An owner of the blighted Brewster House in Flanders is seeking community support to restore the dilapidated four-story structure and turn it into an inn and a restaurant.
During a Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA) meeting Monday night, Brewster House owner Keri Minnick said her husband, Jamie, who co-owns the property, was inspired after seeing the restoration work at the Jedediah Hawkins house in Jamesport.
“We really had great intentions and plans for this,” she said. “When we got shut down at the beginning, we put it a little bit on our back burner.”
Ms. Minnick is a partner in Restoration Equity Group LLC, the company that purchased the property in 2014 for $150,000.
The Brewster House — which is also known as the Hallock-Fanning House and Grove House — is located near Veterans Park in Flanders has a rich history.
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.
The house has been vacant for about 30 years.
Southampton Town Board has scheduled a May 10 public hearing for a proposal that could lead to the demolition of the structure — unless its owner makes it safe.
With that in mind, Ms. Minnick asked FRNCA members to help generate community support to restore the building.
“Rather than me tell you what I’d like to see there, I’d rather hear what you want to see,” Ms. Minnick said.
Flanders resident Susan Tocci said she’d like to see some progress.
“It’s right next to Memorial Park and it really looks like a haunted house,” Ms. Tocci said. “That’s an accident waiting to happen, that house.”
“I hear you,” Ms. Minnick responded. “We do have a plan for the building and it’s being engineered.”
Fencing was installed Monday to keep out vandals and trespassers, she said, adding much of the house will probably be “knocked down or rebuilt in some fashion” and her company is looking for partners and funding in restoring the building, she said.
“Do you have a plan to convince the town not to demolish it?” asked FRNCA president Ron Fisher.
“As far as I’m aware, they have no right to knock it down if we have plans in place,” Ms. Minnick said. “Our goal is to get permitting in place.”
Sally Spanburgh, the chair of the town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts board, said the town attorney’s office has tried to contact the property’s owners several times with no reply.
“If they continue to not hear from you, the town has every right to knock it down,” Ms. Spanburgh said. “I, for one, don’t want to see the building knocked down.”
“We can be your best friend in terms of dealing with the town,” said FRNCA treasurer and former president Vince Taldone. “No code issues are insurmountable when the community is behind you.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Ms. Minnick said. “That will be what makes it or breaks it.”
“You will have a community that will fight behind you,” Mr. Fisher said.
Photo: Keri Minnick, co-owner of the Brewster House, told FRNCA members Monday night she needs community support to turn the property into an inn and restaurant. (Credit: Tim Gannon)