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History right in their Jamesport backyard

Many North Fork residents have an appreciation of history.

Few have worked as hard to preserve it as Richard Wines. 

Not only is his Jamesport home a Riverhead town landmark — part of it dates back to 1790 — but he has moved several other historic buildings onto his property over the years.

“Everybody has a collection,” he said while walking through his colorful gardens last week. “We’ve collected historic buildings.”

By the late 1990s, Mr. Wines and his wife, Nancy Gilbert, had purchased 15 acres of land on Winds Way in Jamesport from Mr. Wines’ uncles Warren and George Wines. The land had been in the family since the 1600s and his uncles, who owned most of the shares for the land, had plans to build houses there.

Mr. Wines and Ms. Gilbert did not want to see that happen and worked to buy out all of the shares and preserve the property, which both his maternal and paternal grandparents called home.

Richard Wines outside his home on Winds Way in Jamesport. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

The couple shares a passion for land and historic preservation, as well as gardening. Mr. Wines, who chairs Riverhead Town’s Landmark Preservation Commission and is a member of its farmland preservation committee, said moving multiple historic buildings onto the property gave him and Ms. Gilbert an excuse to create several extravagant gardens, one to surrounding each structure.

Exploring their property is like walking through a forest, taking in the different colors and pleasant smells. Through the various patches of flowers and vegetables are pathways that lead to the four historic buildings the couple has collected.

They brought in the first one in 1992, an old District 10 schoolhouse in Northville. Built in 1872, it was used as a school until 1911 and, after that, was used on a farm to store hay.

The house was in terrible shape when he first visited, Mr. Wines said.

After moving the old schoolhouse to their property, they renovated it and restored the inside, adding historic artifacts. Mr. Wines refers to the building as their “garden ornament” and said they sometimes host community events there.

The second historic building the couple moved onto the property is their 19th-century residence, which has parts dating back to the late 1700s and once belonged to a whaling captain who sailed out of Jamesport.

The historic barn on the property. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

The house was originally located in Laurel, right next to the post office. In 1995, the couple discovered that the structure was at risk of being torn down because the owner, who wanted to save it, did not have the resources to do so. Mr. Wines reached out to the owner and was able to acquire the house for free because of his intention to preserve it.

After that, Mr. Wines said, he looked for a barn he could move onto the property. In 1996, the couple found an old red barn that once sat on Sound Avenue. They believe it was built in the early 19th century by Zachariah Hallock, who Mr. Wines said is an ancestor. Inside the barn, the initials Z.H. are carved into the ceiling.

At that point, the couple still wanted one more building to adorn their property. In 2002, they were finally able to track down an old outhouse that had once been part of the schoolhouse they’d already acquired. The small red structure has two doors, each leading to three stalls; one side was for the girls and the other for the boys. The schoolhouse was built in the late 1800s, but Mr. Wines suspects the outhouse was built later.

In addition to preserving the buildings and creating gardens, Mr. Wines and Ms. Gilbert have donated the development rights to the remaining acreage of their property to the Peconic Land Trust. They also put a façade easement on all of the structures, preventing any future owners from making exterior changes.

“What we’ve tried to do here on our property with these buildings we’ve collected and the way we’ve restored them and the way we’ve gardened, is we tried to echo what we think is the essence of the North Fork,” Mr. Wines said, adding that he thinks it is important for others to recognize their heritage and work to preserve it.

“We hope everyone will support our efforts and the efforts of a whole lot of others to make sure that most of what we have left gets preserved for the future because it’s what makes this area really special,” he said.

The old schoolhouse on the property. (Credit: Krysten Massa)