Saturday, March 20, 2010

Learning from Long Island

From the NY Times:

About 400 of the roughly 2,700 homes in this four-square-mile village are at least a century old, according to local officials. Over the years, Ms. Gehrke said, many lovers of old houses have been drawn to this wealth of historically interesting stock.

The three-bedroom one-bath Skidmore House, with its Dutch front door, parlor and beehive oven in the dining room, was listed at $359,000 and recently went into contract. Its buyer appears to be planning on restoration, but among those who looked at it, Ms. Gehrke said, some were “interested in tearing it down,” and others were “people who wanted to change it dramatically.”

The mayor, George J. Doll Jr., was barraged with letters and phone calls, urging him not to let that come to pass — as it has before, with several other older homes.

Mr. Doll, 65, has lived in the village since 1954; his house dates back either to 1886 or 1905. He said he shared the wish to protect the village’s heritage but pointed out that “it would be impractical for the village to buy every house that came up for sale.”

So he did what he considered the next best thing: pushed for a historic-review law that would “protect old houses from developers” or from owners who seek to “expand their house but not take into consideration its historical style.”

Passed last month by the Board of Trustees, the legislation requires that plans to demolish or renovate houses a century or more in age be vetted by an architectural review board. The law applies only to work that requires a permit and does not include cosmetics like changing siding, doors, windows or paint.

Mayor Doll was the first to submit his house, retroactively, for review.

Robert C. Hughes is historian for the Town of Huntington, of which Northport is a part. The town has 500 homes designated as historical in six historic districts, in addition to 100 individually listed homes. Mr. Hughes said that the town had had a preservation review process in place since 1969. (Northport, as an incorporated village, is not subject to town regulation on this issue.)

“Historic preservation is not an impediment to livability,” Mr. Hughes said. “Houses grow and change over the years to meet changing needs” for practical kitchens and large open spaces. “Historic properties are what give the town its feel, its character,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Gehrke in Northport said the sellers of the Skidmore cottage had hoped for buyers who would “buy it to restore it,” and said that “with the new historic preservation law, it ensures that will happen.”

She added, “If all the old homes were gone here, we’d be like everybody else.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another great historic town on LI is Sea Cliff in Nassau.