Editor’s note: We are republishing our favorite stories of 2015.
UPDATE: The home is under contract, according to the Century 21 Albertson website
In 1688, the world was still seven decades from the birth of Mozart. Queen Elizabeth I had been dead for 85 years and the American colonies wouldn’t secure their independence from England for nearly another century.
That same year, the house that’s believed to be Greenport’s first English residence was built.
More than 300 years later, the 2,220-square-foot saltbox-style structure, known today as the Youngs-Coyle House, still stands. In fact, the recently restored three-bedroom home was listed for sale earlier this month by Century 21 Albertson Realty in Southold. The asking price is $719,000.
“It was the only house I knew, really. It was a fun place to grow up,” said Barbara Coyle Ebeling, who inherited the property from her father, Frank “Sparky” Coyle, who died in 2003. Ms. Ebeling and her husband, John, who live in Southold, spent the last three years replastering the house’s horsehair plaster walls and refinishing its wide-plank oak floors. They also renovated the kitchen and added fresh coats of paint to each of the home’s 10 rooms, which include a tiny birthing area.
“We tell people this house dates back to 1688 and I think most people are just floored by that,” Mr. Ebeling said. “Because nothing — nothing — can date back to 1688 and still be standing. But it’s there.”
The Youngs-Coyle House was built by Col. John Youngs, eldest son of the Rev. John Youngs, the Puritan minister who founded Southold Town in 1640. Col. Youngs, who already owned a home in Southold, constructed his Greenport home as a summer retreat when he was around 65 years old, said Jerry Cibulski, the property’s listing agent.
“It’s heartening, or ironic, to see that even the original settlers saw the region as a vacation destination,” Cibulski said.
Originally, the house was located on what is now Robinson Road, at the head of Sterling Creek. Referred to by Col. Youngs as “Green Hill” because of its elevation, the property comprised hundreds of acres, along with the house and several outbuildings. According to the 1972 book “Greenport, Yesterday and Today,” these structures likely would have included slave quarters, as the Youngs “were slave owners up to the time slavery was abolished in New York State” in 1827. The farm surrounding the home encompassed all of modern-day Greenport.
“Green Hill” was built with 18-inch hand-hewn oak beams from the forests lining the shores of Sterling Creek, all of which are still intact. Bark is still visible on the logs holding up the basement, Mr. Ebeling said.
“Those solid beams are so hard you really can’t hammer a nail into them,” he remarked.
In 1727, the house was enlarged when a weaving mill was attached to it. At some point, a large kitchen wing with a dirt floor was also added.
The property was operating as a duck farm around 1901 when Albert Delafield of Manhattan, who had built a house to the north of the Youngs’ estate, decided “the old homestead completely hid his view of Greenport harbor,” according to a contemporary newspaper clipping from Queensboro Public Library.
Delafield “succeeded in buying the half of the estate on which stood the historic homestead, and then it was announced that the old house must be removed by May 1,” the circa 1900 article continues. “Thus one of the few remaining relics of the early settlement of Southold Town will soon pass away.”
The house was removed, but wasn’t razed, as many locals feared it would be. According to Cibulski, who has been researching the property’s history for the past month, it was instead divided into three sections. The kitchen wing was moved to a lot on Second Street and the mill was relocated to Route 48, near Sterling Cemetery. The house itself was moved to its current location on Champlin Place.
This history is markedly different from the likely apocryphal one most Greenport residents are familiar with, including the Ebelings.
“The story we always heard was that there were two brothers who owned the house and they had a fight over something, so they sawed a part of the house off and moved it because they couldn’t stand being together,” Mr. Ebeling said.
Regardless of how the home ended up on Champlin Place, Ms. Ebeling is grateful to have spent her childhood there. Her father was “always talking” about the structure’s history, she said, and the living room was “very warm, especially at the holidays.”
Ms. Ebeling said she thinks her father would be proud of the work she and her husband have done to restore the house. And Mr. Ebeling is certain its original owner would be flabbergasted to learn the structure is still standing.
“I think John Youngs would say, ‘Nah. Can’t be. That house is still there?’ ” he said with a laugh. “I think he really would be incredulous.”