Every house has a story to tell. Some houses greet guests and families with those stories on a day-to-day basis. Others sit untouched for years, waiting for their stories to finally be told. The house you’re about to learn about had to wait 40 years for someone to listen.
That person was Bryan Sansivero. He was given special permission to enter the abandoned house and document its history. What he found will surprise you, just like it surprised him when he stepped foot inside for the first time!
A Step Back Into Time
Bryan Sansivero, who specializes in photographing abandoned places, was surprised that the farmhouse was so well-concealed from the public eye. “It’s amazing how hidden the home was. It was surrounded by a busy community,” he shares. “Many people here had no idea the house even existed.”
He also says that this site felt more like stepping back into time than any other house he’s explored. To see more photographs of this amazing abandoned farmhouse, continue reading!
The property has a surprising connection to a famous poet!
A Once-Impressive Facade, Now Crumbling
A combination of environmental exposure and long-term neglect has left the once-impressive Victorian home in a serious state of decay. Here, we see the front of the main farmhouse, which was built in 1860. The roof is sagging badly and one of the home’s columns now lies on the ground.
The nine-acre property also includes a smokehouse, a garage, a privy, a milk house, a horse barn and carriage house, a sheep barn, and four smaller barns. Sansivero says, “I hope that my pictures can in some way help contribute to the restoration of such a beautiful and historically significant home.”
Commack, New York
The farmhouse is located in the hamlet of Commack in Suffolk County, New York. Commack is a “census-designated place” that was named by the Secatogue Native Americans who used to live there. Covering a total of 12 square miles, Commack is known for its fertile soil and wooded lands.
Today nearly all of the area is suburbanized, which makes the Marion Carll Farm site that much more unique. The farmstead dates all the way back to 1701, with the house being constructed just before the beginning of the Civil War.
Now, let’s take a peek inside…
Years Of Neglect Took Their Toll, But The Home Is Full Of Treasures
Sansivero photographed the Marion Carll Farmstead on multiple occasions, with access granted by the local school district and board. He says, “each time I visited I would uncover more items and many priceless antiques.”
The house seemed to contain layer upon layer of valuable pieces of history. They’ve all been removed from the property now, but these rare photographs remind us of how the house looked after sitting abandoned for so many years.
About Marion Carll
Who was Marion Carll? She was a pillar of the community and a well-respected local teacher. She formed the area’s very first PTA and a local grammar school was named for her in 1957.
Since education was such an important part of Carll’s life, it made sense that she left her property to the Commack School Board and District, with the stipulation that it would only be used for educational and historical purposes. These embroidered shoes sitting on a bed were probably Carll’s.
Carll Attempted To Preserve The Past
As a history enthusiast, Marion Carll wished to preserve as much of the farmhouse’s 19th-century character as possible and never made much of an effort to update the home to modern standards. As a result, the site is full of vintage antiques and relics of the past.
“Even though it’s been abandoned since 40 years ago when Marion Carll passed, it appeared as if she was living in another century completely,” says Sansivero.
The Property Has Ties To Walt Whitman
Here is a pile of family photos documenting the lives of the Carll family. A book about local history, Huntington’s Hidden Past by Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, revealed some interesting information about the family’s property:
“The land on which the farm stands, off Commack Road, was originally inhabited by members of the Secatougue Indian tribe. According to a deed of record from 1698, the Indians conveyed the parcel of land to John Skidmore and John Whitman, great-great-great grandfather of poet Walt Whitman.”
Next: Sansivero faced some danger while exploring the home.
Danger On The Stairs
Here we see the main staircase, which must have been a grand sight when the house was constructed in 1860. There is another stairway in the home that leads to the basement. The other flight of stairs was not in such good condition, reports Sansivero.
“We were only in the basement once and I did not get any pictures of it. The stairs collapsed as we were going back up,” he says. Old abandoned buildings, while beautiful, can be very dangerous to explore.
A Breathtaking Find In The Parlor
If not for the accumulated dust and debris, this room looks just like it did when Marion Carll lived in the house. This ornately carved piano must have played some beautiful music over the years.
Before technology brought about the radio and other means of playing music, instruments like the piano were a big part of domestic recreation and social life. Families would gather around to listen and sing along, as someone entertained the household with their musical talents.
