CENTER MORICHES

Former slave home becomes historical treasure

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A local treasure, the Mary E. Bell house, is being recommended by the Town of
Brookhaven for nomination to be listed on the state and national register of historic places.

Built in 1872 by former slaves that had settled in the Farmingville area, the Mary E. Bell house remained in family ownership by Bell’s daughter until 1993. Mary E. Bell died in 1923 and a local church renamed their congregation after her, the Bell AME Zion Church in Center Moriches.

The house fell into disrepair and was threatened with demolition in 2009, when it was taken over by the Town of Brookhaven.

Under the wing of the Town of Brookhaven, the house underwent massive renovations, including a new roof, new siding, and new foundation.

The Ketcham Inn Foundation has been hosting visitation services of the home
since it was declared a Brookhaven landmark in 2011.

“Once history is gone, you cannot replace it and not everything old can be saved, but this property was certainly deserving. Thanks to Bert Seides and the folks at the Ketcham Inn Foundation for their stewardship, and everyone who helped in the restoration,” said Councilman Dan Panico.

Supervisor Ed Romaine recalled delightfully passing the Mary E. Bell house every day, as he lives down the block from the historical home. “Our emphasis [in nominating the house to the historic register] is to preserve history and make it available to the public,” he said.

Once on the state and national registries, of which there are more than 120,000 throughout New York State, any future work or improvements made to the home will have to be reviewed by the Preservation League of New York.

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