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1700s Farmhouse on Watershed Land in West Nyack to be Demolished

United Water: Teabury-Port House unsafe.

United Water Co. says a 1700s farmhouse on watershed land in West Nyack, which local residents hoped to preserve as a landmark, is being torn down.

The utility has received a demolition permit for 312 Strawtown Road, known as the Teabury Port House. It was issued by the Town of Clarkstown, with unanimous approval of the Historic Review Board, according to United Water spokeswoman Deb Rizzi.

United Water contends the house is unsafe. Demolition work started this week, including asbestos abatement and preservation of some of the sandstone from the farmhouse for historical purposes, Rizzi said.

The house is on a 168 acre tract along Lake DeForest that is used for watershed protection. 

In 1993, United Water entered into an agreement with the previous the Town of Clarkstown to run the home, which was rented out by the town. However, in 2009 Clarkstown turned the property back over to the company, citing its condition and the cost of maintenance and repairs.

Rizzi said that despite significant efforts, no one was able to identify a government agency or a nonprofit organization that has resources or expertise to restore the home.

"While United Water appreciates the sentiment regarding the home, use of customer dollars to preserve a historic building is not consistent with its mission to provide the community with safe drinking water," Rizzi said.

In 2011, Clarkstown’s Historical Review Board rejected a request by United Water Co. for a permit to demolish the home in West Nyack.

The decision comes as the utility, town officials and residents of West Nyack tried to find a way of preserving the 1700s farmhouse.

At the time, United Water Co. attorney John Dillon said the utility could not pay the estimated $350,000 to $500,000 needed to repair and restore the home and wanted to tear down he the structure and a nearby garage.

Since the old farmhouse is designated as a historic structure by Clarkstown, the Historical Review Board’s approval was needed for town building officials to issue a demolition permit.

The fate of the old farmhouse has been a recurring issue in Clarkstown for decades.

Under the administration of then town Supervisor Charles Holbrook, Clarkstown took over the house in a lease with United Water and in turn rented out the house. Current Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said the house reached such a condition because of its age that the town could no longer afford to be responsible for the structure and gave up its lease.

An architect hired by United Water estimated that the cost of renovating and restoring the building could be as high as $500,000.

The house was originally part of a farm on Strawtown Road. Before it returned to use a private residence, it had been the site of a tea importing business.

West Nyack and New City residents opposed the demolition of the farmhouse, suggesting that it should be made into a local museum.

