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Editorial: Saving The Day For Preservation

The Oyster Bay Town Board has approved town landmark status for the Maine Maid Inn, also known as the Valentine Hicks House, in Jericho, announced Town Supervisor John Venditto at the May 15 town board meeting.    

“The Town Landmarks Preservation Commission had recommended that the now-closed Maine Maid Inn, which was housed in the ca. 1789 Valentine Hicks House, be designated a town landmark, citing it as ‘a place of historic value and aesthetic interest by reason of its architectural design and uniqueness as part of the history of the Town of Oyster Bay,’” Supervisor Venditto said. “At a November 15, 2011 hearing, the town board heard experts in the field of historic preservation give supporting reasons why the building should be designated a landmark.

“As one of the oldest remaining structures in the Town of Oyster Bay, the Maine Maid Inn has been an important part of the fabric and history of Jericho since it was built in the 1780s,” the supervisor continued. “From its original incarnation as the home of prominent local resident Valentine Hicks and his family to one of the best known restaurants on Long Island, the Inn represents the very essence of Jericho. Landmarking the property will ensure that this unique architectural and historical treasure will be preserved for posterity.”

Mr. Venditto told the board there were two restaurants interested in buying the property. The next step for the Maine Maid Inn is for an application to be sent to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Preservation to receive state landmark designation. It needs the signature of the owner on the application. After that an application to the federal government would be needed so that it could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The benefit of state and national level landmark designation makes a commercial property eligible for tax credits.

At the board meeting Supervisor Venditto congratulated East Norwich Civic Association President Matthew Meng who was the lead person in getting the landmark designation for the Maine Maid Inn. He even had to persuade his board to go along with his project, which included hiring attorney Richard Handler, an expert in preservation law to present their case. He is still about $250 short of the payment due Mr. Handler for his excellent preparation of the expert witnesses for the landmark case. The ENCA would welcome donations from the public if they are so interested.

Interestingly, on Wednesday, May 16, the Town of Oyster Bay Landmarks Preservation Commission was scheduled to meet to hear the request of the Visiting Nurse Association to remove the landmark designation from their building at 193 South Street, at the corner of Irving Place. The property includes 193A, the home of the Youth & Family Counseling Agency (YFCA) of Oyster Bay-East Norwich. The building is leased at a nominal fee to the Community Foundation of Oyster Bay, which leases it to YFCA of which they are its main supporter, especially in these tough economic times.

“In November of last year, Claire Bellerjeau alerted the Oyster Bay Historical Society that the VNA was moving and clearing out their building. OBHS Librarian /Archivist Nicole Menchise called the VNA and asked if the society could have their records, which they agreed to and currently she has processed them and there is a ‘finding aide’ to locate items,” said Philip Blocklyn, OBHS executive director.

“People have been calling for information about the building from our archives. The building is important in a lot of ways to the history of the community. The building is the only physical evidence of their being in Oyster Bay. We have preserved their records. Claire Bellerjeau, bless her heart, noticed the VNA’s closing on Thanksgiving weekend last November and alerted us about it.”

Mr. Blocklyn was one of the many people who planned to attend the TOB LPC meeting on Wednesday, May 16, to speak in favor of the town maintaining the landmark designation for the VNA building, which was given in 1987. When the real estate agent received several calls from the press interested in reporting on the proposal, the request was withdrawn by the owners. Unfortunately, the TOB LPC chose not to meet on May 16, (it cancelled its March meeting also; it is scheduled to have six meetings a year in the odd months). If they had met, the commission would have been surprised to see how many defenders of the town’s landmark law there are. It would have been a wonderful sight.

But what is important is that there is a large community of people in Oyster Bay and East Norwich and the surrounding area that are ready and willing to go to bat to defend landmark buildings.

We are all on the same page – and we thank Supervisor Venditto for being there too.