The Town of Montgomery Historic Preservation Commission denied the request for demolition of the Milliken Farmhouse at 18 Coleman Road by the Bruderhof community.
The house was placed on the local historic register in 2006, so any demolition or modification to the house requires approval of a certificate of appropriateness (COA) from the commission.
Commission chair Mary Ellen Matise said the commission had very little to go off for a structural assessment, and town building inspector Walter Schmidt determined the house was not in danger of collapse in an assessment in August of 2018.
In the absence of a structural assessment, Matise said the commission had to follow its mission statement, which is, “to protect, enhance and perpetuate our heritage so as to ensure the quality of life in the Town of Montgomery for present and future generations.”
Matise said while the house doesn’t need to be inhabited again, it can be restored and used for whatever purpose the Bruderhof may need.
Commission member Susan Cockburn recommended several uses for the community, such as a farm market, or for a community organization the Bruderhof is involved in, such as Hope Not Handcuffs.
“From a historic point of view and because there is really nothing structural to go on, there are possibilities, and there are possibilities to go with your mission,” Matise said to Bruderhof representative David Palau.
The commission must also uphold the law, Matise said. The Town of Montgomery 1997 Historic Preservation Law provides for the, “protection, enhancement and perpetuation of landmarks,” and puts the responsibility of maintenance from the point of historic register designation on the owner.
“Once [the historic designation] goes forward, you’re binding yourself to the letter of the law,” Matise said.
Palau said the house is uninhabitable and beyond repair. With vandals breaking in, it presented a liability to the community.
The house has no use for the community, Palau said. He would prefer to the see it demolished and the land returned to open space.
The Bruderhof may appeal the commission’s decision to the town board or appeal to the commission for relief on the grounds of hardship. Matise said the Bruderhof might be able to submit a COA application to the commission for the demolition of the newer addition to the house.
The Milliken Farmhouse housed several prominent families and early settlers in the area, including Captain Peter Milliken, who was the son of Captain James Milliken. James was killed in the Revolutionary War at Fort Montgomery.
Peter Milliken served in the War of 1812 and was a New York State Assemblyman. In 1851, Peter Milliken deeded the house to his nephew, Peter Eager. Peter Eager was a descendant of William Bulls and Sarah Wells, two of the most prominent settlers in Orange County.
The Bruderhof purchased the Milliken House in 2000, and lived in five subdivided apartments until 2006, when the house was granted landmark status. It was also in 2006 that an attorney letter mentions demolition of the Milliken house addition, but no COA application was submitted.