Death Knell Of The Historic Baxter House


The fateful day has come, ending the agony of the landmarked Baxter House. On Monday, Oct. 9, heavy machinery completed the destruction that had occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, Feb. 5. The fire caused extensive damage to the structure, which had been unoccupied, and sealed its fate. The Village of Baster Estate building inspector issued a demolition order in May.

On Monday, residents watched in the rain as the house was knocked to the ground. Baxter Estates resident, Micheal Scotto, founder of the Facebook page “Save The Baxter House” notified the Port Washington News of the demolition.
The “village is taking the house down now, without notice to neighbors,” said Scotto. “Shameful.”

Scotto was notified by a neighbor that the house was being demolished on Columbus Day.

“[A] sad day for our little hamlet of Port Washington,” remarked Stephanie Hall, a Port resident who lives in a historic home.

The Baxter House was landmarked after owner Sabrina Wu took possession of the property 13 years ago. The home’s oldest section was reportedly erected in 1673 in the settlement then known as Cow Neck. According to the Village of Baxter Estates’ website, John Betts and Robert Hutchings established the homestead, which overlooks Manhasset Bay. Sometime in the early 1740s, the house was purchased by Oliver Baxter. His son Israel expanded the house and, in one chronicle, fought under the command of General Washington against the British at the Battle of Long Island in what is now Brooklyn.

The Baxters were forced to billet soldiers as the colonies sought independence from England. Hessians, the hated and feared mercenaries hired by the empire to help put down the rebellion, were quartered in the house. Such abuse led the Founding Fathers to create the Third Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

The family owned the house until the end of the 19th century. According to the The Cow Neck Historical Society, the Baxters “had been involved in many trades over the previous century, as whalers, shipbuilders, fullers, blacksmiths and other trades of the era. Ida Baxter had been the village’s third postmaster, working out of the nearby McKee’s General Store, at the Mill Pond…in 1892, the State of New York had chartered the town’s first library, where townspeople could meet, read, take out books, all in the parlor of the Baxter House.”

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Elizabeth Johnson is editor of Manhasset Press and Manhasset Press Magazine. Growing up in nearby Garden City and attending New York University, she is well-versed in the locale and knowledgeable about the beat she covers. Her community involvement is extensive and includes the Manhasset SCA, Kiwanis International, Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, St. Mary’s Church, and various civic and local charitable organizations. Curious by nature, her travels, community service, love of the arts as well as local sports give her the inside view to unique content. During her time at Anton, she has received several awards from the New York Press Association and the Press Club of LI, including the coveted "Best Community Newspaper" several years in a row.