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Huntington firehouse prompts fight between town, building owner

Huntington Historic Preservation Commission recommends that the town

Huntington Historic Preservation Commission recommends that the town board designate the building at 235 Main St., as a local historic landmark, thus preserving it. The building's owner wants to demolish the structure and build apartments on the site. July 31, 2016. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Plans to transform what long ago was the Huntington firehouse on Main Street into a mixed-use building could be extinguished.

The owner of the building, which is home to the Classic Galleries furniture store, wants to demolish it to build a multifloor building with more than 100 apartments and parking spaces.

But the town Historic Preservation Commission recommends that the town board designate the building, at 235 Main St., as a local historic landmark, thus preserving it.

Town historian Robert Hughes said everything from the original firehouse is intact except the apparatus doors, which fire trucks used to access the building. Those doors were replaced with storefront windows many years ago. Preservation protects only the outside of the building.

Hughes said the building creates a sense of place and history and speaks to the development of Huntington village at the turn of the 20th century.

“What’s motivating this recommendation is the streetscape, the exterior appearance of this building, and what it does for that stretch of Main Street and, by extension, the whole village,” Hughes said.

The building sits in the Old Town Hall Historic District, which includes the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building built in 1892, the Sewing and Trade School Building built in 1905 and the Old Town Hall, which was constructed in 1910. All of those buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“What we’re trying to do with the firehouse, which belongs with those other three thematically and historically, is to get it protected as well,” Hughes said.

But Alan Fromkin, owner of the building since the 1980s, said the structure is in disrepair and the property could be put to better use.

“We’ve got a phenomenal project that we are working on and it’ll be something great,” he said. “It would be a big hardship for them to designate the building historic.”

The building was built in 1912 and used as a firehouse until 1958. It has been a furniture store since 1961.

Hughes said the fact that the building has not been used as a firehouse for more than 50 years should not be a concern.

“Historic buildings do not lose their historic quality because they are no longer used for their original purpose,” he said.

Fromkin disagrees.

“It lost its historic identity once they changed the doors and converted it into a showroom,” he said. “And way back it was a building on the corner; it’s no longer on the corner, it has buildings on either side. Really, there’s almost nothing historic about the building.”

The town held a public hearing on July 12 on the matter and has 90 days to decide on the preservation commission’s recommendation.

Firehouse facts

1843: Huntington Fire Department established

1912: Department moved to Main Street location

1958: Department moved to its current home on Leverich Place

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