Members of a Miller Place historical group are trying to fix up the ancestral home of the family that gave the hamlet its name, in time for the dwelling’s 300th birthday in 2020.
But they say they are struggling to raise the funds needed to fix the roof and make other desperately needed repairs to the William Miller House, the two-story wood structure where members of the Miller family lived from Colonial times until the 1970s. It is believed to be the oldest house in Miller Place.
Estimates from contractors for repairing the roof alone are between $18,000 and $28,000, Gerard Mannarino, treasurer of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society, said during a recent tour. The society, which owns the house, also wants to replace rotting wood window frames, upgrade electrical wiring, fix deteriorating plaster ceilings, and rid the exterior of peeling paint.
“Our goal was to get this house in shape to have a nice big celebration,” Mannarino said. “But we were never able to raise the money.”
The house, at 75 North Country Rd., is composed of three houses that were merged over a 96-year period, said Edna Davis Giffen, the historical society’s recording secretary.
The oldest section was built in 1720. Two other sections had been houses located in other parts of Miller Place. They were moved and added to the original house in 1750 and 1816, Giffen said.
The house, which is filled with period objects such as jars, sleds, furniture and medical instruments — it housed a doctor’s office in the 1800s — provides a window into life on Long Island before the Revolutionary War. It is open for weekly tours during the summer.
Money raised so far has gone to pay for other expenses, Mannarino said. About half of the society’s $25,000 annual budget goes to pay insurance on the house, he said.
The historical society has held fundraisers such as rummage sales and painting events. Members also sold bricks to raise money, but only about 100 were sold.
“We did pretty good at first, but then that died off,” he said.
Local officials said they are trying to help raise money through foundation grants or solicit free services from unions.
“The problem is a lot of these grants have to be matching grants,” Suffolk Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said, adding that the society has had trouble raising enough money to meet foundation requirements.
“Miller Place is one of Suffolk County’s most historical towns,” she said. “Legacy and open space and historical dwellings are important to remain in that area.”
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner said repairing the Miller house is a unique — and expensive — challenge.
“It’s a living piece of history. It’s still alive,” she said. “I don’t think the general public has a concept of the cost of maintaining structures that are 300 years old. Think of fixing up your own home. Multiple that by 300 years old.”
Society members said the house, despite its problems, is worth preserving as a vestige of local history.
“You don’t have many of these old houses left,” Giffen said.
HISTORY OF THE WILLIAM MILLER HOUSE
About 1659: Andrew Miller settles area, then known as Old Mans and later renamed Miller’s Place.
1720: Original section of house is built by William Miller, grandson of Andrew Miller.
1750: Second section is added by Timothy Miller.
1816: Third section is added by Joseph Miller.
1979: Harry Millard, last lineal descendent of William Miller, sells house to Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.
To contact the historical society, call 631-476-5742 or visit its website, mpmshistoricalsociety.org.