When the owners of a Montauk Highway property that sits between Sunset Avenue and Beach Road in Westhampton Beach began excavating last month to make way for a new foundation, they found more than they had bargained for.
A section of dirt on the eastern side of the property contained hundreds, perhaps thousands, of old glass bottles, some appearing to date back as far as the 1860s. The ground also contained rusted pieces of metal, enough to fill the back of a van, according to North Fork developer Paul Pawlowski, who bought the 1.59-acre parcel in December with his partner, Kenneth Ballato, who lives in Westhampton Beach.
The Westhampton Beach Planning Board approved their site plans earlier this year to construct a 12,120-square-foot building for medical offices and retail shops at the site. It formerly housed Beach Hampton One-Hour Photo, but that building was torn down over the summer.
Some of the bottles, of varying sizes and colors, read “Westhampton Beach Dairy, E.H. Stevens,” and some appeared to be medicine bottles. A bottle with the same “Westhampton Beach Dairy” inscription sold for $17.50 on eBay in August.
Westhampton Beach Building Inspector Paul Houlihan is speculating that the bottles date back to the turn of the 20th century. Village records show that the site was utilized as a poultry farm prior to 1952, and had brooder houses, or heated coops for chicks or ducklings.
Bob Murray, the president of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society, could not be immediately reached for comment on the discovery.
Mr. Houlihan explained that the pieces of metal were severely corroded, making it difficult to tell if they were from the bodies of vehicles or some other machines or appliances. They did not find any engine blocks, he added. The developers found the bottles and metal starting about a foot under the surface, and continued to find them in the next four feet of soil. Once they dug below that stratum, the soil appeared to be clean of debris, according to Mr. Houlihan.
“Whatever it was, it wasn’t a huge dump, but it was some kind of informal dumping site,” he said. “It wasn’t some endless pit of garbage.”
He explained that the developers sifted through the soil to remove the bottles and metal, and then filled it back in with clean soil before laying the foundation. Mr. Pawlowski said an environmental firm researched the history of the property before he purchased it, revealing that it was formerly a duck farm. The firm also tested the soil down to the water table and determined that it was free of any sort of pollution or contamination, he added.
As for the bottles, Mr. Pawlowski said he kept some of the oldest ones, which appeared to be hand blown rather than manufactured, and gave many of them away before throwing the remainder in the trash.