Samuel Dodge Barn

CNPHS Historic Recognition Program

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by Joan DeMeo Lager, Curatorial Director

 

Samuel Dodge travelled from Block Island to make his home on Cow Neck in 1718, along with his cousins, brothers Thomas and Tristram Dodge, and cousin Jeremiah. They settled on the large Dodge parcels of land at the head of the inlet where the Mill Pond is today, with acreage extending as far east as Hempstead Harbor. Samuel bought land from the elder Thomas Dodge (1683-1755), the original homesteader. He built himself a house on the corner of Sandy Hollow Road (#1) in 1732, next door to the Thomas Dodge Homestead, and subsequently built himself a barn.

Over the years, the property changed hands several times. The Brunner family moved there in the 1860s and lived and worked on site, setting up store in the house on the corner. The Brunner daughter, Susanna, grew up to continue her life on Sandy Hollow Road, owning a home at #7 and the Dodge barn at #9-11, both just a little way down the road. Susie served for many years as the community’s first postmaster, riding her horse to Great Neck twice a day, sometimes at great peril, to collect the mail delivered by the LIRR at the then end of the line. She housed her horse, William J. Tilden, in the barn. In addition to collecting the mail, Susie and Mr. Tilden often did plowing for neighboring farms.

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The barn-cum-house was moved east on Sandy Hollow Road to its current site at #5 in the early 1930s. After Susie’s death in 1933, the barn was redesigned by its new owner William Pedrick, Jr. He laid a foundation and had Charles F. Dodge build a 23’ high brick and fieldstone chimney in the center of the main room to heat the board and batten and shingled structure. He added rooms, both downstairs where the stalls for the animals were, and upstairs, where the hay loft was. His new home was complete.

The barn had some interesting facets to it. There were large oak timbers that held up the hay loft balcony, and they were curved in an unusual manner, like pieces of ship timber. It is very possible that these timbers were salvaged from an old ship and repurposed in the barn. The beams were also numbered with Roman numerals, a technique used when installing and joining timber constructed at another site or when built lying flat on the ground.

 

The barn originally had two large barn entry doors at each end. Large windows replaced them during renovation. Sunlight also came in the 32-panelled front window with 16 panels on top, and 7 colored glass panels atop that. When converted, two entrance doors were added to the rear of the house, one of which would mysteriously open by itself on occasion. This led to speculation that the house was haunted, and by none other than Susie Brunner.

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But Aida Whedon didn’t think so. She and her husband Dan moved into the house in 1958, and Aida said it really was just a creaky old house. Successful artists, the Whedons put their mark on this house, adding unusual features. They turned the ground floor of their new home into an artist’s studio. They also redid the bathrooms, with the quirky downstairs bathroom reflecting the baroque quality they came to appreciate during a trip to Florence. The tub, for example, sitting in a room with marbleized wallpaper, was painted gold and trimmed with fringe. Plaster sculptures of Venus and a Greek god adorned the room complete with a hand-crafted cement clamshell sink, most of which were Dan’s creations.

 

Dan was a sculptor, ceramicist, and cabinet maker. Aida was a painter, ceramicist, sculptor, and in later years, an etcher. Her work is exhibited in numerous venues, such as IBM, RCA, and the Nassau County Museum of Art, and she was a founding member of Port’s Graphic Eye Gallery. Her tiles were incorporated into furniture frames and plaques by stores like W. & J. Sloane and Georg Jensen. They opened the Whedon School of Art in Port Washington where they taught hundreds of local children and adults for 50 years, several of whom turned into successful artists of note. The children she taught remain her legacy.

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