willie 6 November 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM
hopefully some of the timbers and sandstone can be salvaged and used for repairs to some of the needs of the Vanderbilt House. Supervisor Holbrook might have been more helpful in saving Teaberry Port House. Holbrook was very helpful in salvaging an old timber frame barn on Pascack Rd. in Spring Valley in the mid 90's. it is very sad that the Teaberry Port House is being razed. once it is gone , it is GONE FOREVER. thanks to Madeline Muller and Ron Breland and others for trying to save Teaberry Port House.
Madeline November 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM
United Water can try to justify there behavior for tearing down this HIstoric Home . There were many people that came to the table to try and save this structure but they were not willing to work with them. United Water put such difficult constraints on the Not for Profit organizations that they did not want to get involved with the company..... AS for there montra that they can't take shareholder monies for such an endeavor look at there companies website they are proud to say they donate funds to organizations and causes.. I for one am tired of United Water and there constant disregard for West Nyack its residents and its history. This is truly one for the books..
Jason Vogel November 23, 2012 at 04:40 PM
To set the record straight, this decision was not truly "unanimous". I am a member of the Historical Review Board. I was absent from the HRB's October 30 meeting because I was displaced from my home due to Hurricane Sandy (which struck two days earlier). Had I been present, I would have voted against this decision. The HRB code requires owners to maintain historically designated properties. There is no exception in the code for public utilities. United Water has, for years, failed to maintain the house. The result is that the Teaberry house has been allowed to fall into such disrepair that its collapse is imminent. I believe United Water should have been held to task for this. -Jason Vogel
Taximan Steve Lindsey November 23, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Seriously? What is the point of having a historical review board if they aren't occasionally going to do something useful? ---SWL
Theodore Simone November 23, 2012 at 05:39 PM
And yet homes that are inhabited that are in worse shape than this are allowed to exist while they become festering eyesores and devalue other properties that are around them.
ALW November 23, 2012 at 06:14 PM
It is the same thing as having a building and code enforcement department that continually ignores building code violations. To Jason Vogel - if the HRB code REQUIRES owners to maintain historically designated properties - why wasn't that enforced???? This is the problem in Clarkstown, yeah we have laws but why bother enforcing them. Shame on all involved starting with the person at the top. Thanks for those who did try to save this. And, if these town entities - Code Enforcement, HRB, etc. etc. are not doing what they are supposed to do - get rid of them or get people in there that don't want to continue to see this town go down the tubes.
West Nyack November 23, 2012 at 07:45 PM
ason, thanks for your honesty and efforts to preserve this house. As the facts come out we are going to find that Supervisor Gromack had a great deal to do with the destruction of this home and his siding with United Water. We all should be concerned because the town is now the owner of another historic West Nyack home, the former Traphagen estate. We can no longer depend on our elected representatives to look out for the best interest of the citizens when they only look out for themselves. It should also be noted that the people trying to save this house have no vested interest other than community pride in trying to keep it. May people had offered time and money to work on it, all were turned down.
mike sullivan November 23, 2012 at 08:15 PM
it is a house , who really cares What do i get if the house is saved or knocked down
willie 6 November 24, 2012 at 11:22 AM
it WAS part of our heritage built at the time of the revolution. i think that is pretty significant.
Jason Vogel November 24, 2012 at 05:11 PM
These are valid points. The answers are too complicated to address here. We still have important work to do -- particularly with respect to the Traphagen/Vanderbilt property. If you want your views to be heard, and answers to your questions, you should come to the HRB meetings, the last Wednesday of each month at 8PM.
CR November 25, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Madeline - They can't take CUSTOMER money for such an endeavor, not shareholder money. There's a huge difference.
Patty Villanova November 25, 2012 at 12:37 PM
It was with great sadness that just by chance I came across this article and I find it disgraceful that a bunch of bureaucrats who don't know the first thing about historic places are being allowed to take down such an incredible building. The taxpayers should be outraged at this colossal waste of money, if nothing else. My in-laws rented that house for over 20 years beginning in the early 1970s and at that time it was like a lovely storybook cottage that seemed almost from another era; isolated and private yet minutes away from the boom and bustle of suburbia. My children and their cousins grew up playing in the massive yard and nearby woods and there were many family gatherings on the lawns that were at that time well maintained as was the rest of the property. Over the years the renters paid for the upkeep out of their own pockets and I suppose that after awhile it became too much of an investment. The house itself is a real treasure with incredible stone and woodwork and it is a classic Dutch colonial. Has anyone tried to contact "This Old House" to see if they would take it on as a project? Restoration would make a wonderful project and it would bring the house back to its former glory. Maybe it could be made into a small museum; there are so many possibilities and demolition shouldn't be one of them.
Patty Villanova November 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM
This article truly broke my heart and I can't believe a bunch of know-nothing bureaucrats were allowed to make the decision to destroy this national treasure. For many years my in-laws rented that house when our children were very young and for all intents and purposes, they grew up there. Back in the 1970s the house was in excellent condition and my relatives kept it that way, even though they were renters and had to pay out of pocket. For our family 312 Strawtown Rd. will always be a place of storybook magic and enchantment and we all have many precious memories of living there and spending time at barbecues and gatherings on the lawns and in the gardens. Has anyone tried to contact "This Old House" to see if they would be interested in restoring this home as a project for the show? The house has significant historical value and should not be destroyed because somebody isn't making enough money on the deal.
mike sullivan November 26, 2012 at 01:30 PM
"This Old House" still gets paid for the work
Kevin Zawacki (Editor) November 26, 2012 at 07:18 PM
The John Green House is Nyack is another landmark home facing the possibility of demolition.
Deb Mesibov November 27, 2012 at 01:50 PM
With such a personal history, involving this house, I'm surprised that you, Patty, are not more involved in the restoration of your family's home. You have a good idea regarding "This Old House". Make that your project.
Richard Ellis November 28, 2012 at 01:53 PM
It's sad that their aren't more passionate people interested in preservation such as those writing comments here. It's a problem across the country. Not an easy solution. Key is private management care of these homes as they can't be bought with public money. But if an owner doesn't care or wants the property destroyed, it's a difficult fight.
Bonnie Vanderbilt November 29, 2012 at 07:10 PM
That is a wonderful idea...I just hope the right people are involved to make it happen.

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