Although the Rye Neck School board stopped short of declaring a demolition date for the .—passing a resolution to either demolish or remove the house from school property this week—the fate of the over 200-year-old farmhouse is still undetermined, as local groups weigh the uncertainties of their options for relocating it.
According to e-mails sent to Rye Neck Superintendent Peter Mustich, several local historical societies—The Rye Historical Society, Rye archivist Richard Hourahan and The Rye Landmarks Committee —have withdrawn their names from a Dec. 12 petition that was submitted to the board by the Concerned Citizens For Preserving the Gedney Farmhouse. The Larchmont Historical Society told Patch that they would only be able to assist in the documentation of the farmhouse at this point.
And today, the Dec. 12 proposal was formally withdrawn by Jan Northrup of the Concerned Citizens Group.
“We pulled it because we didn’t want to act on something that was modified,” said Carol Akin, the group’s founder. “We are going to reexamine and rework the proposal and hopefully submit in a different way before the next board meeting.”
As part of the group’s original proposal, they asked the board for additional time so that an organization willing to assist in the removal of the home to a different site could be located. The group would also like more time to be able to raise the funding to move the house, which is estimated to cost $60,000.
Time may be running out, however, as the district is currently paying $2,500 per month to maintain the home, which is currently vacant. In recent years, the district has rented out the home to tenants and businesses.
“It’s not fair to the taxpayers of Rye Neck,” said Mustich, who explained that the decision was based, partially, on the district’s belt-tightening strategy in a tough economy.
Since the farmhouse was purchased by the Rye Neck School District from Thomas and Mary Chaddock Fowler in 1953, it has served a variety of non-agrarian purposes including being utilized as space for a kindergarten, a female boarding school and administration. However, the years have taken their toll on the building. According to Mustich, it has become harder to find potential tenants due to antiquated heating and air conditioning systems. There is also no handicapped accessibility, he said, limiting the school’s ability to use the home.
“It’s an expensive bauble to keep on Boston Post Road,” he said, continuing, “Taxpayers can no longer support a building that can’t be used.”
The district also maintains that the additional property is needed as part of the state’s play space requirement for . There are no plans to build an athletic field in the space.
Former tenant and former Rye Neck School Board president Bruce Hoffman, whose business I Levy & Sons moved out of 734 E. Boston Post Rd. in June, wondered about other potential outcomes.
“I sympathize with the school board in its financial deliberations as I know what it is like to operate a school system in a tough economic climate. However, it seems to me that we successfully rented the Gedney building for many years. I would wonder what the costs would be to do a modest cosmetic upgrade of the Gedney building so it could be rented versus what the potential rent might be. Also, the possibility that the community might pitch in and help with the upgrade by volunteering their skills to upgrade it," he said.
Mustich announced his intentions to potentially demolish the farmhouse in November 2010 by contacting Mamaroneck Historical Society President Donald March and presenting his plan to the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees.
Although Mustich acknowledges the emotional value that the home may have to some, the historical value to the community is less clear.
“The only place that’s true to the 1700s is the center of the house,” he said. A professional restorer echoed this sentiment as well in his Sept. 19 evaluation, which is posted on the district website here.
At Wednesday’s district board meeting, however, members of the Citizens group were eager to present their views to the board, however, were told they could not as non-residents of Mamaroneck. Instead, Maureen Foulke, a Mamaroneck resident and former recording secretary for the Westchester County Historical Society, spoke on their behalf. Her video can be viewed to the right of this article.
At this point, the district is still open to concrete proposals regarding next steps for the house.
“If someone wants to take it, it saves us the demolition cost,” said Mustich pragmatically.