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Fire damages landmark 18th century house in Baxter Estates

The Baxter House in Port Washington is fully

The Baxter House in Port Washington is fully engulfed in flames early Sunday morning, Feb. 5, 2017, as seen in this photo from the Part Washington Fire Department's Facebook page. Credit: Port Washington Fire Department

The Village of Baxter Estates’ sole landmarked home was seriously damaged by a fire early Sunday, authorities said.

The Port Washington Fire Department responded to a fire about 3:30 a.m. at the Baxter House, 15 Shore Rd., and was assisted by nine local fire companies. After four hours, the fire was under control, and the Port Washington Fire Department remained on the scene until 10 a.m., according to a statement released on the department’s social media.

The village is “extremely saddened” to hear about the news after the “many years of concern and the village’s tireless efforts to save the house,” Village Clerk Chrissy Kiernan said in a statement issued Sunday.

On Sunday, residents surrounded the house, observing the home’s heavily charred main façade, which had a few remnants of the blue plastic tarp that previously covered the roof’s holes and other signs of deterioration. Construction workers boarded up the windows and installed a temporary fence around the home’s perimeter.

The house, which dates to the 18th century, was the namesake property of the village. The home’s owner, Sabrina Wu, of Flushing, had recently submitted an application to demolish the home and rebuild a replica, an idea many residents had vocally opposed.

On Friday, just two days before the fire, Wu informed the village that she intended to amend her application, seeking to restore and alter the structure rather than razing it, Kiernan said. The application was set to be heard by the village Landmark and Preservation Commission next month.

Village officials met with Wu, her architect, and attorney A. Thomas Levin of Garden City-based Meyer Suozzi on Sunday morning, Kiernan said. The village building inspector will assess the property after investigations by the fire department and other investigative units are completed.

More than 500 residents have joined a Facebook group to fight to save what remains of the Baxter House, and entreat Wu to build an exact replica.

“The foundation stands. There is still a house,” said Kathy Coley, 66, of Baxter Estates. “People are pretty destroyed about this and rueful that it could have been prevented, but we’re not going to stop.”

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