A restaurant on the site of the historic Maine Maid Inn in Jericho may open this summer, but debate over preserving the look of the 1789 building continues.
Woodbury-based owner Scotto Brothers bought the building in 2014 and plans to open a 17,000-square-foot seafood restaurant in about three months, said Anthony Scotto, president of the restaurant and catering company. The building, at 4 Old Jericho Tpke., was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves.
Earlier this year, the Oyster Bay Town Board approved allowing up to 565 seats at the restaurant, nearly double the number of maximum seats at a previous eatery, although Scotto said there will be no more than 330.
Scotto tore down most of the building, a town landmark, in early 2015. The East Norwich Civic Association sued to stop demolition and, after a state Supreme Court judge temporarily halted it, reached an agreement with Scotto that the company make a reasonable effort to maintain the historic design and character of the house as Scotto reconstructed it.
Civic association president Matthew Meng said he’s pleased with how Scotto generally has followed the design of the original house’s facade and that additions blend in with the reconstructed house.
But he was unhappy to learn that Scotto is not planning to paint the shingles white, as they long had been on the original. They are now a natural wood color.
Richard Handler, the Amityville attorney for the civic association, said the stipulation requires that “the structure would be painted or stained the same historic scheme” as the original, or as in the neoclassical Adams style of architecture, he said.
Scotto said that “I’d really rather keep it the way it is at this point, because it does look a lot better.”
The dispute is the latest over how to preserve the house’s materials and character. Scotto said he kept some original bricks from four chimneys that were later reconstructed, as well as some of the original framework. But, he said, most of the house was too severely damaged to salvage.
“We’ve done all we possibly could to preserve whatever we could preserve,” he said. “The problem is there was practically nothing there. The building was falling down.”
Meng said he was in the building several weeks before demolition began and, although there was damage, “it still had great integrity,” and much of the structure could have been saved.
Meng primarily blames the town for the destruction of most of the original house, saying “it was the responsibility of the town to keep a watchful eye” on such an important piece of Long Island history.
But as he stood looking at the house on a recent morning, he said he’s relieved that, although little of the original house remains, “it is not just a monument sign on the corner: ‘Once stood here.’ At least visually you can say, ‘Well, that’s what it looked like and it stood there.’ ”
HISTORY OF MAINE MAID INN
•Built in 1789.
•Was a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves.
•Owned for years by Valentine Hicks, the namesake of Hicksville and a former Long Island Railroad president.
•Served as a post office and stagecoach stop.
•Last used as restaurant in 2009.
•Declared a town landmark in 2012.
•Most of the home was demolished in 2015.