Assortment Of Historical Objects
Various glass bottles sit atop many pieces of furniture in the house. Vintage bottles like these are now snapped up by collectors hoping to own an unusual piece of the past. Some contained medicine, and others contained common household staples like the large bottle of olive oil.
The blue booklet at left reads: “Program of the Thirty-Third Annual Sea Girt Interstate Tournament.” This competition was put on by the Association of American International Riflemen. The 33rd event would have taken place in 1926.
Frozen In Time
This cobweb-covered alarm clock has hands that are frozen in time at 2:54. Next to it rests a glass bottle that once held C. C. Parsons’ Household Ammonia, a popular household cleaner.
Vintage treasure hunters hoping to investigate the Carll homestead for themselves are out of luck. After Sansivero documented these artifacts, the house was emptied. “The valuables have been cleared out now, and both security and cameras keep watch on it 24/7,” he says.
Cage Crinolines Line The Attic Storage Room
Not only does the farmhouse have a basement, but it also has storage areas in the attic. There are beds in here too, indicating that this room was also used for sleeping — possibly for household staff.
The walls have several steel cage crinoline petticoats hanging from special hooks on the wall. This style of underskirt became extremely popular throughout Europe and North America after first being patented in April of 1856. These appear to be in great condition given their age.
Still Life Portrait From The Past
The artificial flowers in this domestic arrangement have held up well over the years, their colors still vibrant and cheerful. A teacup rests next to the flowers as if waiting for someone to reach over and take a sip.
The upholstered furniture here hasn’t endured as well, although it looks like it was once a comfy place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea. It’s scenes like this that caused photographer Bryan Sansivero to say, “More than any other house I’ve explored, this one felt completely like stepping back in time.”
The Desk Of A Lifelong Educator
This was likely Marion Carll’s desk. Born in the farmhouse in 1885, she attended a one-room schoolhouse when she was young. Carll attended high school in Jamaica, Queens, before moving back to Commack and working in education for the rest of her career.
She frequently invited students to come visit the farm in order to learn about local history and farm life. A Commack grammar school was renamed the Marion E. Carll School in 1957. As we know, Carll generously bequeathed the farm to the Commack School District.
Multiple Outbuildings On The Site
There are multiple buildings on the nine-acre farmstead, including a privy (outhouse), a garage, smokehouse, milk house, carriage house, horse barn, sheep barn, and four additional smaller barns.
This is the interior of one of the barns. Bryan Sansivero says that the antique farm equipment in the building helped to show the property’s history as a working farm. In Marion Carll’s will, she specifically requested that all the farm’s outbuildings be maintained “as historical museums.”
What Was Kept In This Safe?
A locked safe can arouse curiosity about its contents, and this old one from the past is no different. It was manufactured by Cincinnati-based Hall’s Safe Company, founded in the 1800s.
This one is etched with the name “A.J. McCarthy, D.D.S.” and an online search indicates that he was a faculty member at the University of Buffalo’s Department of Dentistry. It’s not clear how the safe ended up on the farmstead.
Fireplaces Throughout The Home
As was common in homes built in the days before central heating and cooling were available, the Carll residence had fireplaces in multiple rooms. Many of them are still in great condition, such as this marble fireplace in a sitting room.
The fireplace would have provided a warm welcome to the person who sat in this corner, reading a book or chatting with company on a cold winter’s night. If not for the wallpaper peeling from the walls, this is probably a pretty good idea of how the room looked in Carll’s time.
“History… Just Lying Around Everywhere”
Sansivero says, “this particular house stood to me out because of the history that was just lying around everywhere.” Every room held a new treasure to discover like this blue-and-white China set still in remarkably good condition.
There are several other artifacts in this kitchen scene, such as an oil-burning lamp and a tea kettle. The ceiling in this room has decayed and is now falling in, appearing ready to collapse completely.
Some Parts Of The Farmhouse Were Better Preserved Than Others
We saw an attic room earlier, and now here’s a hallway that’s also located on the top level of the house. This area of the home was probably used for storage and as living accommodations for the household staff.
Entire chunks of the ceiling have come down, the walls are stained, and debris covers the floor. Although it’s quite a mess, this long-disused hallway holds many clues to the past.
A Closer Look At Another Fireplace
In this room, a woman in a dress peers out from a portrait, perched above a well-preserved fireplace mantle. Two additional portraits adorn the walls: one of a child hanging to the left, and one featuring a child and dog on the right.
