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Joshua Thomas

A Historical Loss

The historic Webster Wagner House is in an advanced state of decay, the front porch having recently collapsed.


Demolition permit issued for condemned Webster Wagner House

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - Updated: 11:30 AM


C-S-E Editor

PALATINE BRIDGE -- The owner of the condemned Webster Wagner House met with Palatine Bridge Code Enforcement Officer Clifford Dorrough Tuesday morning, along with Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar and Historic West Hill School President Hein Kraak, to assess how to move forward with the dilapidated structure.

Last Wednesday, Dorrough issued a demolition permit for the building, originally constructed in 1876 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The rapidly deteriorating structure's porch recently collapsed, following the east wall and roof, leaving portions of it wide open. The wall facing Rite Aid has bowed out and is also in danger of collapsing. Slate is falling from the roof, creating a potential hazard for those in its vicinity.

The village has erected a temporary plastic fence around the building, though the current owner, Catskill resident Andre Anasta, has been instructed that he needs to erect a more-permanent chain link fence to keep people out of the building, which has been tagged "no occupancy" by Dorrough. Half of the fence is scheduled for erection in the near future, with the following portion's installation directly following.

Dorrough said that Anasta originally applied for a renovation permit, though it was denied because of the building's poor condition. Anasta notified Dorrough that under the demolition permit, he plans to remove portions of the building with the hope that he'll then be able to obtain a renovation permit, the ultimate goal being the building's full restoration.

Because of the structure's advanced state of decay, Dorrough said he's not holding out hope it can be saved, stating of Anasta's plan to eventually obtain a renovation permit, "when we get to that road, we'll cross it."

Palatine Bridge Mayor James Post said last Thursday of the historic building, "it would be a shame to see it torn down, but there doesn't seem to be another option at this point."

The demolition permit is valid for six months, at which time Dorrough will decide how to proceed based on what's transpired since the permit's issuance.

The property, under previous owner Arizona-based Herbie Ambrose, was issued six code violations. The tickets, which carried over when Anasta purchased the building from Ambrose, require Anasta to appear in town court on March 27, at 7 p.m.

Dorrough said that if sufficient work hasn't commenced on the structure prior to the court date, the next steps -- to move forward in issuing penalties for the violations or to dismiss the tickets -- will be at his discretion. At the time of the court date, the judge overseeing the case could also possibly provide a timeframe for restoration work.

Dorrough said Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar is researching the availability of grant funding for such restoration projects. The Mohawk Valley Collective, Inc. has expressed interest in documenting the property prior to demolition, although Dorrough noted that he'll need to view a report by a structural engineer before clearing anybody to enter the property.

Prior to being purchased at county tax auction by Ambrose, the building was in the possession of Barry Woods, who lived there for an extended period of time as the building collapsed around him. During his time at the property, he was contacted by numerous historical organizations interested in purchasing it. The building, which Woods never sold, was finally transferred to the county when he vacated the property suddenly, leaving behind possessions such as vehicles and mail.

"The village is going to work with him," said Dorrough of Anasta, explaining that if the dilapidated structure is going to be saved -- a long shot at this point -- Anasta will have "to show us that he's really into what he's been saying, in regards to the building."

"We finally have somebody we can work with," said Dorrough, continuing of the steps taken by the village so far, "we're just doing what we have to do to protect ourselves from any liability."


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