A once “majestic” inn that stood on Cedar Beach Road in Southold for 230 years was demolished last Tuesday as the property’s new owners moved ahead with plans to turn the space into a community park.
An excavator ripped apart the historic General Wayne Inn, which had fallen into a state of disrepair since it closed in 1998, said Geoffrey K. Fleming, director of the Southold Historical Society.
“It’s always sad to see an old building go down, but it .?.?. couldn’t be salvaged at this point,” Fleming said.
When the building was erected in 1784 by Gilbert Horton, a farmer, blacksmith, deacon and major in the local militia, it was merely a 1.5 story cape that served as his home.
Around 1924, golf course developer Edwin H. Brown purchased the property and drastically expanded the building with plans to use the renovated home as a country club for a new course. But as construction was nearing completion, Brown opted to use another property as the country club and made the inn a restaurant called the Cedar Beach Inn. It was associated with the golf course until the entire enterprise went bankrupt in 1939, Fleming said.
The golf course was later developed into residential housing, but the restaurant remained intact and operated under the name General Wayne Inn from 1965 until it was shuttered 16 years ago.
Since then, Fleming said the property has had several owners, including one developer who wanted to build condominiums on the site. None of the plans came to fruition.
“One of the owners tore off the back wall illegally, and left the building open, so for the last 12 years, it’s been open to the elements,” Fleming said.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell recalled the inn’s better days, describing the restaurant as “very majestic” and “robust,” but said the crumbling, abandoned building attracted vermin and spurred concerns from nearby residents.
“It’s been a lightning rod for complaints for years,” Russell added.
In June 2013, the town board passed a resolution declaring the structure unsafe. Given the choice to demolish, repair or secure the property, the owner at the time chose to erect a fence around it, Russell said.
The owner eventually transferred the property to a liquidation trust, which then sold it for $415,000 in August 2013 to a group of residents living nearby who formed Cedar Beach LLC, according to Russell.
He said the neighbors, in an effort to protect their own property values and the community’s character, razed the deteriorating structure and plan to build a community park in its place.
The inn is just one example of the dozens of properties in Southold that are owned by nonresidents who neglect to maintain them, Fleming said.
“It’s really a great shame losing the history and everyone elses’ home values are going down if people aren’t maintaining properties nearby .?.?. It’s really becoming a big problem.”