Sill House Will Not Serve as Southold Nature Center

The Sill farmhouse in December.
The Sill farmhouse in December.

Last December, Southold Town began considering the possibility of using a farmhouse on a piece of preserved land near Pipes Cove in Greenport as a nature center, but that plan has fallen at the wayside after vandals defaced the building a few weeks ago.

Southold Land Preservation Coordinator Melissa Spiro told the Southold Town Board at an April 19 work session that her office has decided “the location is not the best for a nature center or a stewardship center.”

She cited Community Preservation Fund law that does not allow residential uses on preserved land, and the fact that the house is set back far from the road, making it difficult for the town to keep an eye on the building.

The demolition of the house, however, is eligible for CPF funding, and the town is now planning to tear it down.

Town Engineer Michael Collins told the town board that the demolition will involve removing asbestos insulation from the heating system in the main house, and another outbuilding on the property, which is crumbling, will need to be treated as if the entire structure contains asbestos because it has deteriorated to the point where the toxic insulation material is friable, or easily inhaled.

“There’s no way to treat it without treating the entire structure for asbestos,” he said.

The 24-acre property, purchased for preservation more than five years ago, includes a two-acre freshwater pond and a meadow. It is bisected by the Long Island Rail Road’s Greenport line. There are three collapsed wooden buildings and a cement silo that would need to be torn down, though the town will need to negotiate access with the Long Island Rail Road to cross the railroad tracks to access the outbuildings.

Town GIS coordinator John Sepenoski, who was skeptical that the farmhouse would be ideal for a nature center when the idea was first pitched, said the work could be paid for through the CPF fund now, but could be reimbursed through grants later as the town continues its work on the Bay-to-Sound Trail project.

The Sill property is one of the final pieces in a 600-acre swath of preserved land surrounding Pipes Cove, which was named for the wood found there in colonial times that was used to make a type of barrel known as a “pipe.”

Board members agreed that it is time now to tear the house down.

“After it was vandalized, let’s move forward,” said Councilman Bill Ruland.


Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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