One Sunday morning about five years ago, Mark Hagan was enjoying his breakfast when the doorbell rang at his stately Folk Victorian home in Sea Cliff.
"I got up and I answered the door. And they said, 'How much is a room?.' I said, 'I'm sorry.' They said, 'Isn't this a bed-and-breakfast?' "
Hagan is not alone in living in a home that has been mistaken from time to time for something other than a private residence. As pesky as it may be to have to drop everything to inform another stranger that no, you don't have rooms available and this is not a B&B, homeowners seem to take these intrusions in stride, chalking it up to just one of the facts of life living in an interesting abode.
Deadhead homebase in a Sea Cliff Folk Victorian
In the 30 years he's lived in his home, people have stopped by, inquiring whether it was a B&B, curiosity store, museum, restaurant and a consignment shop. "Everything you can imagine," said Hagan, 62, who works in international real estate sales.
A devoted Deadhead, Hagan has a "Terrapin Station" sign over the front door that has led to passersby thinking the home is a Grateful Dead shop. While he put up a sign featuring the hit song and album name when he moved in, the one he has now replaced the original that rusted out a decade ago.
"I actually get mail that just says, 'Terrapin Station, Sea Cliff, NY,' " said Hagan of his circa 1868, 1,912-square-foot, eight-room home with an inviting wraparound front porch and three full porches on the back. "People will ask, 'Is this a Grateful Dead shop? Is this a restaurant?' I'll say, 'No. It's where I live.' "
I once found a girl in my kitchen making herself a drink and another time a couple were in one of the second-floor rooms seeming very confused as to what this building actually was.
— Mark Hagan
In years past, Hagan hosted porch parties during Sea Cliff's mini-mart street fair each October, but stopped doing it when too many interlopers came in.
"I once found a girl in my kitchen making herself a drink and another time a couple were in one of the second-floor rooms seeming very confused as to what this building actually was," Hagan recalled.
A couple of years ago, Hagan had left the front doors open to let in the fresh spring air when he heard footsteps on the porch and discovered a couple standing in his foyer seeking a one-night stay in his presumed B&B.
"You don't get accusatory," he said. "You don't say, 'What are you doing on my porch?' I don't like to be like that. I'm usually trying to figure out what someone wants."
Frequently, Hagan hangs out on his front porch and friends and strangers alike stop and greet him. That's what comes with living in a historic home on a quaint village's main drag, he reasoned.
No more pews in former Village Church of Bayville
Living in the former Village Church of Bayville, Donna and Scott Lee have seen their share of uninvited visitors, usually several times a year.
"When you belong to a church it always has a place in your heart," Donna said, adding that people who no longer live in the area will come back, sometimes to revisit the site of their nuptials years earlier.
"Of course, I let them in," said Donna, 64, who works for the Nassau County Board of Elections and has lived there since 1996. "It doesn't have pews anymore, but it still has the stained glass and most of the moldings, so they get the feeling that they're back home."
The church used the building until about 1961, when it moved to serve the growing congregation that the building and property could no longer accommodate, Donna said.
It still has the stained glass and most of the moldings, so they get the feeling that they're back home.
— Donna Lee
Before her family purchased it in 1978, the building had served as commercial space for real estate, insurance and upholstery businesses and was later turned into a community theater and newspaper publisher.
When the Lees moved in, the building had broken stained glass windows and needed a lot of work.
"We fixed the outside and the stained glass right away," said Donna, adding that they transformed the commercial space, turning the upstairs into an open loft and putting in four bedrooms on the lower level.
Aside from people returning to their former place of worship, others from time to time come to their door seeking alms and the Lees direct them to the actual churches in the area.
A native of Bayville, Donna understands that people feel sentimental about the area.
"Most people have a tie for life to Bayville," said Lee, adding, "Besides it being a church, it's part of Bayville."
Commack's Carll S. Burr House perfect for a movie set
They asked, 'Is this a museum?' I said, 'No, I live here.'
— George Dobler
When he bought the historic Carll S. Burr House in Commack 23 years ago, George Dobler decided to familiarize himself with a bit of its history.
The six-bedroom house, Dobler learned, started as a one-story saltbox in 1827 and was gradually added onto and by 1880, was a grand French Second Empire-style home owned by Burr, who used to breed racehorses there.
Despite the home's historic provenance and impressive facade set on just under one acre, Dobler didn't expect some of the strangers who've appeared at his door.
Recently, a TV producer who was working on a home show knocked on his door.
"They asked, 'Is this a museum?' I said, 'No, I live here,' " recalled Dobler, 68, a retired library maintenance manager.
Another time, a different producer considered using it for a movie, but Dobler didn't hear from him again.
"People stop at my house," he said, adding that he's noticed people also checking out the historic house across the street. "People stop by and they look and they say 'Wow, It's pretty cool.' "
A couple of years ago, twin girls stopped for a photo op on Halloween.
"They just wanted to get their picture taken at the house," Dobler said. "They think it's haunted."
Lucky for them, the house wasn't haunted. Along with one other pair of Halloween revelers, they got all of Dobler's candy supply, because very few kids dare to trick or treat on his busy road.
Not a public bench in Huntington Station
One young schoolgirl resident loved the spring born goslings so much, she put up 'Drive Slowly' signs.
— Eddie Rivera
Eddie Rivera has had a lot unexpected visitors in the 24 years he has lived on his 0.81-acre property in Huntington Station.
When he first moved to the four-bedroom house in 1999, there was a group retirement home across the street.
"Oftentimes, those individuals would just come right across the street to sit on the park benches that we have. I was totally OK with it, but it freaked my wife out from time to time because she wasn't quite sure who was in the backyard," said Rivera, 53, who owns New York Fitness and Boxing in East Northport.
Despite the visitations, which have tapered off somewhat since the retirement home is no longer there, Rivera never put up signs indicating the pond is private property.
These days, he occasionally spots kids hopping the fence to hang out and smooch on one of his two benches or on one of the others that dot the landscape along the properties surrounding the pond. More often, he sees families peeking over the walls to glimpse turtles and waterfowl.
"So I can totally understand if somebody looks on the other side and they see all these park benches; it looks like it's a public park," said Rivera, adding, "One young schoolgirl resident loved the spring born goslings so much, she put up 'Drive Slowly' signs."
No longer a B&B on Northport Harbor
We are always talking to people as they go by ... People are genuinely lovely.
— Catherine Herkovic
Set along the harbor in Northport village, Bayview Avenue attracts plenty of visitors who stroll along its scenic expanse.
And Catherine and Paul Herkovic, who have lived in the 1895 Stanley H. Lowndes Queen Anne Victorian home along the avenue for just over 10 years, have seen their share of errant visitors.
One time when they were entertaining, they'd left the front double doors open to let in light.
"My whole family was out on the back porch of our house. All of a sudden, this person comes walking out onto the porch. He was a complete stranger. He's like, 'Is this a B&B?' " recalled Catherine, 60, who works for Nielsen, the ratings company. Her husband, 68, is a retired garden designer.
The home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and named for the oyster baron who built it, has had various incarnations, including serving as a refuge for Russian émigrés immigrants and an actual B&B.
When they're not actually entering the house, people walking by will frequently stop to inquire about their historic home.
"We are always talking to people as they go by," Catherine said. "We love talking about the house. We just say, 'No, it's our house. It's not a B&B.' People are genuinely lovely. I think they want to know because they might want to stay here if it was a B&B."