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Oyster Bay hamlet historic drugstore faces demolition

The owner of Snouder’s Corner Drug Store says the structure has deteriorated too much to save, but preservationists vow to fight the plan.

Preservationists and community leaders are fighting to save the historic Snouder's Corner Drug Store in Oyster Bay hamlet. The owner, Hamid Nazif, said the building may be too deteriorated to save. Preservationists disagree.     (Credit: David Olson)

Oyster Bay preservationists and community leaders are vowing to fight plans by the owner of the former Snouder’s Corner Drug Store to demolish all or most of the historic structure in Oyster Bay hamlet.

Great Neck businessman Hamid Nazif said the interior of the building — parts of which date from the mid-1700s — is too deteriorated to salvage. He said he’s consulting with an architect and engineer on whether any of the wooden Victorian-style exterior can be saved, but he said it appears unsalvageable.

“All those shingles there are rotten, they’re hollow,” said Nazif, who bought the building in 2015, five years after the store closed. “They have no value.”

Nazif is planning a building for the site with retail on the ground floor and about six apartments on two floors above.

Parts of the interior were installed when the structure was a residence in the 1700s, said John Collins, a historic preservation consultant and member of the Town of Oyster Bay Landmarks Preservation Commission. Most of the exterior bordering South and West Main streets — including the gabled roof and a protruding “tower” — is from the late 1800s,

“Its quirkiness is where its historical charm is,” Collins said.

The South and Main facades are protected by the town’s landmarks law, although that law allows for demolition or alteration to remedy unsafe or dangerous conditions.

Collins said Nazif hired him two years ago to document the building’s layout and said it is not unsafe. About 10 percent of the shingles need replacing, but the rest are “in pretty good shape,” Collins said.

Nazif said he prefers to build a modern “replica” of the building in which “99.9 percent is going to be the same.”

But a replica is not the same as the structure that was home to the town’s first telephone, used by future President Theodore Roosevelt, historians said.

“We’ll fight to have the building restored,” said Harriet Gerard Clark, executive director of Oyster Bay’s Raynham Hall Museum.

“We believe the building should be preserved and can be preserved,” said Clark, who raised concerns that an open window at the building indicates it is not being properly maintained. “It’s probably a question of significant investment, but he bought the building knowing it was a landmark.”

Meredith Maus, executive director of the Oyster Bay Main Street Association, which focuses on downtown revitalization and preservation, said the building “represents a lot in Oyster Bay,” including the transition of the hamlet from a summer vacation spot to a year-round residence.

“A building is a landmark for a reason,” she said.

SNOUDER’S CORNER DRUG STORE

  • Parts of the interior date from the mid-1700s, with most of the Victorian exterior facing South and West Main streets from the late 1800s.
  • A former home that became a drugstore in 1884.
  • Was the site of the first telephone and switchboard in Oyster Bay in 1887.
  • Designated a town landmark in 1987.
  • Closed as a drugstore in 2010
  • Purchased by businessman Hamid Nazif in 2015 for $690,000.

Sources: Historians and historical literature

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