The Maine Maid Inn in Jericho was built in 1789...

The Maine Maid Inn in Jericho was built in 1789 as the home for prominent Quaker Valentine Hicks. (Jan. 17, 2007) Credit: George Tsourovakas

The 223-year-old Maine Maid Inn in Jericho Tuesday became the 40th site in Oyster Bay to receive town landmark designation.

To the applause of preservationists, the town board approved the designation for the colonial farmhouse with a connection to the Underground Railroad. The listing prevents demolition without approval of the town.

In more good news for the historical community, Supervisor John Venditto said there are now two restaurateurs, who do not wish to be named publicly yet, interested in buying the building, restoring it to meet historic preservation guidelines and reopening it as an eatery.

"This really touches the history of Long Island far beyond the township," East Norwich Civic Association president Matthew Meng said before the unanimous vote. The association nominated the building on Old Jericho Turnpike for the designation.

"As long as that building stands, it will be a great example of the good things that can happen when residents . . . work together with a town government that is responsive," Venditto said.

Planning and development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito said after the meeting that Georgia-based Ciena Capital, which owns the property after foreclosing on the mortgage, had turned down the offer from the first restaurateur as insufficient. Ippolito added that he hopes to negotiate a compromise deal between the bank and the restaurateur.

He said the second restaurateur was waiting to see what happens with the initial bidder before making an offer to the bank.

The Maine Maid Inn was built in 1789 as a home for prominent Quaker Valentine Hicks and is believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. The building later served as a post office -- Hicks was a postmaster and the second president of the Long Island Rail Road -- before it became a stagecoach stop and then a restaurant in 1950. It has been empty and deteriorating for more than three years.

The town denied landmark status in 1980 but said more documentation of its historic role has surfaced in the interim.

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