Preservationists hope Oyster Bay's historic drugstore can be saved

From left, Marie Genovese, Eugene King, co-owner of From left, Marie Genovese, Eugene King, co-owner of the Snouder's Corner Drug Store property in Oyster Bay, and realtor Patrick Valente outside the property on Monday, April 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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A "for sale" sign affixed to the exterior of historic Snouder's Corner Drug Store is making Oyster Bay preservation groups nervous.

A nonprofit foundation created three years ago to buy and restore the shuttered landmark as a community space and retail operation failed to get off the ground.

So the owners have listed the South Street property for sale.

Preservationists are now talking about forming a new nonprofit to restore the structure erected about 1863 and designated a landmark by the town in 1987 and giving it a use that would benefit the hamlet.

And if the distinctive Victorian building is sold to a commercial buyer, historians want to make sure it is protected and its century-and-a-half collection of pharmacy artifacts and documents secured.

The Snouder's Corner Drug Store Foundation formed by Huntington accountant Ray Eaton tried to raise $3 million to purchase and repurpose the structure that housed Oyster Bay's oldest continually operating business when it closed in December 2010. The drugstore opened in 1884.

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But co-owner Eugene King said the foundation "hadn't collected any money" so he and co-owner, Frank Genovese, listed the property for sale, most recently with Laffey Fine Homes, for $995,000.

King and real estate broker, Patrick Valente, have shown the debris-strewn and deteriorating time capsule with its distinctive Queen Anne-style tower to potential buyers interested in opening restaurants or a retail shop.

Some want to open the exterior walls to create a veranda for outside seating.

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The foundation had proposed the same alteration, which was opposed by the town Landmarks Commission and preservationists. The landmark designation prohibits most exterior alterations.

"You always worry" when a historic building is for sale, said Philip Blocklyn, executive director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society.

"The important thing is preservation. It would be great if it remained a retail business because that's what it was."

Laura Smiros of Oyster Bay, an architect who with her husband, Jim, donated their time to develop a set of plans for use of the building for the foundation, said, "I would still like to get a group of people together to buy and renovate that building to maintain its historic character. It has historical significance" because of its longevity and the fact it had the first telephone in Oyster Bay, which was used by Theodore Roosevelt and the reporters who covered him as governor.

King said he and Genovese, who bought Snouder's in 1976, remain open to another community nonprofit purchase plan or a commercial sale.

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Either way, he said, "The building has to be preserved."

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