A teacup rests on the mantle as if it was just placed there by someone in passing. This photo also offers a glimpse of some lamp cords, electricity being one of the few modern conveniences enjoyed by Ms. Carll during her years here.
On The National Register Of Historic Places
Despite the property’s state of decay, the Marion Carll Farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. There are more than one million properties on the National Register.
To be considered for inclusion, a property has to meet at least one of four criteria: it must make a contribution to the major pattern of American history, be associated with significant people of the American past, have distinctive architectural characteristics, or be “likely to yield information important to prehistory or history.”
Old Photos Offer Historical Clues
These photographs of the Carll family give us a closer look at the people who called the farmstead home. Although unidentified, their clothing makes it clear that they were well-to-do.
“Going through many photographs and documents gave us glimpses into the family’s history, and how they lived in the past,” says Sansivero. These precious artifacts were spread out across a table in one room of the house, and are now safely stored off premises.
According to the Marion Carll Preserve, a non-profit organization that aims to “restore and sustainably manage Ms. Carll’s gift in perpetuity while honoring the conditions of her will,” the only modern utilities on the property are electricity, oil heating, and two bathrooms.
This photo shows an ewer and its base on a bedroom dressing table. These items were used to store water and to wash in when running tap water was unavailable. Ms. Carll’s home truly is a peek into the past.
Here’s another shot of one of the Carll farm’s many outbuildings. This one shows a sleigh and a wagon, which would have been pulled behind a horse. There’s also a wooden plow in the foreground, to the left of the sleigh.
Like the other equipment found in the barn, these historic relics of transportation offer an intriguing look at how the various outbuildings would have been used on a working farm.
Reflecting On The Past
Long before home makeover television shows turned America on to putting shiplap wall paneling everywhere, clapboard was commonly used to cover walls. Clapboard was usually made of split oak, and in New England, it was typically hung vertically, as we see here in one of the Carll home’s washrooms.
Only the house knows all the things that have been reflected in this gold-framed mirror over the years — a secret it will never be able to share.
Before Clothing Was Store-Bought
Here is Ms. Carll’s sewing machine, exactly where she left it. Since the property houses several barns, it’s likely that the wool pictured here was harvested from one of the farm’s own sheep.
Ms. Carll appears to have been an avid clothing maker, given some of the dress forms found throughout the property. We also see another lamp with an electrical cord. This would have allowed Carll to continue her sewing past nightfall.
Humphrey’s ’30’ Tonic
Empty glass bottles of medicines and household cleaners are situated throughout the house. This close-up shot of a fireplace mantle shows a bottle containing a medicine called “Humprey’s 30.” The label indicates that the tonic was used for “simple disorders of the bladder and bedwetting.”
The company, based in New York City, also manufactured a Tonic #6 for Cholera, a Homeopathic Veterinary Remedy for animals with indigestion, and many other concoctions.
A Trove Of Reading Material
It’s natural that an educator and historian like Marion Carll would have been an avid reader. There are several bookcases throughout the home. This case is made of crates that once held “Splendor Sunkist Oranges” from the San Fernando Heights Orange Association in San Fernando, California.
We see a well-used dictionary, a book about government, one called Modern Europeans, and many more. Most of them appear to be in fairly good shape considering their environment.
Take A Closer Look At The Bottles
A close look at this assortment of vintage glass bottles shows something surprising: one of them held Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, a product still available today! It’s used to treat constipation, heartburn, nausea, upset stomach, and general indigestion.
The phrase “milk of magnesia” was first used in 1872, by an English pharmacist named Charles Henry Phillips. His sons ran the company for a few years after his death, but the brand name has been owned by Bayer since 1995.
Another Rare Electric Convenience
We’ve seen that Ms. Carll had electric lighting in her home, and here’s another rare modern amenity she kept: a table-top fan. It rests here on a console table in front of badly stained wallpaper, most likely in a hallway.
There are also some books and a newspaper in this scene. The larger green book is titled Dogs for Profit by Rowland Johns and Leonard Taylor, and the other is called The Basics of Breeding, with the single name Whitney listed as the author.
Curio Cabinet Just Filled With Antiques
Here’s a larger shot of the clock and bottle scene we saw earlier. This curio cabinet is covered in a variety of interesting antiques. There are a ceramic horse and a rabbit here, and lots of medicine bottles. Most of their labels are too disintegrated to read, unfortunately.
