Volunteers restore windows at historic Orient house, former post office

When Orient resident Priscilla Bull sits at her kitchen table, she is able to admire her ancestors’ engravings etched into her windows dating back to 1850 — the year the home was built.

One reads “M. W. Terry.” The home’s original owner, Marcus Terry, was Orient Point’s postmaster until 1913 and his Main Road home once served as a post office.

Ms. Bull has owned the house since 2001 when it was passed down from her parents.

The history behind Ms. Bull’s family home and her desire to have all of the original windows restored made her a candidate for the latest volunteer project by Rebuilding Together Long Island, the local chapter of a national organization devoted to repairing homes for free for people who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

As part of National Rebuilding Day, about a dozen volunteers worked on her windows Saturday by scraping off old putty and adding a fresh layer to hold the original panes in place.

“It’s a wonderful organization that does so much for so many people and I’m just feeling really blessed that I’m one of them,” Ms. Bull said. “I certainly couldn’t have afforded to have this job done.” 

While the Long Island chapter has been around for 25 years, member and Mattituck resident Robert Harper and his wife, Catherine, created a team last year to serve the North Fork.

“It’s really just a heartwarming thing to see,” Mr. Harper said about the amount of support his group has received from the community.

“It’s an extra bonus when we get to work on a house like this to bring history back to the town,” Ms. Harper added.

Volunteers who worked on the historic Orient home Saturday. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

While Mr. Harper described restoration work as a long and tedious process, he said the Orient project has gotten off to a great start since many people have agreed to roll up their sleeves and lend a helping hand.

Some of the people he recently taught in his carpentry and home repair workshop also decided to volunteer.

Jamie Garretson, chairperson of the Southold Town Historic Preservation Commission, said he decided to volunteer because he believes it’s important to preserve the engraved windows.

“It’s part of the old house and once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.

An engraving etched into Ms. Bull’s window. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Southold Town Councilman Jim Dinizio also volunteered Saturday and described the home as a “piece of heaven.”

“I’ve driven past this house a thousand times going to Orient Point,” he said. “If I can help, then I’ll come down and help.”

Since 1992, Rebuilding Together Long Island has repaired over 2,500 homes and averages about 130 projects annually.

Steven Walker, veteran outreach coordinator at Rebuilding Together Long Island, said his group’s mission is to “preserve and revitalize houses and communities,” as well as making sure low-income homeowners live in “comfort and safety while maintaining their independence.”

The organization also recently began the “Hero Home Improvement” program that specifically focuses on home repairs for veterans or families of veterans in need.

Barbara Nilsen, president and CEO of Rebuilding Together Long Island, said she’s excited to see the North Fork team in action. The group has done work on 10 homes, completing four of those projects.

“I know that there are a number of elderly people who really need help out here,” she said. “We’re helping to repair [Ms. Bull’s] home to keep her safe, warm and accessible, as well as helping the historical value of the house.”

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