August Hawkins and his sister Prudence around 1900

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Building Inventory Form

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Unless indicated below, this is a transcript of the original Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities/Town of Brookhaven survey form.   Since most of the surveys were conducted in the late 1970's and early 1980's, much of the information reflects that time period. 

Corrections to obvious typographical and spelling errors have been made.  Corrections to factual errors in the original surveys, and updates or comments on the information are either enclosed in [square brackets], or are clearly indicated as updated material from the context of the comments. 

Sites which have a suffix of "S" are supplemental sites not included in the original surveys.


Building-Structure Inventory Form

Robinson Duck Farm

 If checked, this is a Supplemental Form, not included in the original surveys.

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Inventory Code: SH04
Prepared Date: 7/14/1982
Last modified: 7/28/2008
Original Submitter
Submitter Name: Town of Brookhaven/SPLIA
Submitter Address: Town Hall
205 S. Ocean Ave.
631-634-7806
Organization: Brookhaven Community Development Agency
Identification
1-Building/Site Name:  
2a-County:   Suffolk 2b-Town:  Brookhaven 2c-Village:  Hamlet of Southaven
3-Street Location:   Montauk Highway

 If checked, this site is within the Fire Place (Brookhaven Hamlet) Historic District

Ownership
   4a-Public     4b-Private
5a-Owner  (at original survey date):    Robert Robinson (1982), Suffolk County (present), Ronald Bush (after 1991) 5b-Address:    Montauk Hwy, south side, west of Carman's River
Use

6a-Original:    farm; also site of Church

6b-Present:    duck farm business

Accessibility
 7a-Visible From Road

 7b-Interior Accessible:
7b-Interior Comment:   by appointment  
Building Materials 
   8a-Clapboard    8b-Stone    8c-Brick
   8d-Board & Batten    8e-Cobblestone    8f-Shingles
   8g-Stucco
8-Other:   some metal buildings  
Structural System
   9a-Wood Frame Interlocking Joints    9b-Wood Frame Light Members:    9c-Masonry:
    9d-Metal
9d-Metal Comment:   1 quonset hut, grain elevator  
   9e-Other
9e-Other Comment:   shingled outbuildings c1925  
Condition
    10a-Excellent   10b-Good   10c-Fair     10d-Deteriorated
Integrity
   11a-Original Site  11b-Moved   If so, when?  
11c-Alterations:   
Photo & Map
12-Photo Photos and images
13-Map
Threats
  14a-None Known:    14b-Zoning   14c-Roads
  14d-Developers :   14e-Deterioration
14f-Other:     
14-Comment:     
Related Outbuildings
and Property

  15a-Barn   15b-Carriage House  15c-Garage
  15d-Privy   15e-Shed   15f-Greenhouse
  15g-Shop   15h-Gardens   15i-Landscape Features
15i-Landscape Features:   
15j-Other:  2 houses + 3 outbuildings of Hard Estate (SH13)  
15-Comment:     
Surroundings of the Building
  16a-Open Land   16b-Woodland   16c-Scattered Bldgs.
  16d-Densely Built-up   16e-Commercial  16f-Industrial
  16g-Residential 16h-Other:   Sunrise Highway to north, Montauk Highway; Carman's River on east; Wertheim Refuge S & E.
Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings
17-Interrelationships:   This farm is located in the hamlet of Southaven, which was first settled in the early 18th century.  
Other Notable Features of Building and Site
18-Notable Features: A managers cottage, large barn, bull pen, and milk house built by Anson W. Hard in 1923 are situated on this property. See SH 13.

It is near the site of the Carman Homestead, Presbyterian Church, and Carman's Mills. The cemetery is located within this property.
 
   
Significance
19-Initial Const Date:   1902; grain elevator 1930.
19-Architect:    
19-Builder:    
Historic and Architectural Importance
20-Importance:   High, four-story structure making a dramatic geometric statement on the horizon. Still in use, it is next to the L.I.R.R. tracks on a working duck farm. It is a significant part of Long Island's agricultural history.

Quonset hut one of few remaining in use on Long Island farms. [By 2005, both structures have been removed, as well as many of the other original farm barns and outbuildings.]

[In 1991, tyhe Robinson Farm was acquired by Suffolk County. About two acres of the farm, including the main barn and houses, was acquired by Ronald Bush to house his extensive collection of farm equipment and tools.]
 
 
Sources
21-Sources:      Interview: Mrs. Robert Robinson, Montauk Highway, Southaven, NY
Emails: Kenneth Hard
 
Theme
22-Theme:   Agriculture   
Prepared By:
  Ellen Williams, research assistant
Supplemental Material: 
 

The following comments are from former Brookhaven Hamlet resident Richard Beyer, now of Tuscumbia, AL

I would like to add some general first-hand information to your wonderful photos of the Robinson's Duck Farm in Southaven. I worked there for two summers, 1957 between my Junior and Senior years, and 1958 following my Senior year at Bellport High School before I left for the NY State College of Forestry at Syracuse.

Ralph Robinson, one of the family members, was my Sunday School teacher at the Brookhaven Presbyterian Church. The farm was pretty much self sufficient. They had their own Incubator House, a large and expensive facility, where they hatched the eggs of ducks, chickens, and turkeys for the farm, and they also took in, when space allowed, work from other sources such as quail, pheasant and other game birds for Ken Hard's Suffolk Lodge across the highway.

The farm also had its own Feed Mill, another large another expensive facility where they could, with the best knowledge of the day, blend and produce feed for the 100,000 white ducks that were resident on the farm at any given time. I'm sure if there was any excess capacity it was put to good use in making feed for other area enterprises.

>p>The most fascinating operation on the farm, to me at least, was the processing plant, which we simply called "the killing house." In those years when I worked there it operated two days a week. When the ducks had been raised to a weight of six pounds they were "processed" and sent to market in New York City. In that era, Long Island Duck was a very special and much sought after entree in better restaurants all over the East Coast. I even recall the names of some of the workers in the processing plant. I will spare your readers the exact processing details, which I recall very well, except to say that absolutely nothing was wasted and because the farm was run so efficiently, everything was sold except the quack. On the days the plant operated, employees were allowed to take home two ducks per person. Fifty years later I can still taste those delicious fowl and have never found any as good in markets or restaurants over the decades.

We harvested, baled and transported to the duck houses, hay from the farm's fields and from fields all over Suffolk County. The ducks were susceptible to local predators like mink and fox but even more to various diseases, especially when they were still young and yellow. One disease I recall was known as "New Duck." It must have been like a virus and it spread rapidly with a high mortality rate. The inoculation process is still vivid in my mind as it was performed at a high rate of speed and less than 100% accuracy. I was, therefore, over the two summers, inoculated in my fingers for just about every disease known to duck.

Robinson's Duck Farm was a great case study in the benefits of teamwork and efficiency and especially hard work. It was a highly educational experience for me and one for which I have always been grateful. And there are still many of us around who consider ourselves genuine environmentalists who still miss the farm and especially the Robinson family.

Best Regards,
Richard Beyer
Tuscumbia, AL
27 Nov 2006