An effort afoot to preserve the dairy farm belonging to one of East Hampton’s founding families has gained steam in the past month, as advocates have taken to East Hampton Town Board meetings to express their concerns that it be saved.
The Stephen Sherrill dairy farm sits on Springs-Fireplace road at the V-shaped intersection with Three Mile Harbor Road, just northeast of Nick & Toni’s Restaurant. It’s a white Greek Revival farmhouse, half-hidden behind tall hedges, next door to 16 acres of land already preserved by the town.
Prudence Carabine, who heads the committee working to restore the nearby Barnes-Lester farm, told the town board on March 11 that a private buyer is interested in the property, setting off a new push by preservationists who have spent more than two years hoping to see the farm become a museum.
At the town board’s April 1 work session, Mary C.F. Morgan, a Sherrill descendent who has been involved with many non-profits on the East End, said the Barnes-Lester Farm Museum’s board has voted to take on the fiduciary responsibilities of managing the Sherrill property, in consultation with the East Hampton and Springs historical societies.
She pledged to put her fundraising skills to work on the project, which she hoped would include exhibits on farming in East Hampton in the 19th Century and park grounds where other non-profits could hold events.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he is concerned about the town’s ability to do the upkeep on historic buildings it already owns. He pointed out that Second House, in Montauk, still has plywood over a second story window that blew out in Superstorm Sandy.
“It would be useful to Springs. It’s situated as the gateway to Springs,” said Ms. Morgan. “The house and a solar house behind it are in excellent repair, recently renovated, with new AC, heating and plumbing.”
Kate Plumb, who manages the Friday afternoon East Hampton Farmers Market at Nick & Toni’s, said she has long been interested in moving the market across the street to the Lester-Labrozzi farm, but she’d also be interested in moving it to the Sherrill farm. She said the market currently has the maximum number of vendors that can fit on the Nick & Toni’s site, and she’s constantly being approached by new farmers who want to set up shop there.
“We can’t grow any bigger than we are right now, and the applications are staggering,” she said. “It’s staggering how many young people are getting into farming.”
The rules governing property purchased for preservation using Community Preservation Funds do not support the commercial use of those properties, which has become a concern of East End governments that want to support farmers markets.
Board members said those regulations could change.
“The opinions bureau for the CPF is taking up the question of farmers markets at CPF historic properties, such as Duck Creek Farm (in springs) We’d like to be able to open them up for community-based use.
“The legislation is a controlling factor here,” said Mr. Cantwell. “Right now, it is our understanding that it cannot be used for that purpose. But it seems to all of us that that kind of indigenous use is appropriate. It’s a farm area. It’s got a barn. It’s out of our hands, though, in terms of making that determination.”
East Hampton Historical Society Director Richard Barons said he’s seen growing enthusiasm for East Hampton history from the public in the past decade. He said most buildings preserved in town are from the 17th and 18th Century.
“The 19th Century was a vibrant period, and we have very few buildings that represent that,” he said, adding that a 501(c)3 is being organized that could manage the Sherrill farm if it was purchased by the town.
“We could also use the property to do a little more work on interpreting the history of Springs,” he said. “That’s an important part of our community’s history.”