The Surpris-Silverstein family is giving new meaning to the question, “Were you raised in a barn?” Their two children were, indeed, raised in one.
Marie Surpris and Kurt Silverstein, both doctors of osteopathic medicine, have lived for more than six years in an extension of a converted barn in Baiting Hollow, after moving there from Smithtown.
The barn portion of the structure, which is 40 feet tall, was built in 1918 and was once used as a potato barn. It is now the family’s storage space, though Dr. Surpris originally had different plans for it.
“When I saw the barn, I thought I was going to make a [basketball] court and bleachers to host Friday night parties for my son, with sleeping quarters overhead,” she said. “But then we found out it would cost another $300,000 to do that.”
Thomas Schoenewolf, owner of Gone Country Furniture and Antiques down the road, said he worked at the farm where the residence now stands in 1970, when he was 16.
At that time, the Pelis family had recently sold the potato farm to the Manetto family, who turned it into a sod farm.
“Mostly I moved irrigation pipe,” Mr. Schoenewolf said. “Back then they didn’t have those roll-around sprinklers, so you had to physically move the pipes. I did a lot of walking, but it was easy compared to doing the job on a potato farm. You’re marching around, doing the high step to get over the vines — and it was even worse with tomatoes. Can you imagine what it’s like doing that with corn?”
Mr. Schoenewolf said the part of the structure that’s now being used as a home and office was a repair shop and potato storage area before prior owners converted the space.
The biggest problem with living in the space, according to Dr. Silverstein, is its draftiness.
“It wasn’t meant to be a year-round residence,” he said. “It was meant to be a summer home.”
Dr. Surpris said she and her husband updated the residence in order to keep it warm in the winter, adding a heating system and coal stove to battle the cold.
“LIPA had a program and helped to insulate some of the exterior walls,” Dr. Silverstein added. “That and the coal stove are enough to make it so we don’t have to rely so much on oil.”
Dr. Supris had the walls throughout the house painted in vibrant colors to reflect her Haitian heritage. Her mother, Claudette Surpris, also lives with the family.
After a year of living in the space, the family welcomed its newest member, daughter Jade, now 6. “She surprised us,” Dr. Surpris said. The couple’s son 14-year-old, Sky, plays ice hockey at a prep school in New England.
Despite the unique nature of their home, Dr. Silverstein said most of the family’s friends are used to the unusual surroundings by now. He said their home is more likely to amaze newcomers than confuse them.
“Sometimes people come in, see the barn and think our house is the one next door,” he said.