From The President

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November 2016

The Swezey-Avey House and surrounding grounds has been a great asset for the Yaphank Historical Society. In efforts to improve all areas of the Yaphank Historic District, the Society first became interested in seeing if we could address external structural changes (fencing, porch, shutters, landscaping, etc.) to the Swezey-Avey House that would reflect its early historical appearance in the community. The Society also had a “historic” connection to the house; the very first meeting of the Yaphank Historical Society was held at the Swezey-Avey House in 1974.

In 2012, our work on the house began when we sent Councilwoman Connie Kepert a picture of the house and fence, taken around 1900. The house at that time had a 6-foot black chain-link fence around it and the entry gate was locked more than it was open. We asked her if she could get the chain-link fence removed and a period-appropriate fence, as shown in the photograph, installed. Her exact words to the Society were, “I’ll see what I can do.” The result of that collaboration is the fence that you see there today, almost an exact match to the fence that was in the picture.

The Society then asked the Town if we could get the porch fixed or replaced, and also do landscaping that would be period-appropriate for the house. We told the Town that the Society would raise the money to do this project. The Coalition to Save the Yaphank Lakes donated money that they had received from the Caithness Fund that was originally planned to fund a planting project at the Willow Lake spillway park This spillway planting project was put into a larger Town project, so the money was turned over to the Town to fund the landscaping and porch renovation work. The Society also received grant money from the Knapp-Swezey Foundation and applied these funds to the renovation efforts.

As these projects were under way, the Town and the Society considered having the Society assume custodianship of the Swezey-Avey House, managing the renovations that would restore some of the glamour and style of this important historic structure. The Society entered into an agreement with the Town in June of 2013 and we began internal renovations and continued with external work already started. Our goal was to finish the renovations in one year, August of 2014, which would match the 40th anniversary date of the Yaphank Historical Society. We did accomplish this, thanks to the efforts of the many volunteers that joined in to make this project the success that it was. The Swezey- Avey House renovation project was done with funds that were raised by the Yaphank Historical Society and completed on schedule.

Today the Swezey-Avey House and Park are busy all day long; from the people picnicking to the kids on the swing set and playground to the people using the lake with their canoes and kayaks.

The house, which serves as the Society’s headquarters, is used for meetings and it also houses the extensive archives of the Historical Society. There are also five display rooms showing the history of Yaphank.

Wishing you all a very HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.

- Robert Kessler, President