Developer to buy, preserve historic Post Road houses

The Cudner-Hyatt House and Quaker Meeting House are located at 937 Post Road.

The Scarsdale Historical Society clinched a new buyer for its property at 937 Post Road, which includes the Cudner-Hyatt House and the Quaker Meeting House. The society signed a contract with Nantucket Home Builders, a Rye-based residential developer, earlier this month.

Randy Guggenheimer, president of the Historical Society, said its asking price was $975,000, but did not reveal the sale price.

This is the second go-around for the Historical Society, which signed a contract to sell the property to 937 Post Road Associates LLC in April 2017. The deal was called off last October after White Plains developer Michael D’Alessio, a principal investor at the company, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges. The property went back on the market in January.

Many stipulations will carry over from the society’s first sales attempt. Like Post Road Associates, Nantucket Home Builders will be subject to a “preservation easement,” which will prevent the company from changing the outside of the Cudner-Hyatt building, according to Guggenheimer. “We’re going to be entrusted, going forward, to make sure [Nantucket Home Builders] lives up to the provisions of this ... preservation easement,” he said.

The new developer will also file for a subdivision, which will allow for two new single-family homes on the Post Road property. This stipulation was also included in the contract with 937 Post Road Associates.

George Braverman, the president and founder of Nantucket Home Builders, said he was drawn to the 0.7-acre lot when it was first offered in 2017 and again when it came back on the market this year. He’s worked on historic properties before, he added, which made the complexity of this project less daunting.

Because the property was listed on the historical registry, “There weren’t a lot of builders who were jumping in to do this,” he explained. “It’s really detailed work, [but] it’s interesting for me because it’s something I usually don’t do every day. ... It’s going to be enjoyable and challenging at best.”

Braverman also has a history with the village; he built several houses in Scarsdale back in the early ’90s. “It’s a very nice town to work in,” he said. “They’re very professional, very responsive. If it was another town, I’m not sure I would get involved.”

The sale must still be approved by Historical Society members, the New York State Education Department, the Attorney General’s office and the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

The Cudner-Hyatt House is one of the village’s oldest pre-Revolutionary farmhouses. The Quaker Meeting House was moved alongside it during restoration efforts in 1977. The Historical Society has owned and preserved the property since 1973, and has been responsible for all maintenance fees in the years since.

Over the 2018-19 fiscal year (between July 1 and March 16), Guggenheimer said the society invested more than $15,000 in the Post Road property — $3,850 in repairs and maintenance, $2,435 in utilities, $7,637 in insurance and $1,200 in caretaker fees.

“That’s part of the reason for the sale; it’s expensive,” he said. “We feel we will be able to do a lot more when we’re not having to spend a lot of time and money on the real estate ... and have proceeds from the sale.”

In 1987, the Cudner-Hyatt House opened to students, residents and history buffs as a 19th-century museum. The Quaker Meeting House was also used to house exhibitions of local artifacts. The Historical Society spearheaded and funded the renovations as per its mission — to preserve and disseminate information about the village’s history and that of the central Westchester.

While museum programs fizzled out a few years prior, the Cudner-Hyatt House officially closed its doors to the public in July 2017, after the Historical Society petitioned the Scarsdale Zoning Board of Appeals to remove its “museum variance,” making it, upon sale, a single-family residential property.

“We felt, in this day and age, the museum wasn’t really living up to what it had originally been intended for,” Guggenheimer said, citing changing school curricula and fewer student visits. “There are so many opportunities for [kids] to see larger museums and other historic properties in the area. It just didn’t feel like this was viable anymore.”

The society also struggled finding volunteers to staff the museum, he said.

After the change in zoning, the group donated most of the building’s furniture to the Ossining Historical Society and disposed of the rest. The multipurpose history of the property lives on in a documentary on the Historical Society’s website, Guggenheimer said.

With a bigger budget, he added the Historical Society will expand and hasten its projects, which include digitizing archival editions of The Scarsdale Inquirer and creating digital media about Scarsdale’s history.

The Historical Society has produced three films, including “A Tour of the Cudner-Hyatt House” and “Scarsdale in the 18th & 19th Centuries: From Hardscrabble Farms to Gracious Estates.” The most recent film, “A River Returns: A History of the Bronx River,” will premiere at the Scarsdale High School Little Theater March 24, 3 p.m. The society also plans to use a portion of its funds for grants, Guggenheim said. Last year, it issued a grant to the Westchester County Historical Society for a book on the county’s history.

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