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Historic Orient home receives landmark status

When Robert Hanlon and his wife, Jessica Frankel, bought the old Orient home on the Main Road that belonged to members of the Young family for generations, they knew it was very special. And they were determined to keep it that way.

The house, built in 1869, was a typical North Fork farmhouse. The land farmed by the Youngs extended to salt water north and south of the Main Road. Over the years, the farmland shrank as parcels were sold, but the house, other than a 1909 renovation, remained largely the same and stayed in Young hands until 1999.

“When we bought the house we wanted to keep it in the same condition,” Mr. Hanlon said. “The siding matches the original, as do the windows. We custom made moldings to match the original moldings. We wanted to keep it exactly the same.”

The couple’s dedication to the house’s historic past has now been rewarded with its inclusion as a town historic landmark, joining 300 other historic homes in the town that have that same designation.

Southold’s Historic Preservation Commission did the work to back up the landmark status, and last month Supervisor Scott Russell presented Mr. Hanlon and Ms. Frankel with a plaque they can put on the front of the house.

“This dedication means any new buyer down the road must protect the historic integrity of the house,” Mr. Russell said in an interview. “Our town has a great history. It is very important to remember our history, and we don’t want to see our past only in pictures, but in real structures.”

“Bob is a roll up your sleeves kind of guy,” Mr. Russell added. “He has been meticulous in maintaining the house’s historic qualities.”

A short history of the house written by Mr. Hanlon shows that the farmhouse originally had four rooms downstairs, front and back parlors, a dining room and a small kitchen. Wood burning stoves heated the house and were likely also used for cooking. 

The Young family farm ran to the Sound to the north and the bay to the south. Barns and other farm structures sat behind the house; they are no longer standing. 

“Sometime between 1905 and 1915, the house was ‘modernized,’ from farmhouse to a Greek Revival style,” Mr. Hanlon wrote. “The center hall was removed, and an elegant curved wall shaped the dining room. The front and back parlor were joined into one large living room.”

Other changes included new windows, central heating and electricity, and a new fireplace. The kitchen was expanded and porches were added in the rear of the house.

After 1999, a new owner replaced old wiring and plumbing, improved the insulation to ward off cold winters and tackled the landscaping.

“But throughout they preserved the old moldings, maintaining the style of the early 20th century,” Mr. Hanlon wrote.

“It’s a wonderful house, and we love old houses,” he said in the interview. “We wanted to take care of it for the community, so we asked the town for this designation and they sent out the commissioners to determine if it could have landmark status. And they were thrilled.”

“The designation allows us to do what we wish in terms of repairs and maintenance,” he said. “But if we wish to make any changes to the façade they must be reviewed by the commission.”

The incoming head of the commission, Mariella Ostroski, said the designation is wonderful for the couple and for those who care about history in Southold. 

“No matter what the history is, preserve it so we can learn from it,” she said.