A historic East Patchogue homestead will be preserved after a joint purchase by Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town, officials for the municipalities said.
The 11½-acre Avery Homestead, a vestige of vast holdings that once included most of what is now Patchogue and Blue Point, had belonged to the Avery family for roughly 270 years, according to a monograph on the site by cultural heritage group Preservation Long Island, which put the property on its list of endangered historic places in 2019. The Averys ran a plant nursery there for most of the 20th century; Barbara Avery, the last lifelong resident, raised miniature horses at the site before her 2017 death.
“It has beautiful plants, trees, the old well, the fountain, the old barn — there are so many beautiful aspects to it, so much character,” said Suffolk Legis. Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue), who worked with County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine to close the sale.
According to a county release, the county and town partnered 70-30 on the $1.9 million purchase. The land and four historic structures — including the 1880s home where Avery and her ancestors lived and a large barn that was used for the nursery — will be dedicated to the Suffolk County Historic Trust.
Future uses of the site could include a museum, gift shop, or event space, uses that could generate money for upkeep, according to the release.
State and town records identify the seller as a Leesburg, Virginia, limited liability company administered by Charles S. Wakefield Jr.
Greater Patchogue Historical Society board member Steve Lucas said Wakefield was a distant relative of Barbara Avery. Wakefield did not respond to an interview request.
The diamond-shaped property is bordered by South Country Road and Robinson Boulevard on the south; busy Montauk Highway and a shopping center are to the north.
Despite the surrounding area’s growth, Romaine said he and his colleagues had seen historic value in the parcel and hoped for years to preserve it.
“We had people come in here with all types of proposals to develop multifamily, to do a subdivision,” he said. “It was important to us to save this parcel.” Romaine said he hopes the site will become a field trip destination for schoolchildren to learn about the lives of earlier Long Islanders. He said he would push for creation of a friends group, a nonprofit to fundraise for upkeep.
Tara Cubie, Preservation Long Island’s preservation director, said it was “rare to see an 11-acre piece of land stay intact” as long as this one had, and noted its intriguing ties to the family nursery that once sold flowers, fruit and vegetables. Her organization will advocate for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, a move that could open tax credits and funding opportunities.
Lucas, the historical society board member, said the Avery property probably represented one of the longest continuously owned family holdings on Long Island, along with Gardiner's Island in East Hampton. The condition of the buildings was mixed — the barn in excellent shape, a roof on a nursery office collapsed — but the old-growth maple and oak lining the site provided a rare insulation from the modern world, he said.
“Once you’re in the middle, even though you hear the cars on Montauk Highway or South Country Road, you still get the feeling of 18th- and 19th-century life,” he said. “It’s somewhat secluded.”