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Van Brunt Manor Road

The owners of a historic mansion in Poquott, above, are doing their best to prevent land developers from purchasing it. Photo from Chris Ryon

The owners of a historic mansion in Poquott are hoping history won’t be lost when they sell the home which their family has maintained for more than 70 years.

Located on Van Brunt Manor Road, the mansion, which was built in 1893 and is part of the Benner-Foos-Ceparano Estate, was added to both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places in August 2016 along with a neighboring farmhouse built in 1895 on Osprey Lane. The first homes in Poquott to be added to the registries, they are surrounded by houses constructed in the mid-to-late 20th century.

Rosemarie Sabatelli, who owns the mansion along with her sisters Felicia and Christina, said it has been difficult to find a buyer. In addition to interested parties offering less than the nearly $4 million asking price, Sabatelli said another factor is the family doesn’t want to sell the mansion to a land developer who may tear down the home, which is structurally sound. Most recently, she said she was wary of a potential buyer who wasn’t concerned with securing a house inspection, which led her to believe he was a developer who had no intent in keeping the home intact.

Chris Ryon, village historian for both Poquott and Port Jefferson, said while the mansion is on the registries for historic places, the recognition only protects it from various types of federal construction such as a new roadway, but not developers.

“It was my grandmother’s dream house so I feel like it’s ours,” Sabatelli said. “My mission is to make sure her legacy and the house go on.”

Ryon said local historians as well as representatives from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities have come to look at the mansion.

A photo from the early 1900s of the Poquott mansion when it was used as a summer home. Photo from Port Jefferson Village archive

“We want as many eyes on it as we can,” he said. “We want people to know that this house is here and it’s significant.”

When the mansion was built in 1893, Charles Benner, a New York City lawyer, was searching for a summer retreat where he could spend his days fishing and yachting, according to Ryon. It was a time when Long Island was less hectic than the bustling city. Two years later the farmhouse was constructed where the Benner family’s servants lived.

The historian said the house is architecturally significant as Charles Alonzo Rich and Hugh Lamb designed it. The duo were known for their work with President Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill in Cove Neck near Oyster Bay as well as many of the buildings at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

A shingle-style structure with asymmetrical elements such as end gables, the mansion features a bowed footprint that overlooks Port Jefferson Harbor.

“I haven’t found anything with that shape to it,” Ryon said. “So it’s unique.”

A banker by the name of Ferguson Foos bought the property in 1909 and maintained ownership until 1944 when Sabatelli’s grandparents, Joseph and Rose Ceparano, bought it. She said the life of her grandmother, who was a seamstress, was a rags-to-riches tale.

After hearing stories about America, Rose married so as to be able to emigrate from Italy to the United States in 1928, since she would not be able to come here as a single woman. When the marriage failed, she married her second husband, Joseph. Soon after they bought the Benner home, Rose opened the original Schooner Restaurant in Port Jefferson, the eatery known for being a converted sailing vessel, and owned it for a few years.

Sabatelli and her sisters would visit from Flushing, Queens in the summers and play and run around the three floors of the mansion as well as the 18 acres of land. She said coming to her grandmother’s home in the 1970s was like being in a sanctuary. In 1980 after her father’s death, Sabatelli, along with her sisters and mother Mary moved in with her grandmother, who died in 1989.

The mansion remained in the family after Rose’s death, and Mary became known in the area as a philanthropist, humanitarian and businesswoman, who organized many events at the home including fundraisers for John T. Mather Memorial Hospital and the Suffolk County Police Emerald Society Pipe Band.

Sabatelli and Ryon said they think the mansion represents a time when the affluent would vacation on Long Island, and it’s important to save the reminder of a simpler time. They believe that many feel the same way.

“We love looking back at the past,” Ryon said. “Once it’s gone, that’s it. It was the past, and you just erased a piece of it. Part of it is that we can’t get it back, and people love houses like that. It takes them back in time. A time that they remember or time they would like to remember.”

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Above, the dock at 110 Van Brunt Manor Road in Poquott. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After 15 years, the Village of Poquott is taking another look at its dock law.

On March 14, the village’s planning board proposed making three changes to the dock law. The changes will set new guidelines for establishing docks in Poquott.

According to Planning Board Chairman, Roger Flood, the board wants to ensure there is at least 18 feet from the shore end of the dock and any obstruction along the shoreline.

The second change concerns the distance from a dock to a village beach or park. Currently, a dock needs to be 100 feet away from a village beach or park. Flood says the dock applications they’ve recently received are not close to these public areas, but the board wants to double the distance between the dock and these locations.

“No one had thought to build another dock [one-and-a-half-years ago],” Flood said. “It seemed like an opportunity just to review what happened under our dock law and see if it needed some tweaking going forward.”

In light of this, last year the village issued a moratorium on building docks. Trustee Jeff Koppelson said the moratorium was extended, which gave the board more time to propose changes to the 2000 law. While there were no dock applications at the time, the ban came nearly one year after a dock on 110 Van Brunt Manor Road was established.

Flood said plans for a second dock were underway in the past, but it wasn’t constructed because the lot wasn’t big enough to accommodate the structure. A property that is 100 feet wide would be big enough to construct a dock. According to the dock law, a dock and anything tied to the dock, can’t be within 30 feet of a property line.

Thus far people must build docks on a residentially zoned lot that has riparian rights. The rights are a means to allocate water among property owners who live or own land along the water. Flood, who helped create the initial law. While the board discussed means of preventing an overabundance of docks along the shoreline, the current law simply details a dock’s suitable distance to various property lines.

Flood and his team are also looking at how and if future docks will affect nearby mooring boats. While the board doesn’t want to displace nearby mooring boats, there was discussion of whether the docks will be long enough to deter offshore mooring in the area.

“Our intent is to have a similar sort of discussion at our next meeting to try and answer these kinds of questions,” Flood said about the law and mooring boat questions.

Mayor Dee Parrish couldn’t comment on the changes to the law. Parrish said she didn’t attend the board’s meeting and couldn’t comment until the changes are submitted to the board of trustees for their meeting in April.

The village will hold its next planning board meeting on Apr. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at Village Hall in Poquott.