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Historic house in Flanders could be demolished next

03/31/2016 12:20 PM |

historic house demolish

Believed to have been built around 1880 and referred to over the years by names like the Hallock-Fanning House, Grove House and Brewster House, the three-and-a-half story structure near Veterans Park in Flanders certainly has a rich history.

The building has also been falling apart for more than a decade and, according to Southampton Town officials, could now be dangerous.

That’s why the Southampton Town Board has scheduled a May 10 public hearing for a proposal that could lead to the demolition of the Flanders Road structure — unless its owner makes it safe.

“The property is dangerous and unsafe and not properly maintained,” a resolution scheduling the 1 p.m. hearing states.

The building’s roof reportedly still contains a hole caused by an 1987 fire. The structure was painted several years ago, but most of its windows are broken and boarded up.

Restoration Equity Group LLC, which purchased the building for $150,000 in 2014, will be given 30 days from the close of the public hearing to either make the structure safe or demolish it. Otherwise, the town will tear down the building itself and charge the cost of the work to the owner’s property taxes.

But Teri Minnick, a principal with Restoration Equity Group, said she is in the process of applying for permits to restore the building, though she declined to elaborate on what plans the group has for it.

“We want to make this a nice project for the community,” she said. “Something that’s going to be meaningful and also beautiful.”

Ms. Minnick said there has been a lot of vandalism at the property.

“It’s a great community relic. I know from the outside it looks so bad, and when we bought it it had already been in that condition for almost 20 years,” she said. “When we’re done with it, it’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be something the community can be proud of it. And we want the community to use it, also.”

The Flanders Hamlet Heritage Area report, conducted in April 2014 by Southampton Town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts board, states the building was constructed around 1880 and once functioned as the Grove House, Capt. Robert W. Penny’s “very popular boarding house.”

Around 1922, the Brewster family was operating the 28-room structure as a boarding house. It was also briefly home to the Flanders Club in the 1920s and served as a police headquarters in the early 1950s. In fact, then-police chief William Ashauer died by suicide in the building in 1959, according to the town’s report.

Gary Cobb, founder of Flanders Village Historical Society, told the News-Review in 2010 that beams in the structure’s basement indicate that parts of it may date as far back as the 17th century.

Southampton Town historian Zachary Studenroth said he toured the building about a decade ago and also found evidence suggesting part of it is older than originally believed.

According to Mr. Studenroth, the building is likely Flanders’ oldest surviving structure.

When interviewed this week, residents expressed mixed feelings about demolishing the building, which is commonly referred to as the Brewster House.

“The Brewster House has structural elements that date back to the 1700s and it has a long history as a resort destination for New York power brokers including many famous visitors, like Teddy Roosevelt, who came to the area to hunt and fish,” said Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

The Brewster House is one of 15 blighted properties in the Flanders and Riverside area that several civic leaders identified for possible demolition earlier this month.

The Southampton Town Board has already scheduled a similar public hearing concerning one of those properties, 90 Point Road in Flanders, for 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 12.

Janice Jay Young of Flanders, a member of the town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts board, said she has been trying to convince someone to save the Brewster House for years.

“I had organized a tour of the Brewster House for any potential stakeholders about 10 years ago,” she said. “We couldn’t get much support then … it needed a champion and a strong steward.”

Ms. Young said she had hoped the building’s current owner would be able to salvage it.

Hugh Wyatt, the building’s previous owner, told the News-Review in 2010 that he tried to get Southampton Town to purchase the structure using Community Preservation Funds. The town declined, he said.

“This kind of project takes a lot of time,” Ms. Minnick said. “And we want to be sensitive to the way the neighbors perceive it and also to what is really going to be the best use for it.”

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Photo: The Southampton Town Board has scheduled a May 10 hearing on a proposal to demolish the historic Brewster House in Flanders, which is more than 130 years old. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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