Huntington Town revamps historic district

Tom Hogan stands near a garage in the Tom Hogan stands near a garage in the area where The Chichester House will be moved to in Huntington. (July 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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An innovative development plan in the Town of Huntington aimed at preserving endangered historic buildings, giving them new life and providing an economic boost to the area is in the works.

The town board is considering rezoning the 1.7-acre Sunny Pond Farm on Park Avenue from residential to office residence to allow the creation of a campus, which town officials say is the only one of its kind in town, consisting of historic structures that would be renovated and repurposed as office or residential space. The idea is to allow the relocation of historic buildings in other parts of the town in danger of being demolished.

Town officials said the number of buildings to be placed on site would depend on space and zoning.

"I felt very strongly that the appropriate use of that land would be residential-office use, a joint use," said Tom Hogan, who owns Sunny Pond Farm, south of North Woodhull Road. "It's really reverting to what existed in history: everybody's house was their store, their office, their doctor's."

Hogan, a former Oyster Bay town board member and the innovator behind the Cold Spring Harbor Fire House Museum, came up with the idea that will save endangered historic buildings and satisfy his love of history while providing an economic boost.

Currently on the site is Ketcham House, circa 1770, which Hogan relocated last year from East Northport because it was in danger of being demolished. By the end of summer the James P. Chichester House, built in 1790 on Woodhull Road, will be moved to the site, Hogan said.

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Once the second building is in place, the two will be connected, their interiors renovated and rented as office space. There are also two other structures currently on the site, including a residence built in 1881.

The town board is expected to vote on the zone change at its Aug. 13 meeting. Supervisor Frank Petrone said the site sits in the Old Huntington Green Historic District, which encompasses parts of Park Avenue and East Main Street. He said Hogan's plan makes sense.

"It protects the historic value of the structures, keeps them in town or brings them into town and builds on a historic area," Petrone said. "And [it] provides well-needed office space."

Historians are also wowed by the plan. "Tom Hogan has a track record of doing the right thing with historic buildings," town historian Robert Hughes said. "It's going to be a very attractive property when he's done."

Hogan said while tenants for the office space are still far off, he has an idea of the types of businesses he would like to attract.

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"I would like for it to go toward some charitable use," he said. "Something that is related to history because that's what it's all about." He also suggested some type of "contemplative" professional, like a therapist's office.

But he said not knowing is part of the excitement.

"I'm a firm believer if you create something wonderful," he said, "people will come."

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