The Peconic Land Trust is in the midst of moving another historic home, just eight years after relocating a 1930 Prairie style farmhouse in Sagaponack. This time, the home is on the North Fork, in Southold. The 1737 Lieutenant Moses Case House has been moved several times in the past 282 years, and was slated for demolition — to be replaced with a gas station and convenience store — until the PLT stepped in to save the structure late last year.
“They were just going to bulldoze it, so we said we’d take it,” said PLT’s Dan Heston. The PLT will preserve the house and use it for its Farms for the Future program, he added. The five-year initiative will allow resident farmers to use the historic cape as living quarters while they farm increasing-sized plots of PLT’s nearly 100 acres of preserved land north and south of Route 48.
It took Yaphank-based Dawn House & Building Movers five hours to wheel the historic Case House across Youngs Avenue through farmland at one-tenth miles per hour to its current location: Just across Horton’s Lane from Cleo’s Corner, the former home site of Garland “Cleo” Sellars, who died in 2016. The PLT paid to have Sellars’s former house, which had become unlivable, demolished last year. Heston, the senior manager of PLT’s agricultural programs, said the trust had been halfway through the permit process for building a modular home of an identical size in its stead to avoid losing the right to build on the preserved land, when the Case House became available.
“Southold Town said, ‘Well, it’s a slightly different shape than the old one and about 300 square feet bigger,’ but they looked at that and said, ‘We’ll allow you to do that under that easement if you preserve that house,’” said Heston. “They’ve been very cooperative with what we’re trying to do here.”
The Peconic Land Trust has already put more than $100,000 into the project, between the new foundation currently being back-filled on Cleo’s Corner and a move amounting to $70,000. “That’s just putting the thing on wheels and driving it across the farm fields,” Heston said. “We’re also paying for all the leg work of having all the electric taken down, getting the traffic stopped, and pulling all the deer fences down. And now we’re putting a $30,000 foundation on the other end.”
The organization is now watching the weather to identify the perfect day to move the historic home across the road and place it on the new foundation, which will hopefully be later this month. “Taking down the power lines takes three to four days, and then the weather has got to be perfect. It can’t be too cold and it can’t be too muddy, so it’s hard this time of year, and we’ve got to get a permit to close the road all day” he said.
The Case House will not be ready for any prospective farmers to move in once it reaches its final resting place, however, and Heston said the restoration project’s timeline will depend on further fundraising. “We were hoping to get one particular grant and we didn’t get it, which is a bummer because we’re already $130,000 into this, when it’s not even on the foundation yet and we’ve got no money. We’ve got to talk internally about what we’re going to do here,” Heston added.