The bottom shelf holds some maps and wooden crates, including one labeled “Kirkman’s.” The smaller bottles seen in these crates might have held spices such as salt and pepper.
An Avid Seamstress
This blouse on a shirt form and the box containing spools of thread were found in the home’s master bedroom, which is where Ms. Carll slept. She appears to have been a very good seamstress based on the clothing and sewing equipment found throughout the house.
The shirt, although stained from years of exposure, contains extensive embroidery work and detailing — clearly not the work of a novice tailor. Perhaps Ms. Carll herself wore the blouse.
The Dining Room
Here, we see the home’s dining room, still completely furnished. There’s a china hutch to the left, Ms. Carll’s desk, some extra chairs, and the dining table which is covered with artifacts.
The modern garbage can off to the right indicates that someone might have been trying to clean up the home, or perhaps it was placed there to catch water from one of the ceiling’s many leaks. The property is completely closed to the public, so it would have been brought there by someone with official access to the home.
Surrounded By History
Ms. Carll’s love of history carried over into her everyday life. The issue of The Northport Journal dated Thursday, March 30, 1952, included this recounting of an event hosted by her at the farmstead.
The “Tercentenary meeting of the Commack Committee was held Thursday evening with Miss Marion Carll. Many interesting antiques were displayed and the conversation on old time events was greatly enjoyed.” She was also known to host local schoolchildren for demonstrations on history and farming.
More About The Carll Family
According to Preservation Long Island, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the area’s cultural legacy, this photo of Marion Carll dates to the 1950s. The organizations’ website provides this additional information about Carll and her family.
“The Carll family has family deep roots on Long Island, including ties to Sagitikos Manor, which Marion’s ancestor, Timothy Carll, purchased from the Dutch colonial Van Cortlandt family in 1706; ownership of Sagtikos Manor eventually passed to the Thompson family of Setauket, then the Gardiner family, while the Carlls continued to be prominent members of communities in and around the Huntington area.”
Nominated As An “Endangered Historic Place” In 2011
In 2011, the nonprofit Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities listed four sites on its annual list of endangered historic places. The Carll Farmstead was one of them. Robert C. Hughes is the historian of Huntington, near Commack. He nominated the site, and had this to say about the historic property in a New York Times article.
“It’s a wonderful time capsule not only because of the collection of buildings but also because of their contents. Attention must be paid to this property, and money must be raised.”
The Farm’s Future
The Commack district’s director of community relations, Debbie Virga, says that the Marion Carll Farm committee has been meeting with the school board and local residents to discuss ways to preserve the historic home. Virga says that Commack is lacking open spaces and that the farm would be ideal as a public park.
Cynthia Clark is a member of another group working to save the Carll Farm. She told a local news outlet, News12, that she worries that some of the proposals being presented “may not preserve its historic nature according to Marion Carll’s wishes.” Clark’s proposal “includes a working organic farm, an education center and making the farm a restored historic site.”
The Huntington Historical Society
People who are interested in learning more about Marion Carll, her family, or their amazing historic property, can visit the nearby Huntington Historical Society. The Society houses two volumes of books containing historical information about the Carlls.
According to the organization’s website, “Edwin L. Soper (1917-1990) collected information about local families and their allied lines. He donated copies of his material on a regular basis and upon his death the remainder of his material was donated to the Resource Center.” Soper bequeathed both books about the Carlls to the Society.
The Huntington Historical Society Owns A Historic Sewing School
Huntington, New York, near Commack, is the site of one of the country’s earliest vocational schools: the Huntington Sewing and Trade School. It taught sewing and housekeeping lessons to young women, and also taught trades to local young men. Perhaps the school, which was built in 1905, helped to inspire Ms. Carll to sew.
In 2017, the building was renovated thanks to assistance from philanthropist Doris Buffett, the sister of financier Warren Buffett. It now serves as the archival facility for the Huntington Historical Society.
Marion Carrl’s Legacy
The hamlet of Commack was growing rapidly in the early 1960s, and the school bearing Ms. Carll’s name was closed. But as noted in the local paper Smithtown Matters, her legacy did not end with the school’s closing.
Her “legacy was not the Marion Carll School, her legacy was community involvement, commitment to education, love of Commack, its residents, and the Marion Carll Farm,” reports the paper. “It was in this spirit that Marion Carll left her farm and its cherished possessions to the Commack School District.”