No. 10 Story of the Year: Historic district is history

A six-mile stretch of Main Road could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The corridor includes Aquebogue’s Old Steeple Church, built in 1862 and designed by a farmer with no architectural experience, as well as Aquebogue Cemetery, which dates back to 1755 and contains the graves of numerous Revolutionary War soldiers. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)
A six-mile stretch of Main Road was proposed to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

Two years ago, the landmarks preservation commissions in Riverhead and Southold towns launched a plan to create a historic district along a six-mile stretch of Main Road from Aquebogue to Laurel.

By the end of 2014, however, the historic district was itself history, having encountered widespread opposition from Main Road property owners who feared the designation would put restrictions on what they could do with their properties — a fear proponents of the district said was unfounded.

An application had already been made to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Designation to create the new district, which could have led to the area being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places had it been approved.

But when Riverhead Town residents began circulating a petition in opposing to the proposal, the Riverhead Town Board dropped its support for the proposal and wrote to state officials asking that the effort be dropped. Southold officials say the proposal lacked support among property owners in that town, too.

The proposed district would have included 354 parcels — 312 in Riverhead and 42 in Southold — including some of the farmland abutting Main Road.

“I gave my word that we’re going to listen to the people,” said Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Richard Wines as he reluctantly called for the effort to be halted. Riverhead Town has adopted several historic districts, including downtown Riverhead, and has 10 locations on the National Register of Historic Places, which have not met with opposition.