PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Residents of a north shore community want to know why a historic home went up in flames at 3 a.m.
They are suspicious of the fire that nearly destroyed a Nassau County landmark.
“This was just a terrible shock,” a resident told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The terrible shock — a raging fire in the Port Washington community.
Residents have been reeling from the thought of losing the only landmarked home in their tiny village of Baxter Estates.
“The Baxter family lived in it for many generations. It has great history. We’ve watched it deteriorate over the last few years,” Jennifer Wiggins said.
Built in 1692, Baxter House has been a source of North Shore pride for 300 years.
It was recently purchased by Sabrina Wu of Flushing, Queens.
It’s been unoccupied as she submitted plans to demolish it rebuild a replica or two on the bucolic property overlooking Manhasset Bay and Baxter Pond.
“A lot of discussion about whose fault this is, no matter how the fire started in my opinion, I think it really lies at the owner’s feet, because if it was an accident, she didn’t maintain the house,” Michael Scotto said.
Wu had no comment when confronted by CBS2’s McLogan, but Village Clerk Chrissy Kiernan called the fire a ‘shame.’
“It’s a shame, it’s a loss, it’s the namesake of our village,” she said.
More than 500 residents have joined a Facebook group to fight to save and restore what remains of Baxter House.
“What we found is an owner who basically adopted a policy of what we call ‘demolition by neglect,” Nancy Solomon said.
Neighbors claim Wu declined to preserve architectural and historical elements.
“She’s wanted to demolish it for a long time, and now it’s demolished,” Sam Bailine said.
Once the fire marshal, arson squad, and building inspector complete investigations, Wu, her attorney, and architect will testify before the Landmark and Preservation Commission.
Village trustees said if Baxter House is deemed structurally sound, the priority would be to rebuild, restore, and maintain.