2017-08-03 / Columnists

Babylon News & Muse

THREE IN ONE MONTH! After fighting for almost five years to save it, the David Smith house was demolished July 3rd. What surprised me was the number of people who were unaware of the battle and asked, “What happened to that nice house on the corner of Ketawamoke and Deer Park Avenue?”

When a person is as wrapped up in an issue such as trying to save this house, it’s hard to understand how many people were totally oblivious to that drawn-out struggle. But, to add insult to injury, two more historic homes were also demolished in July! One of the few remaining Argyle Hotel Cottages was destroyed by a new owner, and the Blue/Bishop house on Fire Island Avenue suffered the same fate! (This was located just south of the Carriage House parking lot.)

Ironically, all three historic homes were sold to people who said they were going to restore them!

One has to wonder if the sellers would have accepted the offers of these buyers if they had known it meant that the houses would be destroyed!

HOW MANY MORE historic homes and buildings will be destroyed before the government and citizens of Babylon Village realize how much of our heritage is being been lost?

Our homes are usually our most valuable asset, and no one wants to form a Gestapo that forbids owners to do what they wish with their homes. But many people own homes that are too big for them once their children are grown and gone. Many people are also on a fixed income and can’t afford to stay in a house they purchased when they had several children running around and have to sell the family home. However, if a home is sold to a person who has promised to restore it, only to see it torn down, that’s a shame! In all three of the homes destroyed this past month, that’s what happened.

Why do people want to live in Babylon? Most of us would agree it’s because of the ambiance we find here. The quaint business district, the big and gracious homes scattered around the Village. Neighborhoods that are truly neighborhoods, where you get to know your neighbors and develop friendships. People who care about one another and care about their surroundings.

Babylon is a place where groups, such as the Beautification Society and the Village have installed old-fashioned streetlights and pocket gardens. We even like the relatively narrow, tree-lined streets that encourage people to stroll from place to place, rather than speed around in a car. Streets where it’s safe to ride your bike from here to there.

Did you stay or move here to see cookie cutter houses or McMansions? To have a next-door neighbor who has six cars and three boats? To see six-foot vinyl fences framing every back yard? Do you really want to see an old house replaced by six or eight apartments and parking lots?

We can’t stop progress and things will change, whether we like it or not. But be honest, are you in Babylon for status?

I think that many of us who love Babylon do value those homes, and the sense of history they give us. The developers are out there, just waiting for people to sit back and let them knock down the old house next door and cut down the trees so they can put up two houses in its place.

So, if you love Babylon and its history, step up. If you want to see our way of life destroyed by greedy men who will throw up a house that dwarfs yours, sit back and relax. The developers will be happy to accommodate you.

Even as I write this, there are two West Main Street properties that belonged to the late Kevin Brosnahan that are at risk. Sadly, they are both in very poor shape.

A few weeks before his untimely death, I spoke to Kevin about them, urging him to have them designated as historical landmarks. Kevin wanted time to consider this course of action, but sadly, he died two weeks later.

The Carll family built the building on Main Street for a daughter-in-law. It later became known as “Aunt Julia’s house” and was a popular gathering place. It has served as the site of various businesses. I have memories of being brought there as a small child when it was a hair salon.

The rear building is better known to most of us as the Red Lion, a popular pub. I know that it was a great place to eat and drink. One of my fondest memories took place there during the blizzard of 1978. Basically, the roads were impassable for several days, and the Red Lion was one of the few businesses open. I recall trudging through the snow with my parents for a cozy and delicious luncheon.

However, the building was actually more accurately the home of the South Side Signal. The Signal was a newspaper established in the second half of the 1800s. Henry Livingston founded it. The journalist was heavily involved in local politics.

At that time, there was no such place as Babylon. This area was known as South Huntington and was part of the Town of Huntington. Livingston and other people from this area suggested that a new township be formed into a new town. Thus the Town of Babylon was born. Later, as the new township grew, the Signal building was the site where the forming of Babylon Village became a reality. The loss of this building would be terrible.

After Kevin Brosnahan’s death, the buildings went up for sale. Among the parties interested was the Town of Babylon IDA, which had tried to previously tried to purchase the building from Brosnahan, without success. The winning bid was from Ken and Jen Rogers, who recently went before the Village Zoning Board of Appeals.

Their proposal is to take both buildings down, stick by stick, and rebuild them, using some of the original materials. This would not be considered a restoration of the buildings, but rather a duplication of them.

The front building would be used for retail. The Signal/ Red Lion building would have a third story added. The first floor would be office space and the second and third floors would be divided into a total of four onebedroom apartments.

While the plans shown by the Rogers appear to be very attractive, the Village Conservancy has made it clear that it favors a restoration of the buildings as opposed to duplicating them.

One thing that the Conservancy has tried to make clear is that we want buildings like these. We do not want them purchased by the Village. Rather we want to see them purchased, restored, and used by the owner in an appropriate fashion.

Return to top

Suffolk County Shelter Locator and Storm Surge Zone Mapping Tool
The Shelter Locator and Storm Surge Zone Mapping Tool