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New setting sought for storied Murray house

The Petty House in Shirley, which dates back

The Petty House in Shirley, which dates back to the 1830s, was owned by family members of William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who lived in Mastic Beach. (June 6, 2012) Credit: Carl Corry

With its weathered exterior, the modest woodframe house on the north side of Montauk Highway in Shirley has an aura of historical significance.

But a visitor trying to soak up the centuries of the history of what's now known as the Murray house might be rattled by the cacophony of constant traffic on Montauk Highway -- and the glaringly commercial surroundings.

"This place needs to be put in a setting that benefits it," said Jamie Reason, a former Mastic Beach village historian, of the home believed to have been built about two centuries ago.

But there's no telling when -- or whether -- it might be moved to a more fitting setting.

In July, the Brookhaven town board designated the house a historical landmark -- a move that will protect the house "unless it falls down," Reason said.

Known officially as the William Floyd Estates Floyd-Murray Home, the original house at the site was home to Charles and Charity Petty Havens Murray in the 1830s.

The house was known locally as the Petty House, though Reason does not know the full story.

Charles Murray worked for the William Floyd estate, and the house stayed in the Murray family until Ann Murray, the daughter of Charles and Charity, bought it. After Ann died in 1923, Suffolk County sold the home at auction, and it went to different owners until the Lerner-Heidenberg Associates development company bought the surrounding property in 1985.

Michael and Terry Gross of East Patchogue are the listed owners, and Lerner-Heidenberg are the contracted administrators of the home, according to Lerner-Heidenberg's lawyer Linda Margolin. Calls to the Grosses were not returned.

Lerner-Heidenberg restored the house in 2006 as a condition of developing the surrounding land to expand the Southport Shopping Center.

The house was returned to its original design, and rotting wood replaced -- according to Edward De Gennaro, president of the Mastic Peninsula Historical Society, who said about 60 percent of the original wood remains. "They tried to keep it to the way it was built in the old days," he said.

Now, the house sits on a small patch of grass just outside the shopping center, next to a Bank of America. Landscaped bushes flank the home's two doors, and red brick walkways wind around the property.

The significance of the house lies in both its rarity and its role in the history of Long Island. "It's an example of the common man's house," De Gennaro said. "It's one of the only ones left on Long Island."

Margolin said the company was happy to restore the house and hopes to someday relocate it to a more appropriate setting. "Its current location means it's not been capable of being used in any way. It's on a small piece of property and on a busy street," Margolin said. "Sometimes relocation is the best option."

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