With a ghostly presence, a Revolutionary War rebel as a resident and presidential visits, this 17th century house in Huntington has more than its share of stories, whether they be true or just tall tales.
Known variously as the Chichester Inn and the Peace and Plenty Inn, the earliest portion of the clapboard house on the market at 107 Chichester Road is believed to date to circa 1680. A Chichester arrived in the area and built a small dwelling before adding a taproom, possibly by the end of the decade.
The Chichester family owned the property, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, until 1916 and gradually expanded it over the centuries. This led to a mix of 18th and 19th century details on the interior, which includes the taproom along with wide-planked floorboards, beamed ceilings and mantels.
Who exactly lived in the house during those Chichester years is a bit of genealogical tangle that would take some time to fully unravel. One of the 18th century names mentioned in connection with the house is that of Eliphalet Chichester. While it might seem like a name that would stand out, a dig through historic records shows there were multiple Eliphalet Chichesters floating around New York at the time.
The Eliphalet apparently associated with this house signed an oath to “defend by arms these United Colonies” in 1775, served in the Suffolk County Militia and was labeled one of the miscreants of Huntington for raiding loyalists and supplying goods to rebels. Huntington town records show Eliphalet was licensed as a tavern keeper at least by 1795. The 1810 Federal census, the last before his death in 1811, lists Eliphalet Chichester living in Huntington with a household of nine people including one enslaved person, identified neither by name nor gender.
No 18th century mentions of an inn by either the Chichester or Peace and Plenty name turned up in historic newspapers. During the 19th century ownership of Asa, son of Eliphalet and Polly Chichester, there are accounts of public sales and meetings held at the property, although still no use of the Peace and Plenty name. Asa does appear as a licensed tavern keeper in town records starting in 1812, after the death of his father.
As with many historic houses of this age, some of the tales that have been woven to create a colorful history seem to emerge in the early 20th century. There is a veritable cornucopia of names claimed to have some association with the house, including Nathan Hale, Walt Whitman and President Theodore Roosevelt.
The first mention of the name Peace and Plenty Inn seems to pop up in written accounts around 1904, although it certainly may have been used by locals before that. A 1914 story in The Long-Islander about a meeting of the Huntington Historical Society seems to include much of the history about the property that would be repeated over the years, including Asa Chichester’s time running the property as a tavern, details on the construction of the house and stories of the balls and “hog guessings” that took place on the site; the later supposedly attended by neighbor Walt Whitman.
Whitman’s birthplace is less than a mile away and he may have been familiar with the West Hills landscape of his youth, but whether he ever accurately guessed the weight of a hog at the Chichester property remains a mystery.
While the stories about the house being a favorite stop of President Roosevelt might seem like another tall tale to burnish the legend of the house, multiple newspaper accounts from 1904 to 1909 mention the Roosevelt family going for an annual picnic at nearby Jayne’s Hill, a scenic high spot, and then stopping at the Chichester home nearby.
The last generation of the Chichester family in residence, Abner and Sarah Chichester, operated it as a boarding house for at least some of their tenure. A 1914 Brooklyn Daily Eagle guide for those planning their summer getaways included the Peace and Plenty Inn as a property that could accommodate up to 15 guests starting at $8 per week.
After the family’s sale of the property, it seems to have remained a single family home. An owner in the 1950s undertook a restoration of the taproom and restoration of the second floor was necessary after a 1980 fire.
As for that ghostly presence, those tales seemed to have begun spreading in the late 20th century. It is supposedly a despondent Asa Chichester, who died in 1841 at the age of 53, whose footsteps can be heard echoing through the house; at least according to a 1984 New York Times profile of the house when it was back on the market after the post-fire restoration.
All that history, true and folkloric, can be yours as the house is on the market for the first time since 2008. The listing photos show plenty of the details in the five bedroom, four bath house, and an interactive floor plan gives a better sense of the layout.
The sprawling first floor has three entrances including one, as would be expected, for the rustic tavern room. The main entrance for the house has a corner fireplace — shown with a blazing fire so presumably in working order — and steps up to reach the tavern on one side and a parlor on the other. It should be noted that because of the evolution of the house over time many of the rooms are on slightly different levels, requiring a step up or down.
There are more mantels, paneling and period-looking hardware spread across the living room, dining room and sitting room. The latter has a massive fireplace complete with trammel if you want to try your hand at some cooking.
The kitchen is modern in comparison, with white cabinets and recessed lighting. There’s also a butler’s pantry with a wood countertop and sink for washing your delicate china.
The largest bedroom has the only mantel upstairs along with built-in storage and a walk-in closet. The adjacent bath has a claw foot tub.
A few of the features mentioned in 20th century stories about the house don’t seem to be visible in the listing photos. These include a swinging wall that reportedly hung on iron hinges from the ceiling in the taproom and allowed for the room to be divided in two and an iron staircase that led up to the ballroom, where local festivities supposedly took place.
Set close to the road on 2.3 acres of land, the property includes a stone patio that is surrounded by a chain-link fence. That is likely for the safety of the inhabitant of the dog house shown in a listing photo.
In addition to the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site other historic attractions nearby include Old Bethpage Village Restoration and Sagamore Hill, the summer White House of President Roosevelt. The house is also a less than three-mile drive to the Cold Spring Harbor station with LIRR service into the city.
The house is listed for $749,999 with Susan Kesner and Dee Donovan of Signature Premier Properties.
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This story first appeared on Brownstoner.com.
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