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Ty Llwyd, Riverhead farm, named New York historic site

The Harrison Downs House and Farm in Riverhead

The Harrison Downs House and Farm in Riverhead has been named an historic site by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Credit: Richard Wines

A working Riverhead farm, known for its uncommon 1873

Italianate-style home and owned by the same family for six generations, has been named a historic site by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The Harrison Downs House and Farm was one of 19 landmarks that Cuomo this week said have “helped define what it means to be a New Yorker.”

Now called Ty Llwyd, which means Brown House in Welsh, the 37-acre farm’s history exemplifies the arduous nature of farming and the area’s transition from raising potatoes.

Ty Llwyd now is certified to sell raw milk produced by a herd of Jersey cows, as well as free-range eggs and organic vegetables, said Richard Wines, whose brother, David Wines, runs the farm with his Welsh wife, Elizabeth, and son, Christopher.

Richard Wines, who grew up nearby and worked on the farm as a youth, chairs the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Committee and last year wrote the application for the state designation.

His great-great-great-uncle, Joshua Harrison Downs, a New York City patent lawyer, bought the land off Sound Avenue in 1871 for a gentleman’s farm.

A Riverhead native, Downs graduated from Yale and earned a law degree from Columbia University.

His choice of the Italianate style, derived from that nation’s square, flat-roofed country villas, might have been influenced by his travels abroad, Wines said.

The two-story, shingle-clad home features rooms with 10-foot ceilings on both floors. Much of the second story originally was a ballroom, Wines said.

After Downs, who was born in 1843 and died in 1912, his heirs converted it to a working farm, relying on potatoes, an often volatile crop, Wines said.

Thanks to a journal written by his grandmother, Mary Downs, “We can document their tribulations,” including the “terrible years of the Great Depression.”

The family bought cars and tractors when potato prices were high but needed a mortgage when they fell. In lean times, “My grandmother had to raise money by selling baked goods at Iron Pier Beach,” Wines said.

The application details the many historic buildings that still stand on the property, from the main English-style barn to the potato barn.

The national designation is expected to soon follow New York’s, Wines said. Historic sites can qualify for matching grants and state and federal rehabilitation tax credits, Cuomo said.

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