While driving on the two-lane section of Sound Avenue in Mattituck, you might notice a wooden sign on the south side that reads “Strawberry Fields.” No, there aren’t miles of red fruit lining the hilly landscape.
It’s the name Gene Davison gave the property he’s owned for over 40 years, after the popular Beatles song. It’s where he built two houses, raised two children and four grandchildren, tended to numerous animals and ran a successful Christmas tree farm. But within the month, Mr. Davison, now 87, will say goodbye to his compound and move upstate to be with his daughter.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Davison and his wife decided it was time to move their family from Stony Brook, but they weren’t sure exactly where to go. His wife visited the North Fork one day and returned home with a gleam in her eyes, saying she’d found the place. Then, Mr. Davison made the trip east.
“I came out here to work one day,” he said. “It was just twilight, I saw the little house and thought ‘OK, this is it.’ ”
When he purchased the 12 1/2-acre property, for which he paid $3,000 an acre, Mr. Davison said, “You could stand here and see to the edge of the earth” because the region was what he described as “depressed” due to the downfall of the potato industry.
After World War I, two brothers had opened Kirkup Chicken Farm on the property. When the Davisons moved there in 1969, the house they lived in — which Mr. Davison later sold to his current neighbors — was a reconstructed chicken barn. A carpenter by trade and the owner of Davison Construction Corporation, he built his current home in 1988.
The basement of the original house is where the chickens were hatched and kept in incubators, Mr. Davison said. The animals were slaughtered in what is now the kitchen and the egg-laying chickens lived in a barn next door.
“The original chicken house blew away in a hurricane in 1938,” Mr. Davison said, adding that the homes on the property today are reconstructed versions of the original henhouse.
Inspired by the property’s history and feeling the need to put the old henhouse to good use, Mr. Davison purchased 2,500 chickens by mail order and used them to produce white eggs, which he sold to neighboring farms.
After two years, he said, egg production slowed down, so he sold the remaining chickens to a friend.
Those weren’t the last of the farm animals to grace the property, however.
In anticipation of his upcoming move, Mr. Davison has rented out the barn and land in front of his home, where horses are now kept. But he still owns four goats, a pony, a cow named Annabelle and a horse named Sudie — all of whom will make the move upstate with him.
As an homage to his carpentry roots, the interior of Mr. Davison’s current house is full of handmade wooden accents, such as the white pine floors, tables, desks, chairs, cabinets, oak ceiling beams and more. Contrasting with the dark wood throughout the first floor are white and brick walls. The exterior and roof are made entirely of wooden shingles.
After retiring from carpentry more than two decades ago, Mr. Davison established a Christmas tree farm in his backyard, planting five acres behind the barn stalls and the house with hundreds of concolors, Douglas firs and Frasier firs.
After the chicken farm, but before Mr. Davison acquired it, the property had also been a Brussels sprouts farm, he said, which gave the soil the ability to sustain healthy trees.
The Christmas tree farm is Mr. Davison’s favorite part of the property. He often climbs to the top of the hill in his backyard, sits on a stone bench under a maple tree and surveys all he’s accomplished in the past four decades.
“It’s gorgeous,” he said. “Everywhere else is flat, but this place has a lot of character.”
As his time at Strawberry Fields draws to a close, Mr. Davison said there are many things he’ll miss — the sight of horses as he comes up the driveway, the examples of his craftsmanship around the house and the expansive pine tree fields, to name a few — but he’s ready to move on.
Top photo: Gene Davidson takes in the view from his favorite spot on his property, overlooking the Christmas trees and the home he built for his family. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)