preservationists saved the more than 300-year-old Ketcham Inn from a bulldozer 25 years ago. Its restoration is almost complete.
Saturday's "restoration celebration" drew dozens, who toured the first floor, marveled at the carpentry and sampled period recipes like apple-curry soup cooked on a century-old wood-burning stove.
Community residents usually went elsewhere "if they wanted to do something on July Fourth" that was historic, said Bert Seides, who started the foundation that bought the property and is spearheading the restoration. "Now, we have an opportunity to stay in this community and enjoy this terrific building and do a celebration here."
Ryan Person, a Long Island Rail Road conductor from Center Moriches, brought his son, also named Ryan, to the festivities.
"It's so nice to be able to come here to take part in a little bit of history in a town that we grew up in and love so much," Person, 33, said.
The 14-room inn was built in 1693 by local blacksmith Samuel Terrill and served as a tavern, public house and stagecoach stop, according to Seides' group, the Ketcham Inn Foundation.
It was one of the earliest developed sites in the Moriches and the center of the community at that time, Seides said.
The inn's historic name is Havens Terry Ketcham Inn, its moniker evolving from a series of owners after Terrill, including Benjamin Havens, who ran it during the Revolutionary War, and later William Terry.
In 1791, the inn housed Jefferson and Madison when they visited William Floyd near Mastic. In 1852, Andrew Ketcham bought the farm and inn and his sons ran the inn until 1912.
Over the years, the structure became dilapidated. It was also damaged by a fire.
In 1993, the foundation bought the inn for $175,000 with the help of a matching state parks grant. The group restored the timber frame structure to its colonial grandeur, and it is listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and National Register of Historic Places.
Antique carpenters Scott W. Brown, 57, and his son, Jim, 25, of Bay Shore, worked on the project over the past nine years.
Every beam, molding and door style was photographed, discussed and documented, Brown said.
"There were days we spent working on one panel to bring it back and because of the high standards, it was never an issue to hurry or cut corners," he said.
Seides said the foundation plans to turn its adjacent 5-acre property into a cultural visitors center. A nearby 10-acre Town of Brookhaven park is slated to become an education center.
Tours may begin in September, said Seides, a preservation activist and trained architect.
"We are restoring the heart of the Moriches," he said.