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Brookhaven, county developing plan to buy 1700s property

From left, Steve Lucas, treasurer of the Greater

From left, Steve Lucas, treasurer of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society, with Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley and Suffolk County Legis. Rob Calarco at the Avery property in East Patchogue on Friday. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County officials are developing a plan to buy an East Patchogue farm that traces its history to Colonial times.

The 11-acre Avery farm on South Country Road would be preserved from residential or commercial development if the town and county succeed in jointly purchasing the parcel from members of the Avery family.

The last family member to live there, Barbara Avery, who raised miniature horses at the site and called it Peppermint Stik Farm, died in 2017. No other family members live on Long Island, officials said.

"It’s something that would be a very significant acquisition if we’re able to figure it out," said Suffolk Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), adding officials must craft a "viable business plan" to ensure the land generates some income. "It’s really a beautiful property."

The county and town are working with nonprofit groups such as Preservation Long Island and the Peconic Land Trust on plans to develop uses at the site such as catering and special events, and possibly a bed-and-breakfast in the 19th-century, Queen Anne-style farmhouse.

The farm last year was listed as "threatened" by Cold Spring Harbor-based Preservation Long Island because its prime location could prove tempting to developers.

County officials have not appraised the property to determine its market value, Calarco said, adding the Avery family is "absolutely interested" in selling the property to Suffolk and Brookhaven.

Efforts to reach the family were unsuccessful.

The farm's story goes back to 1752, when Humphrey Avery purchased hundreds of acres stretching from present-day Bellport to Blue Point from a patent held by the family of former Connecticut Gov. John Winthrop Jr.

A descendant of Humphrey Avery, Charles W. Avery, later opened a 200-acre farm, Swan River Nursery. Among the nursery's customers was master builder Robert Moses, who bought plants and trees as he developed the Long Island state parks system, Calarco said.

"This was a special project that is very important to the East Patchogue community," Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley said. "It’s got a long history there with the Avery family. It’s one of those projects that you knew you had to preserve."

The farmhouse, built in the 1880s, and a 1930s barn both are in good shape thanks to recent repairs, said Steve Lucas, treasurer of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society. Another house built in the 1820s, however, is in poor shape and "has been home to squirrels and raccoons for many years," he said.

Lucas said he supports purchasing the farm, "as long as the property maintains its historical appearance, especially the old barn." He suggested the county and town hire a community group to operate the property and supervise renovations.

Lucas said the barn could be an ideal place for events and parties, or for agricultural purposes, once it's been cleaned up.

"Structurally, it’s very good. A considerable amount of work has been put into it in the last five years or so," he said. "With some elbow grease and a couple of hundred people with brooms, it would really be usable as a barn."

Avery farm history

1664: Connecticut Gov. John Winthrop Jr. purchases land from American Indians and establishes Winthrop Patent, a large tract including property on Long Island's South Shore.

1752: Humphrey Avery purchases hundreds of acres from the Winthrop Patent stretching from present-day Bellport to Blue Point.

1820s: Avery family constructs farmhouse, later used as a nursery office.

1898: Charles W. Avery establishes Swan River Nursery, a 200-acre farm.

1901: House built in 1880s is moved to Swan River Nursery.

1982: Swan River Nursery closes. Site is later a horse farm operated by Barbara Avery.

2017: Barbara Avery, last family member to live on the farm, dies.

SOURCE: Preservation Long Island

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