By ASHLEY HELMS
On the corner of Boston Post Road and Fenimore Road sits the historic DeLancey
house, one of the oldest buildings in Mamaroneck. Currently home to a restaurant supply store and La Piccola Casa Italian restaurant, the 1792 home was where Last of the Mohicans author James Fenimore Cooper married Susan DeLancey in 1811. Susan was a member of the prominent Mamaroneck family who owned the house.
Now, a race to cultivate funds to save the house from demolition has started, led by the Mamaroneck Historical Society.
The Chmielicki family, who currently owns the property and runs the restaurant supply store, is looking to sell the property and move the business to another location. They are asking for $3.6 million to sell the property, which has been on the market for about nine years.
Historical society member Carol Akin said she fears that, at any given moment, the right bid could come in for the family and they would sell the property.
“It could mean that the house could come down,” Akin said.
On Oct. 3, the historical society hosted a gala dinner and silent auction to raise money for the home. According to Akin, the society wants to buy the property and relocate the home or purchase it outright from the owners and leave it where it is. Moving the home would cost an additional $400,000, according to Akin.
Through fundraising efforts in the form of the gala, silent auction and spring tag sale, Akin anticipates that $10,000 has been raised.
“None of the efforts individually will completely save [the house,] but they alert people in the community,” she said.
The DeLancey house was moved from its original site located on Heathcote Avenue in 1900, which made it unable to be included in the National Registry of Historic Places, which would protect it from demolition.
“The new owners probably felt that they wanted to turn it into an inn,” Akin said.
The historical society member said she is confident that a developer would be interested in enlarging the property and tearing down the DeLancey house, but said the Chmielicki family would like to see the house saved and has offered to donate the home to the historical society if the group can pay to move it to another location. If possible, they also have the opportunity to purchase the home directly from the Chmielicki family.
Ultimately, Akin said they would like to turn the home into a museum and the headquarters of the Mamaroneck Historical Society.
“The family hasn’t actively pursued selling it as much as they have been recently,” Akin said.
The historical society became even more passionate about saving the home after the group was unsuccessful in stopping the demolition of the 1790 Gedney Farm House last year by the Rye Neck Board of Education.
Ed Chmielicki, who owns the restaurant supply store, said that he and his two siblings inherited the property from their father, who bought it in the 1940s. His father bought it to run an auto service station, but, when he retired in the 1980s, Chmielicki’s brother Tommy took over the property before he died nine years ago.
Unfortunately, Chmielicki said he needs more of a warehouse to run his business.
“I’m kind of here by default; it’s not conducive to my business. I own the property and I’m doing what I can do,” he said.
The historical society approached Chmielicki with their concerns for the home, and, though he said he didn’t necessarily share their passion, Chmielicki said he empathized with them. He agreed to donate the home to the society if someone wanted to buy the home for development, but had no use for the historic structure, provided that the society would be able to move the DeLancey house.
“They would have that time to get a location, their funds, and move the property,” Chmielicki said. “I would much rather sell the property to someone who would use the existing building and maybe remodel or build around it.”
Fundraisers will continue for as long as possible with the historical society taking every opportunity they can to raise public awareness. Akin said that the main thrust of the efforts is that the house is not only a local historical landmark, but a national one as well due to James Fenimore Cooper’s part-time residence in the house.
“He’d come down to Westche-ster and [he and Susan DeLancey] lived in the DeLancey house off and on,” Akin said. “Somebody who has the means and sees this and feels that they want to be on board, then maybe we’ll have some hope.”