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Port Jefferson eyes demolition for one of the village's oldest houses

Port Jefferson officials are considering tearing down this

Port Jefferson officials are considering tearing down this vacant house on Sheep Pasture Road. Officials say the house, dating back to the 18th century and seen here on Friday, is unsafe.  Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

One of Port Jefferson's oldest houses may be torn down as part of a campaign to rid the village of blighted buildings.

But a history buff says the two-story house on Sheep Pasture Road should be preserved as one of the village's last examples of 18th century architecture.

The boarded-up structure, known as the Tooker house for the family that built it, has been vacant for several years, village officials said. The house is privately owned by Jericho-based Tab Suffolk Acquisitions LLC, property records show.

Anthony Butera, a member of the board of the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, said he has lobbied village officials to save the house for what he said is its historical value. Besides its age, the house contains some of its original construction material, including wooden beams, he said.

“I really don’t think there’s another 18th century example in the village,” Butera, 58, said in an interview. “They [village officials] said, 'We can’t touch that building, it’s privately owned.' Now they’re tearing it down.”

Port Jefferson Mayor Margot J. Garant said the village board held a hearing last month to discuss the property. The board voted to demolish the house, but officials have not put out bids to hire a demolition crew.

Garant said engineers deemed the house unsafe and found problems such as exposed wires and collapsing Sheetrock. She said village residents have clamored for the house to be razed. 

“The property’s been vacant. It’s torn apart inside. The house has been occupied by vandals," she said. "We can’t let this property remain here. It’s a bad situation.”

The house is several blocks west of Port Jefferson's Upper Port section, near the Long Island Rail Road station in the  southern part of the village, which officials have targeted for a revitalization project. Village officials plan to classify some Upper Port buildings as blight so they can be replaced by new shops and apartments.

Garant said the village has sent notices to Tab Suffolk Acquisitions about the plan to condemn the Tooker house, but the company has not responded. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Despite its age, the house is not a designated state or national historic landmark, Butera said, adding the historical society could not purchase the property.

“We don’t have the resources for that,” he said. “I’m sure the village has the funds available, and they could go to the state and they could go to the federal government, and I’m sure they would give them money.

“It would also be a terrible loss for the village. The property is kind of untouched the way it is. … It would be a great attraction for the village.”

Garant said the village has no interest in buying the house and she hopes its owners decide the sell the property.

“I have an obligation to protect the neighborhood,” she said. “If the historical society wants to get in there and have an engineer take a look at it and salvage whatever it wants to salvage, I encourage them to take a look at it. … If you want to save the house, buy it.”

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