BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
The historic Lent House in Orangeburg is apparently about to be demolished.
Orangetown Building Inspector John Giardiello advised the Town Board last week that the new owner of the property, located between Route 303 and Western Highway behind the Stop & Shop Supermarket and Marriott Residence Inn, has applied for a demolition permit. Barring any unforeseen developments, Giardiello said he will probably give it to him within the next week or two, and demolition could begin at anytime after that.
The Lent house was built in the mid-18th century and is one of the oldest standing homes in Orangetown and Rockland County, according to Orangetown Historian Mary Cardenas.
It was occupied as a home continuously from about 1750 until about 15 years ago, when the last resident died. It was then purchased and converted to commercial use, most recently as an office for a landscaping company, whose owner also permitted his day laborers to reside in the quickly deteriorating structure. For the past few years it has been surrounded by a variety of trucks, trailers, storage units, construction debris and stumps, branches, stones and leaves which was apparently debris the landscaper had removed for commercial customers.
The home is clearly visible from Western Highway, sitting adjacent to the West Shore Railroad tracks, which run alongside that colonial-era roadway.
Access Road Moves
The house had reportedly been the homestead for a large farm in colonial times. Western Highway crossed in front of the home and continued north past the Orangeburg Elementary School, now the Orangeburg Library, until it had to be re-directed when the West Shore was constructed about 1880, requiring the road’s relocation.
The stub of Western Highway from the new tracks to the school then became the home’s new driveway, with the owner and town officials arguing for years over which had the responsibility for maintaining it. The owner insisted it still a public highway, thus requiring town maintenance, while the town insisted it was his private driveway and thus his responsibility to maintain.
At about the same time the railroad was built the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company was constructed north and east of the house, virtually surrounding it and cutting it off from most public viewing. The smokestack industry produced asbestos and tar laden “Orangeburg Pipe” for nearly a century before that process of producing underground water and sewer pipe was declared both hazardous and outmoded, having been replaced with modern plastic tubing.
When the firm closed some three decades ago it was mostly demolished and lay fallow until a portion was rebuilt recently as a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store. The remainder of the site was re-developed as a Stop and Shop Supermarket and Marriott Motel last year, with both entities opening within the past two months.
The developer of the site, RD Management, had reportedly attempted to purchase the Lent home site some time ago, but had been rebuffed by the landscaper at the time. Now the landscaper apparently found another buyer, and it is he who has applied for the demolition permit for the old homestead.
Al Rossi, an Orangetown engineer and developer who is a partner with RD Management, had said last year that his firm was interested in preserving the old sandstone home if it could have acquired it, although he was unsure of what specific use they would have had for it at the time.
Now that the house is apparently doomed, Mrs. Cardenas said she would reach out to the current owner to see if he will allow preservationists to salvage any of the artifacts or construction materials from the house before demolition begins.
The Orangetown Museum and Archives, which Mrs. Cardenas runs, already has two similar Dutch sandstone homes they use as museums, offices, a library, workshops and similar purposes. She said they could always use parts from a similar building, such as blocks of red sandstone and hand-hewn wooden beams, in restoration work on the museum’s two structures.
She also agreed with Giardiello’s initial assessment of the house that it is apparently not protected by any governmental restrictions or covenants which might prohibit its destruction.
The building inspector said he immediately checked various registers of historic buildings and sites when he received the demolition application, and found the Lent house not listed on any Orangetown, Rockland County, New York State or federal listing that might prevent or restrict the demolition.
Barring such listing, he said he would have no alternative but to eventually issue the permit, because he has no basis for denying the request. He added that he would work with Mrs. Cardenas regarding salvaging of any parts of the structure if the owner is agreeable.
In the meantime snow and ice cover most of the site, and a stern “Road Closed” and “No Trespassing “signs greet visitors amidst general construction and equipment debris and several broken windows.