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Town, county officials debate fate of Norton House in Coram

Civic groups say the former post office on Middle Country Road should be saved, but some Brookhaven leaders question the structure’s historical value.

The Norton House in Coram, seen on Wednesday,

The Norton House in Coram, seen on Wednesday, is believed to be about 200 years old. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Brookhaven and Suffolk County officials are debating the fate of an aging Coram building that some civic leaders believe is the community’s former post office.

Community leaders want to rebuild the Norton House on Middle Country Road, if Suffolk officials agree to seize the structure for unpaid back taxes. But town officials have authorized its demolition, saying it is unsafe and likely beyond repair.

Town officials have given the property’s owners three months to repair or demolish the house, unless the county agrees to seize it.

Civic leaders, backed by county Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), hope to add the structure — believed to be about 200 years old — to the hamlet’s historical district. Seizing the property requires approval by county agencies and the legislature — before the building is demolished.

“We need to work fast,” Anker said in an interview.

The Norton House, named for original owner Nathaniel Norton, a veteran of the French and Indian Wars who died in 1837, became Coram’s post office in 1886 and was used for that purpose for about 30 years, civic leaders said.

It was a store until it was vacated about 12 years ago, said Maryanne Douglas, president of the Davis Town Meeting House Society in Coram, one of several civic groups trying to save the Norton House.

“We’re hoping that we can work a miracle on this house, because it would be a shame to lose it,” said Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association.

Property records show the building and an adjoining property are owned by Cefalu Properties in Manhattan. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

County officials said Cefalu has racked up a total of $71,438.70 in back taxes on the two properties since 2014.

Some town officials are skeptical that the house has any historical value and believe it should be razed for safety reasons. An engineer hired by the town found it was in “a state of advanced decay.”

“It’s not on any historical register,” Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in an interview. “If the county takes it, the county may be able to work with [residents] to rehab this to see if it’s salvageable.”

Anker said county officials are exploring whether the house can be seized for unpaid taxes. She said the county could work with nonprofit groups to restore the house.

“Once you lose a historic structure . . . a valuable part of history is gone forever,” Anker said. “We need to do everything we can to preserve these historical homes. They are the legacy of Long Island.”

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