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A look inside the Webster Wagner house and its future plans

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Updated: 10:06 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

PALATINE BRIDGE -- From a lift perched above the Webster Wagner mansion last Thursday, the building's current owner, Pierre Anasta, pointed down through a collapsed hole in the roof to show off the second story spot where, in a closet, he found a painting that he's hinging dreams of resurrecting the condemned structure on.

Anasta said that he also, along with the original black and white painting, found paintings of Webster Wagner and his wife, Susan Davis. "After taking the picture of his wife out, I found a picture of Mr. Wagner," said Anasta, who explained that he plans to have the first painting he found appraised in New York City.

While Anasta is hoping that Webster Wagner's legacy will continue on in some form, one thing is clear at this point, and it's that the structure, which was issued a six month demolition permit in March, needs to come down. After assessing the structure, Anasta understands that there's no saving it in its current form. He hopes to tear down the building, saving integral pieces and structural attributes, with which he hopes to resurrect another similar building utilizing funds from the sale of Wagner property and paintings, possibly in a different location.

"I have to tear it down, maybe to rebuild it back," Anasta said. He's torn off the porch and has been removing the roof's heavy slate shingles, which have dangerously blown down in periods of heavy wind, and he plans to begin tearing down the structure from the top down as soon as next week.

Being that he's currently working on tearing down the building alone, with help from his son, it's looking like the project will take an extended amount of time. Anasta wasn't able to present a feasible timeline, simply stating when asked how long the process was expected to take, "a long time."

Anasta was recently issued a court determination regarding the structure's future, and Code Enforcement Officer Clifford Dorrough stated of the judge's ruling, "our understanding was, with the judge that night in court, that he was to get someone in here to take it down. Not piece by piece."

"The village wants it down to a safe point," continued Dorrough.

"Everything's destroyed," admitted Anasta of the structure, which has completely collapsed on itself, making entrance into it, at worst, impossible, and at best, extraordinarily dangerous.

That doesn't mean that thieves haven't tried to break in. Twice in the past few months -- once as recently as last week -- attempted break-ins have left windows broken. Two windows on the East side of the building have been smashed, the attempted thieves faced with an impenetrable wall of jagged, broken shards of old wood.

Police have been vigilant in keeping an eye on the dilapidated structure and Denise Yannacone, who has been documenting the entire process of the mansion's razing, has been driving past the home up to 15 times a day/night to catch attempted thieves and vandals. Anasta is also planning to install surveillance cameras in the imminent future.

While Anasta is weary of attempted break-ins, though he knows that the building has many physical guardians, he said he feels the building also has a constant spiritual guardian watching over it. "If somebody tries to destroy something that no belong to them, God no like that. God likes good people. If somebody tries to destroy something even if they no see God, he sees them and he's going to hurt you," said Anasta.

"Mr. Wagner worked hard to build that property and that's why people should respect that."

Anasta is also hoping to find some of the remaining Wagners to gift them yet-undetermined pieces of the structure, keeping as much of the building's history in the family as possible. He noted that he may give a Wagner niece a weathered stone lion located out front, standing guard of the once-grand, now-collapsing, still-towering mansion.

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