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Historic Oyster Bay house damaged by fire

The Mill Pond House, seen Sunday, March 23,

The Mill Pond House, seen Sunday, March 23, 2014, is the oldest home in Oyster Bay hamlet. The house was damaged in a fire on Saturday. Credit: Steve Pfost

A suspicious fire that severely damaged a historic Oyster Bay building Saturday night was the second blaze there in less than a week, authorities said.

Nassau County police said its arson-bomb squad is investigating the fire at the 334-year-old Mill Pond House on West Shore Road. The fire, which scorched the vacant structure owned by the Town of Oyster Bay, started at 9:25 p.m. Saturday.

The fire marshal and arson-bomb squad detectives have deemed the fire suspicious in a preliminary investigation, police said.

Police said 100 firefighters from the Oyster Bay, Atlantic Steamer, Locust Valley and Bayville departments used 15 pieces of equipment to extinguish the flames.

The blaze was the second at the building in less than a week. Last Monday night, firefighters put out a small fire that damaged one room of the historic structure, said Roy Johanson, chief of the Oyster Bay Fire Company No. 1.

"Two fires, same place," he said.

It was unclear Sunday whether last Monday's fire was also considered suspicious. Leonard Genova, the town's deputy supervisor and town attorney, said the town had boarded up the structure's windows and increased public-safety patrols after that blaze.

The effort, he said, was to "try and avoid this very instance that happened last night."

Genova said town public safety officers have been stationed at the building around the clock since Saturday night's fire.

The town's building commissioner along with engineers and consultants will assess the condition of the structure this morning, he said.

"It does seem like it has to come down," Genova said of the building, which he called dangerous.

In 2008, the town of Oyster Bay purchased the Mill Pond House and two acres around it from developer Charles Wang for $1.9 million. It is one of the oldest structures in the hamlet, and was declared a landmark by the town board in 1976.

The town has been trying to figure out how to restore the building, work that carried a price tag estimated in 2012 to be as much as $5 million.

"Obviously we're all very saddened by it," Genova said. "It had historical significance."

Anyone with information about the fire can call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 800-244-8477.

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