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Builder Matthew Ritter (left) discusses placement of a new wooden railing with Bennett Brokaw, who is restoring this 19th-century house on Main Street in Greenport. (Credit: Rachel Young)
Builder Matthew Ritter (left) discusses placement of a new wooden railing with Bennett Brokaw, who is restoring this 19th-century house on Main Street in Greenport. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Independent real estate broker Bennett Brokaw couldn’t look away from the dilapidated Victorian house at 449 Main St. in Greenport.

“I kept seeing the building with this sign that said ‘For sale,’ ” said the Mattituck resident, who purchased the 1,750-square-foot house for $450,000 in November. “After about three or four months, I finally picked up the phone.” 

Ever since, Mr. Brokaw has been financially and emotionally invested in the house, as he works to restore it to its original beauty. His vision, he said, is to lease it to a local winery or restaurant — his “dream tenants,” he said — as early as this month.

“I’m hoping I can wait for that special tenant because it’s a special building,” Mr. Brokaw said. He’s currently negotiating with two restaurateurs, he said, one an undisclosed South Fork owner and one involved in a start-up venture.

Exterior restoration work is underway.Independent real estate agent Bennett Brokaw of Mattituck is restoring this 19th century home on Main Street in Greenport. Mr. Brokaw hopes to lease the property to a tasting room or restaurant. (Credit: Rachel Young)
Exterior restoration work is underway.Independent real estate agent Bennett Brokaw of Mattituck is restoring this 19th century home on Main Street in Greenport. Mr. Brokaw hopes to lease the property to a tasting room or restaurant. (Credit: Rachel Young)

He said he’s particularly interested in renting the space to a farm-to-table restaurant that would source food from a 60- to 80-mile radius.

“I think the local population will spend a couple bucks more to have something that’s locally sourced,” Mr. Brokaw said.

What makes the property so unique? For starters, the 19th-century abode still has its original hardwood floors, oversized windows, period light fixtures, white Doric columns and decorative ceiling medallions.

But Mr. Brokaw said the residence, which about 40 years ago housed a shop called The Birdcage, wasn’t anywhere close to move-in condition just a few months ago.

These first-floor wood columns are original to the building. (Credit: Rachel Young)
These first-floor wood columns are original to the building. (Credit: Rachel Young)

“It was horrible,” he recalled, likening the building to an “old sports car that breaks down all the time and needs a lot of work.”

“All the plaster was cracked,” he said. “I had two men who just repaired the plaster for six weeks.”

Mr. Brokaw and his construction crew — which includes home improvement contractor Matthew Ritter of Greenport — have retained the seven-room structure’s original moldings and trim and have laid down black porcelain tile in the foyer and first-floor bathroom.

Mr. Ritter is also replacing the existing vinyl railing on the front porch with a wooden one closely resembling that of the original house, based on an old photo from the collection of the  Stirling Historical Society.

An original light fixture in the foyer. (Credit: Rachel Young)
An original light fixture in the foyer. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Mr. Brokaw credits the historical society and the Greenport Planning Board with helping him restore the property.

“The distinct detail on the house sets it apart from a lot of houses,” Mr. Ritter said. “The fact that it’s been neglected for so many years and was able to retain its original moldings inside and out is remarkable. I’ve done lots of old houses in my day and a lot of the original details are always taken off or covered over.

“There’s some heart and soul to the house,” he continued. “It’s nice to give the soul and the heart back.”

Mr. Brokaw agreed.

Appliqué ceiling moldings can be found throughout the house. (Credit: Rachel Young)
Appliqué ceiling moldings can be found throughout the house. (Credit: Rachel Young)

“It feels like the rebirth of a property that is really a piece of the history of the village,” he said. “I think it has wonderful charm and great bones. It’s just a special house.”

He and Mr. Ritter said they feel encouraged by villagers who cheer them on in their restoration efforts.

“They give you the thumbs up, like ‘Hey, you’re doing great!’ ” Mr. Ritter said. “It’s been very rewarding.”

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