Historic Yaphank home, mill to be restored

Newsday: July 17, 2012 By DEON J. HAMPTON  

 

   

Photo credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara | Restoration work is already under way at the Homan-Gerard house; the cost is being funded by Suffolk County. (July 17, 2012)

   
     

A bit of history is being preserved in Yaphank.

Suffolk County officials recently announced plans to restore the historic Homan-Gerard House and mill complex, which has been vacant for about 50 years.  Some feared the two-story Federal-style home, which was built in the late 18th century and sits in the Yaphank Historical District, would further deteriorate without revitalization.

Officials said the preservation is part of an effort to maintain the county's rich history, as the home is one of 45 historical properties in the hamlet.  "It gives us a sense of where we live, a place," Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert said.  The property is on Yaphank Avenue between Main Street and the Long Island Expressway. The 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home went through several owners until 1922, when the house and mill property were sold to Anson W. Hard at a public auction for $7,000, according to Karen Mouzakes, a hamlet historian.  It was then used as a games keeper's cottage, but eventually became vacant. Kenneth Hard later inherited the property, using it as a gun club, Mouzakes added.

In 1963, Hard sold the property to Suffolk County to become Southaven Park. The house has remained empty since, according to Mouzakes.

 

Money from county fund

The $335,000 cost of this phase of the renovation is being funded through a county capital improvement fund, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone.  Baird-Streeter said two more phases may be added, but financial estimates have not been determined.  Jane Trusnovec, 77, a lifelong hamlet resident whose ancestors lived in the home, said she is pleased a part of her family's history will be maintained.

"I didn't know the house was salvageable," she said.

County officials said workers are removing broken boards, fallen plaster and raccoon droppings from the house. They are also installing plywood covers on doors and windows to prevent vandalism and are preserving the stone foundation walls and masonry fireplace.

Preserving the past

Legis. Kate M. Browning (WF-Shirley) said local residents were worried the building would succumb to deterioration. Mouzakes noted the value of saving it from that fate.  "This wonderful, 18-century home has worn over time and waited its turn for restoration," she said. "It would be a crime to let this house fall apart. It's a part of history."  The first mention of the Homan-Gerard House in Brookhaven Town was in 1762, town records show.

"It's important to preserve history," Bellone said. "If we want a good sense of where we're going, we need to know our past."  But the updated home won't have certain modern conveniences.  Yaphank Historical Society president Robert Kessler said the home will be renovated to its original state, meaning there won't be a bathroom, sink or running water.

"They used outhouses back then," he said.