An 11-acre time-capsule reflecting the Avery family’s former 200-acre Swan River Nursery (1898–1982) just south of what is now Montauk Highway. Featuring four historic structures within an intact agrarian setting and strong ties to Patchogue’s history, this exceptional historic place is threatened by potential demolition or intensive redevelopment.

Thanks to Linda Leuzzi and the Long Island Advance for a wonderful piece on the energetic community-based efforts to preserve the Avery Homestead: https://www.longislandadvance.net/6503/Many-supporters;-an-ambivalent-owner

Avery Homestead’s Dutch Colonial Revival-style barn was built for the Swan River Nursery in 1930, in recent years it has served as a horse barn.

This site has been at risk since the death of Barbara Avery (1950–2017), the last lifelong Avery family resident of the homestead. Her grandfather, Charles W. Avery (1854–1915), opened the Swan River Nursery at the site in 1898 and the business enjoyed success as a well-known spot for horticultural plants and agrotourism off Montauk Highway during the early/mid-20th century. The surrounding landscape evolved into a dense suburban area by the late 20th century when the nursery became Peppermint Stik Farm, where Barbara raised miniature horses.

A picturesque historic view of the Old Swan River Nursery, ca. the early 20th century. The nursery’s evergreens and conifers were popular items.
A Swan River Nursery catalog from 1927 notes their “new” 105-year-old office, a repurposed ca. 1820 house with a gambrel frame roof. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Avery Homestead’s oldest structure is a ca. 1820 house with a gambrel frame roof built by a family ancestor, where generations of Averys were born and raised, including Barbara’s grandfather, Charles W. Avery, and her father, Humphrey R. Avery (1894–1983). The ca. 1820 building was later repurposed as the nursery office after Charles moved a nearby 1880s Queen Anne-style house to the property in 1901 for use as his family’s residence. Although the old house/office is currently in need of repair, the Queen Anne-style house remains in good condition. Additionally, the homestead features a 1921 hexagonal concrete fountain with a central spout and a large Dutch Colonial Revival-style barn built for the nursery in 1930.

The land itself has deep colonial roots via the Averys, who are patrilineal descendants of Humphrey Avery (1699–1788) of Connecticut. Humphrey Avery originally purchased the homestead land—along with most of what is now Patchogue and Blue Point—from a patent held by John Still Winthrop in 1752. Spanning from Bellport to Blue Point along the Great South Bay to the middle of the island, the Winthrop Patent comprised a large tract of land acquired by Connecticut Governor John Winthrop Jr. in 1664 from Tobacus, an Unkechaug sachem. Humphrey Avery Jr. (1725–1789) was among the first Averys to permanently settle in the Patchogue area.

A young Humphery R. Avery (1894–1983) poses with his bike at the homestead’s ca. 1880s Queen-Anne-style house in 1901.
Humphery R. Avery, pictured above in his 80s, poses with two plaques installed at the homestead in 1976 by Suffolk County to celebrate the US Bicentennial. The plaques recognize the colonial and early American history of the property and the Avery family.
The Avery Homestead’s Queen Anne-style dwelling, pictured above in 2018, remains in good condition.

Status: Threatened

None of the historic structures or landscapes at the Avery Homestead have been designated as Brookhaven Town landmarks, so they are all at risk of demolition or intensive redevelopment. The prevailing zoning in the area favors dense residential or commercial uses. Unfortunately, the current property owners are located out-of-state and attempts by Suffolk County officials and others to discuss potential preservation plans have been unproductive so far. As one of our 2019 Endangered Places, Preservation Long Island is working with a wide group of local supporters, including the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society and Peconic Land Trust, towards developing a viable preservation plan for this historically and environmentally sensitive site.

Preservation Recommendations:

  • Nominate and designate the Avery Homestead as a Brookhaven Town landmark to protect it from demolition and insensitive redevelopment.
  • Nominate the Avery Homestead for listing on the National Register of Historic Places to open doors for federal historic rehabilitation tax credits and other financial incentives.
  • Explore public-private partnerships to encourage the continued use of the property as a horse farm or its rehabilitation for some other self-sustaining, income-producing use that would be sensitive to the historical significance of the site.
Swan River Nursery advertisement published in the April 4, 1919, edition of The County Review. Courtesy of NYS Historic Newspapers.org.

Preservation Long Island’s 2019 Endangered Historic Places Program is made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.