Old Riverhead is up for sale with this amazing time capsule

Walking into the old building off Roanoke Avenue, once home to an early 20th-century machine shop, feels like walking back in time. 

The first room is filled with century-old equipment operated by giant belts and pulleys that used to bend and shape pipes and do repairs on equipment such as tractors. Adjacent rooms, and a second-floor loft, are overflowing with even more equipment, along with boxes of tools, screws, bolts, washers and hundreds of other items.

Its contents give the building the look of a museum dedicated to old metal-working equipment. It also gives the impression that, at the end of a workday long ago, the employees simply left everything in place, slid the big barn doors closed and walked away.

“Well, this is it,” said Riverhead attorney Peter Danowski Jr., who owns the building and whose law office is in an adjacent old house. Mr. Danowski is something of a collector of the old and the rare. He cares about the past. He saw this building and the extraordinary collection of antique equipment inside and, in 1987, bought it from the estate of the Young family, which had owned it for generations.

And now it’s for sale. 

“I was really taken by it when I first saw it,” he said. 

He’s not sure who the building and its array of equipment would appeal to, but he’s hoping someone out there will see its potential and, possibly, preserve it as it is.

“There is nothing like it that I know of,” Mr. Danowski said earlier this week, as he gave a visitor a tour of the building. He turned on some of the heavy equipment, which triggered large belts to begin turning.

Dozens of different kinds of hammers and all manner of other tools sit on workbenches and hang from hooks. Shelves with little compartments contain boxes of screws and bolts — thousands of them.

Collectors of antique equipment might want to buy the building and its contents, but Mr. Danowski said it won’t be an easy sale. He’s hoping a collector or someone who wants to tinker with old equipment might hear about the building and buy it. Mostly, he’d loved to see it saved.

What he has surmised over the years he has owned it is that the oldest part of the building was constructed around the turn of the 20th century, when Riverhead was a very different kind of place. A tall, brick chimney on its west side suggests a forge must have been part of the operation back then, or maybe a blacksmith worked in the space.

One of the many pieces of equipment that comes with the building. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

The other parts of the building were once part of a lumberyard, he’s sure of that. And he knows that the Young family owned the buildings for many generations before work there ended sometime in the 1950s. Ever since, it’s been a time capsule of old Riverhead.

Mr. Danowski happily shows the rooms and equipment, walking with a visitor up into the loft where lumber was once stored. He points out the tools left on benches and on hooks, as if waiting for someone who will appreciate them to return and put them to good use once again.

Meanwhile, he waits to see who might come along and see something extraordinary in the property and its contents and want to buy it.

“My goal is to find someone who will see how extraordinary this is and want to keep it going,” he said.