Previously Owned Baxter House

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I was saddened to hear of the deterioration of the Baxter House, personally and professionally. I and my then-wife purchased the house in 1968, mindful of its historical significance as a rare pre-Revolutionary War landmark and sensitive to its distinctive siting and singular architecture.

We took an owner’s pride in the house, and during our years there,
it was featured in an article in The New York Times, where not coincidentally I was an urban affairs reporter in the early 60s. The house subsequently also was cited as a setting for a national perspective in a book I authored in 1976, The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning In Suburbia.

That the house, the namesake of the village of Baxter Estates, lending it an identity and history, should be a serious concern of residents and cause alone for the village trustees and other area political constructs to actively pursue the preservation of the landmark.

There is much that can be done to thwart its demolition by neglect or being used to extort variances to compromise its prominent setting. If the owner is recalcitrant, as she appears to be, the property can be heavily fined as a threat to public health and welfare and in time condemned, its value diminished in a legal public taking and subsequently sold on the private market with strict conditions for its preservation as a single-family residence or nonprofit use.

Landmarks such as the Baxter House, if preserved and protected, I feel, present a vital continuum to counter the anomie and anonymity that threatens our communities and democracy. Also, it would be nice for me, my children who were raised there, my grandchildren and someday theirs, to see the house and be reminded it was once a home.

—Sam Hall Kaplan

 

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