The Examiner

Miller House Shed Removal Unnerves North Castle Officials

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The Miller House on Virginia Road as it appeared last week.
The Miller House on Virginia Road as it appeared last week.

The sudden demolition of an auxiliary structure on the Miller House property in North White Plains last week stirred additional uneasiness among local residents who want the county to restore the historic house before further damage occurs.

Town Co-historian Sharon Tomback and Kerri Kazak, president of the Friends of Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters, both expressed concern about the smaller building’s removal without any prior notification while the main house continues to deteriorate.

Tomback said the auxiliary structure, a shed that was likely built in the 1950s and used for a period of time as a visitor’s center, holds no historic value. But the condition of the 277-year-old Miller House, which was used by George Washington during the October 1776 Battle of White Plains, and the approaching winter has residents who want to see the house saved nervous.

“We all want the same thing – we want the renovation of this pre-Revolutionary War house that played such a pivotal part in the Revolution,” Tomback said.

Kazak said she found out about the shed demolition when she drove past the Virginia Road property last Wednesday and discovered two trucks and heavy machinery in the front yard. There were also several men on the grounds with shovels, she said.

Coupled with the repeated cancelations by county personnel that would have allowed town officials to view the house’s interior and get a better idea of its condition has added to the frustration, Kazak said.

The Dec. 1 tour, the third time a tour was called off since Oct. 30, was canceled because of a flea infestation, Kazak said she was told.

“I can only imagine the condition of this building,” she said.

Katie Hite, executive director of the Westchester County Historical Society, said the shed was structurally unsound and needed to be removed. She also stated that it had no historical value and its demolition has no impact on the Miller House’s historic significance.

Hite assured the public that the county is committed to saving Miller House because it’s an 18th century structure and there are few buildings that old remaining in the county.

But she disagreed with town officials and others in North Castle fighting for its preservation that the structure would be irreparably harmed if it wasn’t immediately restored. Concerns over the best course of action and funding are important issues that need to be resolved.

“You need to save the building,” Hite said. “We need to save the building but it’s not going to fall down if we have a tough winter.”

She confirmed that last week’s cancelation was because of a flea infestation. At an earlier date, a raccoon was removed from the house, but the last time she was there, either the same animal returned or another raccoon found its way inside.

North Castle officials have been critical of the county for failing to advance the Miller House restoration. County Executive Robert Astorino’s administration has wanted to see the house moved before restoring it while town officials want to fix it and keep the structure on its original site even though it’s next to a concrete plant.

“When you’re inside during the day the noise is so loud you can’t even think,” Hite said.

Since it’s the county’s property, they have the authority to make tha decision.

Tomback said it is crucial for the county to secure the house as quickly as possible.

“Obviously, we’re concerned with the condition of the house,” she said. “We want to see that the building is brought up to snuff so animals can’t get in there.”

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said when he went over to the site last Wednesday and was concerned about what appeared to be plaques and a book that was on the porch exposed to the elements.

However, he said he had a constructive conversation with County Legislator-elect Margaret Cunzio last Friday who expressed concern over its condition and her willingness to work toward a resolution.

“It needs to be fixed. You still need to have that done,” Schiliro said. “If you want to move it, fix it, then move it.”

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