Historic Bedell House torn down, angering preservationists
Nassau County workers have demolished the deteriorating Bedell House at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 31 years after it was moved from West Hempstead to save it from that fate.
The county, which razed the structure on Monday, had planned to restore the home that farmer Hiram Bedell built in 1833. But officials did not stabilize it to keep out the weather or prevent decay, to the chagrin of preservationists.
Alexandra Wolfe, director of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, said, "It's a real shame after so much money, research and hard work went into creating the Old Bethpage restoration that it should fall on such hard times that the county ends up having to tear down the very buildings it was supposed to save."
Old Bethpage Village Restoration was launched in 1963 as a collection of historic homes, farms and businesses moved to the 209-acre site to create a mid-19th century farming community to allow tourists to step into Long Island's past. The county's vision for the Bedell House was never realized.
"It's unfortunate, but not surprising," Wolfe said. "Nassau County's reputation as a steward of historic properties leaves a lot to be desired."
Last year, officials declared the home beyond saving and said they planned to tear it down and incorporate its architectural adornments in a replica, which officials said would cost $700,000.
The replica is on hold because of financial constraints, so officials plan to erect a bandstand to replace the house.
County parks spokeswoman Mary Studdert said the house was razed "to ensure the safety of the visitors and employees. The house was never open to the public as it was not structurally sound and was significantly deteriorated due to insect and water damage."
Studdert added that "key items of architectural interest and value were salvaged, including period moldings and mantelpieces, an ornate entryway, sidelights and various other items and glass."
They probably will be used as spare parts for repairing other buildings if the replica is not built, she said. "It's possible" for the future, Studdert said of the replica, "but it's not in the budget right now."
Instead, "the area will be made into a town square complete with a 19th century bandstand." A garden will be planted there this summer.
Erin Tobin of the Preservation League of New York State said, "It's so disheartening when an organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting history chooses to obliterate it. This kind of loss is especially distressing" because her organization offers grants for stabilization plans.