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Trousdell House Loses Buyer But Optimism Is High for Needed Help

Saving a Historically Significant House in Oyster Bay Is Challenging Yet Rewarding

While work is progressing on the Trousdell house, a.k.a. Hillside, located on East Main Street in Oyster Bay, the project needs funding. The house was sold by the Trousdell heirs to the North Shore Land Alliance to preserve open space and with the hope that a prospective buyer would step up to help fund the restoration to turn it into a bed & breakfast for which there is local interest. The 3.5 acre site could have been sold for a subdivision.

“Unfortunately,” Lisa Ott, president of the North Shore Land Alliance said, “We just heard from an article by Bill Bleyer in Newsday, that the people we thought were going to buy the Trousdell house, aren’t going to buy it. The newspaper showed a photograph inside the house of Bernard Austin of Harrison Design Associates of Locust Valley, who did all the pro bono work in beginning the process of restoration.”

He recommended work be done by Timothy M. Lee of Lee Construction & Renovation, Inc. of Cold Spring Harbor.  Ms. Ott said,  “We have stabilized the foundation and put in new gutters; and replaced siding to repair damage that had been created by water.”

The Trousdell house is suffering the fate of several buildings in Oyster Bay that are in need of restoration.

A Community Problem

With a surge in building taking place in this over 358-year-old  hamlet of Oyster Bay during the Victorian era, many of the historic buildings remaining from that period are in need of renovation and restoration. That can be seen in such buildings as the Trousdell house; Snouder’s Corner Drugstore; the Oyster Bay Rail Road museum building; the Mill Pond House and Raynham Hall Museum. Add to that list, at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site where the Sagamore Hill mansion and the Old Orchard Museum are already in line for restoration and renovations with projects being undertaken by the National Park Service.

Unfortunately the buildings in the hamlet have no federal institution to help them, although the Town of Oyster Bay is responsive to the needs of the sites they are involved with. They recently repaired the roof of the Earle-Wightman House. Unfortunately, a visual inspection of their fence shows it needs repair; hopefully it will be repaired shortly.

The town also works with Raynham Hall Museum on their maintenance/restoration projects.

The town is currently working on the Mill Pond House at 1065 West Shore Drive, Oyster Bay. The town is now looking at a study by Newport Engineering with recommendations for the house including possible uses, said a town spokesperson. It was one of the first eight properties landmarked by the town on May 11, 1976. It was built in the 1660s and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the township. It might become town offices or another appropriate use, since it is in a wetland area.

The town is also working on the future of the Mill Pond Overlook, which they purchased to preserve open space. A town resolution on Nov. 15 authorizes the use of a subconsultant, Jerry LaRue, L.S. P. C., and Ecological Solutions, LLC , survey and environmental services, in designing the Mill Pond Overlook Habitat Restoration Plan.

Time Is the Culprit

Ms. Ott said, “All these projects are worth the community’s attention.”

She said time can often be the culprit. “Like some of the trees that have been planted on estates; and like the big allee at Old Westbury Gardens, where those trees have started to fail. They are old wonderful things.

“At Old Westbury Garden they are grafting to get the DNA to start growing new trees from the same family. It was discussed at a National Tree Project lecture. Another Tree Project suggestion is to generally plant those species with a longer life expectancy – and the native species as opposed to the exotic ones.”

As for the Trousdell house, she said, “We have done a lot of good things and are looking for a buyer.

“We have a lot to do. It has been an open process and the community has been wonderful but we, like Snouder’s, have a lot to do to come up with a solution that benefits the town. I wish I had a pot of gold. Both of those projects will be wonderful when we get them done.

“I’m feeling badly that we are not further along in our project. We are going to have a meeting shortly to find out what we are going to do as the next step. It’s going to be okay – it’s just going to be done in the long run,” she said.

Oyster Bay Historical Director Phillip Blocklyn said, “All these things are happening at once and are related to historical preservation or the preservation of open space. This is an opportunity to make good decisions and partner with the town whenever possible and also with concerted efforts with groups that have a mission and the expertise to deal with these issues.”

Working Together for Preservation

Mr. Blocklyn, who is a member of the Oyster Bay Preservation Roundtable said, “It is good to get local people who are involved in the subject and let them be leaders and do their job.

“Isaac Kremer and Lisa Ott and the whole Preservation Roundtable members deserve credit. They did more than anyone could expect to raise money for the Trousdell property and it was done the right way. Their area of expertise is history preservation in the case of Isaac; and open space preservation for Lisa. They were very effective on the project.

“They are local and well known and did everything in the open and aboveboard. All of them, including Harriet Clark of Raynham Hall Museum; and Rita Pecora of Save the Jewel – all the organizations’ missions in one way or another is to preserve Oyster Bay’s historical places,” he said.

Trousdell Reception

The Trousdell house fundraiser was actually a reception for people who donated to the restoration although it was touted as a “Shadow Ball held on Thursday, April 33,” the reception was held on September 18.

It raised about $18,000 and the donors came to see how the shabby lady was doing. She was looking welcoming with a few pieces of furniture remaining after the tag sale that helped dress up the rooms to give a hint of her future. The location, on the 3.5 acre lot east of the Oyster Bay High School parking lot on East Main Street has the potential of becoming a bed and breakfast.

The funds raised were for house stabilization done by Timothy M. Lee of Lee Construction & Renovation, Inc. of Cold Spring Harbor. He attended the East Woods School as did  Caroline DuBois who also attended the reception. The day before the reception there was a community cleanup of the site. Ms. DuBois had sent two of her landscapers – one with a chain saw - to work on the cleanup of the outside of the house on Saturday; and a woman who helped with the indoors work. Underbrush was cleared and limbs cut. Logs were lined up to create a path from the Oyster Bay High School parking lot up the hill to the house where over the years Baymen football players ran up to appointments with Dr. Trousdell who was the team’s doctor.

Donations are still welcome to defray the $60,000 needed to transform the house for sale. An “Angel” is desperately needed, said Mr. Blocklyn.

Summing Up

“We made over $18,000 in donations from  the Shadow Ball. Everyone is excited about the effort being made. A lot of people showed up to help. I found muscles I never knew I had on Saturday at the cleanup,” said Rita Pecora of Save the Jewel by the Bay, one of the organizers.

On Sunday, music was drifting over the lawn, from the porch where John Schwartzberg was playing the piano.  For a few minutes Isaac Kremer sang along with him.

As you can imagine the project still needs funding. Deanna Huminski, with credentials from working at Raynham Hall Museum, Sands Point Preserve and the Old Bethpage Village said, “It’s beautiful here, but a lot of work is needed. I would like to help as best I can to get the word out.”

Please call Lisa Ott at 626-0908 for information or to offer help.