Village Trustee Henry Tobin and his partner, Ted Kaplan, are about to put the phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" to the ultimate test by restoring , the oldest home in Northport.
The couple bought the circa 1761 home in late July after it lingered on the market for two years. When they heard that developers were eyeing the half-acre plot for demolition, they knew they had to act.
“It was Ted’s idea," said Tobin. "He knew that the owners had applied for demolition. He was inspired, and said, ‘we have to buy the house.’ It’s the oldest link to Northport’s colonial settlement. It was very important to both of us because we love the village and value our community’s heritage.”
President Lois O’Hara feared the worst for Skidmore, which she called a "step back in time," with pegged windows, wide-planked floors, period fireplaces, and a beehive oven.
"It's truly a treasured legacy to be entrusted to one generation after another,” she said.
The house is such a presence in Northport that it tugged on the hearts of children, who wrote about it for the Society’s history contest.
“The first time I heard that I lived across the street from the oldest house in Northport I went out to look for it. It is such a cool house that I can’t believe it’s still standing. Every day I ride by the Skidmore House on the way to school and wish I could live in it,” Johnny Bongiorno wrote. “I hope that the lucky owners who buy the house love it as much as I do, and take care of it to preserve the history.”
While the house is rundown, it’s structurally self-supporting, and Tobin and Kaplan said they plan to maintain historical accuracy within practical boundaries.
“The original shingles were locust, and not at today's standard size. We’ll come as close as we possibly can,” said Tobin, who added that he's surprised to find the home in such relatively good shape after 250 years, not withstanding insect and water damage to some walls, windows, and door frames.
“It is going to be a lot of work, but it is definitely going to be worth it.”
Tobin and Kaplan hope to complete much of the restoration before winter and look forward to learning more about the house and its story, which may turn out to be as important as saving the house itself.