Eato House circa 1980s.

Rev. David Eato circa early 1900s.

Built early 20th c.
Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County

The Rev. David and Mary Baker Eato House is one of only five late 19th to mid-20th century structures within the core of the Bethel-Christian Avenue-Laurel Hill Historic District, an historic Native American-African American community in Setauket. The Eato House represents the vital role that African Methodist Episcopal Churches played in the development of communities on Long Island, as well as the challenges that confronted people of color before and after the abolition of slavery. Born in Roslyn in 1854, Rev. Eato became pastor of the Bethel AME Church in the early 1900s. Mrs. Eato, who taught Sunday school at the church, was born in 1863 on a southern plantation. Following emancipation, Mary moved north to Long Island where she met and married Rev. Eato. Like most people of color during the Jim Crow era, the Eatos initially rented their house in Setauket. But remarkably, after her husband’s death in 1928, Mrs. Eato was able to purchase the property, making the Eato House an important example of early African American homeownership on Long Island.

Although the Eato House has suffered from past neglect and a series of inappropriate alterations, the significance of the property remains as profound as ever. Thanks to the Bethel AME Church, which now owns the property, the building’s condition has recently improved. Critical repairs are still urgently needed to restore the building to use, but funding and administrative capacity is needed to support such a largescale rehabilitation project.

SPLIA advocates for the rehabilitation of the Eato House as a community center to promote historic preservation in the Bethel-Christian Avenue-Laurel Hill Historic District. Although the area was designated as an historic district by the Town of Brookhaven, the community continues to face outside development pressure, which prompted the neighborhood’s listing as one of the Preservation League of New York State’s Seven to Save in 2014-15. With this listing, SPLIA calls attention to the need for Long Islanders to support the advancement of preservation efforts at culturally significant sites with strong ties to our region’s historic communities of color.