The Locally Owned Voice of the Capital Region

Historic preservation vs. priorities

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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It will probably take a miracle, if not $1 million, to save the once-beautiful Webster Wagner House in Palatine Bridge.

As Tuesday’s Gazette story makes clear, it’s a basket case that’s visibly listing to one side and in such serious shape that the village code enforcement officer issued a demolition permit for the historic building last week.

While it’s possible — but far from certain — the first floor could be salvaged, the ornate roof and second floor clearly are done for. Rebuilding, in any event, would cost a fortune that the new owner reportedly does not have and historic preservationists would be hard pressed to raise.

The house is but one of many grand homes in the village that have been allowed to deteriorate past the point of no return over the years, and Palatine Bridge is far from the only place where this has happened. Pick a city, practically any city in upstate New York, and there are examples.

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course: These properties didn’t deteriorate overnight, and could have been saved if officials had been on their toes and enforced the appropriate building codes when the first signs of trouble appeared. While this can be a time-consuming nuisance, it’s part of the job — and an especially important one in an area with a rich heritage like upstate New York.

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