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Museum sought at Big Duck's Flanders site

Fans of Long Island's famous Big Duck pose

Fans of Long Island's famous Big Duck pose for pictures after the historic landmark's holiday lights were turned on during a ceremony in Flanders. (Nov. 28, 2012) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

You can't buy a fresh duck at the iconic Big Duck roadside store in Flanders, although tens of thousands were sold out of the concrete-framed building since Riverhead duck farmer Martin Maurer built it in 1931 as a place to sell his ducks and eggs.

Since then, the building has been moved several times, and has been declared a national historic landmark. But most of Long Island's duck farms have closed, and the closest thing to a real duck at the little store on Route 24 is a decal on a cup, a Big Duck T-shirt and a duck caller that quacks when you blow it. They stopped selling ducks there decades ago.

"The irony is that people stop at the Big Duck and see this big sculptured duck. But there are no ducks there," Southampton Town historian Zachary Studenroth said.

The town and Friends of the Big Duck -- the group that runs the store for the Suffolk County parks department -- are jointly seeking a $9,500 grant from the county Office of Film and Cultural Affairs to help cover the cost of turning a small run-down barn at the Big Duck site into a museum and display center.

There won't be any live ducks but "we found some wonderful photographs and some . . . films taken in the 1930s," Studenroth said.

Town Clerk Sundy A. Schermeyer said Southampton would use community development funds, not local tax revenue, to cover the rest of the $17,000 reconstruction project.

Eventually, the Friends of the Big Duck hope to create a full-fledged duck museum on the site.

There were thousands of duck farms along the creeks and bays of Southampton from the late 1800s to the 1960s, but most of them closed due to environmental problems caused by duck waste and increasing pressure to develop the land.

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