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Historic Mattituck property hits the market, a ‘bittersweet’ decision, family says

Since 1913, members of the Ruland family have lived in a historic house on the corner of Mill Lane and Main Road in Mattituck, farming the land north of the house on both sides of the lane. 

Before that — going all the way back to 1736 — the land had been farmed by members of the Wines family, which later married into the Ruland family. So for 285 years, ancestors of the Rulands and the Rulands themselves have lived on this farm. 

This long history of living and working this handsome stretch of rich North Fork farmland allowed William Ruland to proudly post a sign in front of the house that proclaimed it a “bicentennial farm” when America celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976.

“The sign was for those farms in the same family since the forming of the country,” said his wife, Linda Ruland.

Mr. Ruland, hailed as an exemplary public servant for his work on the Mattituck-Cutchogue school board and the Southold Town Board, died in November. He was 72. His death set in motion what Ms. Ruland and the couple’s son, Peter, recently described as the “bittersweet” decision to sell the house and farm.

“Basically, it’s about economics,” said Ms. Ruland. “Bill and I always talked about it, that if he ever went first he knew I could not keep the farm up. We couldn’t keep farming. That’s not something I can do. I could rely on Peter, but he has a full-time job.

“What we are hoping with the farm now for sale is that the right buyer will come along and love it the way we do,” she added.

Peter Ruland lives in Aquebogue with his family. Growing up on a farm that goes deep into Mattituck history has given him a huge appreciation for his family’s history. 

A 1976 article in The Suffolk Times states that the land was first bought in 1736 by Barnabas Wines. In 1913, Elmer Ruland — Bill’s father and Peter’s grandfather — bought the house and farm from his uncle, James Wines.

The property is being sold in three parcels totaling 66 acres for $3.2 million. That includes the house and barns. The development rights to the farm were sold years ago, meaning houses can’t go up on that prime farmland. The only part exempt from that requirement is a two-acre parcel that includes the house on Main Road.

The Main Road property pictured Wednesday morning. (Credit: Steve Wick)

Peter pointed out that in recent years one of the parcels, on the east side of Mill Lane, was leased to a sod company. The tract of farmland on the west side of Mill Lane is where his father raised rye to be sold to horse stables. At the north end of that west-side parcel is the top of a small pond that Peter believes was first dug out by an ancestor for use as a source of irrigation water.

“I believe my grandfather and father worked on that pond, too,” Peter said. An irrigation pump still stands on the site as a reminder of what once was.

Peter’s knowledge of family history tells him his Ruland ancestors arrived in the Huntington area in the mid-1600s. Sometime later a Ruland son came to Mattituck and bought land north of the current Ruland farm, at the top of Mill Lane near Oregon Road. In 1913, Elmer Ruland bought the farm that now is up for sale.

Southold real estate broker Thomas McCarthy, who is marketing the property, said he is awed by the family’s history. “Oh my gosh, I want to respect that history,” he said. “The Rulands are lovely people. If you look up integrity in the dictionary you will find a picture of Bill Ruland.

“This isn’t just real estate,” Mr. McCarthy said. “It’s iconic. It’s special. It’s an honor for me to help the family. This is about caring about the people and caring about the place where they live … The best part for Linda and Pete would be to get a buyer who will appreciate the history and not make huge changes. I want to make a good marriage between Linda’s needs and the buyer’s needs. I want to respect Bill’s memory as well as help Linda in the next stage of her life. This is about respect.

“I don’t know of any farm like this one,” he added.

For Peter, moving on is both helping his mother and respecting his parents’ wishes.

“This was always the plan Mom and Dad had when Dad couldn’t farm anymore,” he said as he sat with his mother in the farmhouse. “With Dad’s death, the timeline got accelerated. Farming is not a hobby. Or you need a lot of money. It’s very hard to continue.”

Linda Ruland’s own history is but a stone’s throw away. She spent the first seven years of her life in a very old house on the southeast corner of Elijah’s Lane and Main Road in Mattituck. 

She said leaving Mattituck, where her roots and the Ruland family’s are both so deep, is profoundly bittersweet. Her voice gets emotional as she speaks about it. But the next chapter of her life beckons. She said she will move to Riverhead to be closer to her son.

“We are looking at condos,” she said. “This will help me feel secure going forward.”