The setting sun sent an orange glow through the old home’s white-trimmed windows as siblings Jamie and Melissa Davis cleaned and sorted through family heirlooms last week at their mother’s Southold home, which was built in 1674.
“It’s been in the family a long time and mom’s getting older so we’ve decided it’s time to start going through our inheritance and our heirlooms and things,” said Mr. Davis. Then he pointed to the ceiling, adding, “These beams here, these are 350-year-old beams. Parts of the house are probably actually older.”
The two-story cedar-shingled house on Hobart Road, known as the Second Parsonage House, has been in the Davis family since about 1940, according to Mr. Davis, who is primary caretaker for his mother, Julia.
“Her goal was to make sure this place was always going to be here,” he said.
“She works on this house every single day to maintain it,” Ms. Davis added. “And she does the yard work. She just loves this place. She loves it.”
On Nov. 22, Julia Davis’ wish was granted. The Southold Town Board voted to add her house, along with two other properties, to the town’s register of historic landmarks, the first additions to that list since 2004.
The house had already been on the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities’ roster of 1,100 historic properties in Southold, but 825 of those are not landmark-protected as the Second Parsonage House is now, according to James Garretson, chairman of the town Historic Preservation Commission.
Once a property is landmarked, it is protected from changes that might take away from its authentic historic character. It can’t be demolished, added to or altered without a certificate of appropriateness from the town, according to the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission handbook. This designation is separate from the state and national registers of historic places.
The Terry House on Main Road, built in 1783, was also added to Southold’s register. It is currently owned by Southold Historical Society director Karen Lund-Rooney and her husband.
“We just thoroughly enjoy it and my husband and I feel that we’re the caretakers of a lovely home here in Southold,” Ms. Lund-Rooney said at the Town Board’s Nov. 22 meeting.
The town also approved the designation for the Race Rock Light Station southwest of Fishers Island, which is owned by the New London Maritime Society. Built in 1878 on Race Rock Reef, the lighthouse flashes a red light and blasts a fog horn when visibility is low.
“I can’t think of anything we could do that would be more significant,” said maritime society director Susan Tamulevich. “It’s a lighthouse with an important function and history. It’s one really worthy of recognition because of the dedication of numerous keepers.”
Its first keeper, Thomas Carroll, would row across Fishers Island Sound to Noank, Conn., for supplies and to visit his family. He died in January 1885 while making his way to the light station during a severe storm, having decided he could not stay away from his duties, Ms. Tamulevich said.
“On Fishers Island they love this lighthouse and it’s kind of their mascot,” she said. “Anything we can do to help to preserve it, to teach about it, to say why it’s important and significant, we’re happy for.”
Mr. Garretson said that preserving the historic qualities of these places “contributes to the feeling of Southold as a town and is a reason why people like to visit.”
“Historic buildings are an endangered species,” he said.
Melissa and Jamie Davis said they’ve noticed changes in their mother’s neighborhood that detract from its historical feeling, including a large house being built just up the road.
The siblings want to make sure the interior of their mother’s home does not change, either. It has its original pumpkin pine floors, fireplaces and wooden doors that latch with a hook.
“We understand that the interior can be changed to a certain extent, but we didn’t want any alterations to be made, especially for the sake of our neighbors,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The Second Parsonage House has seen all sorts of change since it was built in 1674. Initially home to the Rev. Joshua Hobart, second pastor of Southold’s Puritan church, it later became the town trading post, as well a poorhouse.
The Davis family has been told the second floor once had a cannon room, with the artillery resting on a window facing the water.
“How many homes do you actually keep the original hook that might have been there from 300 years ago,” Mr. Davis asked as he latched the door to the light-filled dining room.
“We wouldn’t want to take anything away from the inside,” Ms. Davis added. “It’s special. There are these little touches. It’s charming.”
Top photo caption: The Race Rock Light Station, built in 1878, is located directly southwest of Fishers Island. (Courtesy photo)