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Plans in the works for county to acquire old Coram house, officials say

The Norton House, a 200-year-old home on Middle

The Norton House, a 200-year-old home on Middle Country Road, is believed to have been a former post office. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Suffolk County officials are working to finalize plans to acquire an abandoned Coram house that some residents believe is the hamlet’s former post office.

Coram civic leaders said they are hopeful that they can turn the Norton House on Middle Country Road into a museum if county officials can buy the deteriorating abode from its owner or seize it for nonpayment of more than $80,000 in back taxes owed on the house and two adjacent commercial properties.

Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said last week that county officials are working on plans to settle the tax dispute. She said the county and Brookhaven Town may jointly buy the property.

Maryanne Douglas, a Coram civic activist, said the property was abandoned about 30 years ago and is in “poor condition.” Civic groups would manage the property if the county can acquire it.

“Once that’s set, we feel that we can start hacking away at the debris around the house,” said Douglas, president of the Davis Town Meeting House Society, which manages another historic property in Coram. “We would make it into a museum. … What we are trying to do is make that whole area of Coram a better place to live.”

Civic leaders believe the house is about 200 years old and was once owned by Nathaniel Norton, a veteran of the French and Indian Wars. The home served as a post office around the turn of the last century, local leaders have said.

But decades of neglect have left the house in “a state of advanced decay,” according to an engineer hired by Brookhaven Town officials to assess the property. The Brookhaven Town Board in March had ordered the house demolished if the home’s fate was not resolved in three months.

Anker, in a June 5 letter to town officials, asked for additional time to resolve the tax dispute.

Town spokesman Jack Krieger said official action is not required to extend the deadline, which had been set to expire this month.

The home’s owner, listed in property records as Manhattan-based Cefalu Properties, is willing to pay the back taxes, Anker said.

Attempts to reach Cefalu Property officials were unsuccessful.

Douglas said community groups hope to join the Norton House with other properties in Coram to create a historical district. Those other properties include a former school and the site where Continental Army troops led by Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge are believed to have burned a stack of hay stockpiled by British troops during the Revolutionary War.

Douglas said she could not estimate the cost of renovating the Norton House property, but said she hopes to defray costs by using volunteer labor and donated materials.

“I think it will be a great thing for the neighborhood, because we can put a little park around it,” she said. “It will turn out very nice for everyone.”

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