Dragon Inn demolition likely

dragon inn SQA battle between the village’s Historic Review Board and the owner of a 19th-century mansion over a proposed demolition may have became a moot point last week. A review by a state official and the village attorney found the Dragon Inn’s historic designation wasn’t done properly, clearing the way for a demolition permit. According to Don Snyder, owner Ching Ya Wu’s representative, the plan is to raze the structure and possibly build high-end townhouses on the location. Built by paper magnate William R. Sheffield in 1882, the building, first called Clovelea, later served as a hotel and Chinese restaurant before a fire gutted it in the early 1990s.

The issue is paperwork: documents from the 2007 historic designation of the structure are incomplete. Village attorney Alex Betke said the village wouldn’t be able to defend the designation in court if challenged by the owner, who had never sought the designation and said it made it impossible to sell the property.

Historic Review Board member Michael Sullivan Smith resigned over the village’s position, citing lack of “support of the elected officials or staff of the village.” He said the paperwork was incomplete because the “village office failed to maintain the file.” Notifications had to be made and the zoning map had to be changed following the board’s designation, but that didn’t happen; “technicalities that make the owner (before the fact) and the public (after the fact) uninformed of the designation. That is the straw that broke this camel’s back.”


“This shows things totally out of control,” Smith added.

Historic Review Board chair Richard Frisbie said he’s not sure what the board can or will do. It will still hold its planned public hearing on the demolition proposal on Feb. 27, though it’s possible a demolition permit will be issued by then.

Donald Snyder, Wu’s construction management consultant, sought a demolition permit from building inspector Eyal Saad on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Saad declined, explaining he wanted something in writing from the village attorney, who was on vacation at the time.

“This is a delicate issue,” he said. “I just want to make sure this is done correctly.”

To help expedite matters, Snyder said he and Wu would be asking to meet with Murphy this week to discuss Wu’s plans.

“We also want to reassure him and the public that we will not be putting up low-income housing here,” Snyder said. “It’s not been on our radar scope.”

Quite the opposite. One possible plan calls for constructing 36 upscale, three-bedroom townhouses on the 3.9-acre parcel.

Snyder also took time to blast Sullivan Smith. He said Smith’s writing on his blog Saugerties-on-Hudson.blogspot.com calling for residents to rise up and come to the meeting to oppose the demolition of the Dragon Inn was, “bigoted, political and inciting people against the project.”

“It was disturbing and shameful,” Snyder said, “and Smith should be held accountable.”

“I am confused. My blog, Saugerties-on-Hudson.blogspot.com, is an educational blog,” Smith responded. “The only thing related to Clovelea [its original name] is the history of the building. I know that set the record straight relative to Don Snyder’s interpretation of the history and significance of the architect and the builder and the other criteria used for the designation that he was questioning, but his assertions were never accurate or verifiable. I cannot see how this could be ‘disturbing and shameful.’”

It’s possible Snyder had Smith confused with Frisbie, who recently wrote on Facebook that the “historic designation is delaying the process long enough for a groundswell of public opinion to be heard. Some time near the village elections the Historic Review Board will reach its decision. By then, you should have, too. Then it is up to you, the voters, to support the candidates who agree with you.”

Frisbie said he regretted Smith’s resignation.

“Michael will be sorely missed,” he said. “He has the knowledge, and the passion and he had the time to dedicate to the board. He will be a real loss.”

Smith said the incident would have far-reaching consequences.

“Ultimately this application is going to affect every investor and investment in every heritage property in the entire village,” he wrote.


There are 5 comments

  1. Tricia Patterson

    I can’t help but be saddened at the loss of this magnificent building – the history & stories that it holds in addition to the architecture. I hate to think that this could happen to our other historical areas. It seems the owner might have sought other alternatives to make the property more attractive to buyers – i.e. altering the price. As the old Mill was altered on East Bridge St. to offer Senior housing, it would be nice to be able to find goverment funding to restore the property to it’s original beautiful but functional condition.

    1. Derek

      If it’s that important to you, you could always cobble together the funds from like-minded folks and do it yourself. But expecting the gov’t (ie, everyone else) to pay for that sort of disaster is ridiculous.

  2. scott

    From the town and village flyer of the Town of Saugerties Historic Preservation Commission and Village Historic Review Board …

    Historic preservation is the idea that a municipality’s historic sites can and should be preserved. According, local, state and federal governements have instituted ways of recognizing buildings and districts considered worthy of preservation.

    Benefits of Historic Preservation

    – Attracts Tourism
    – Attracts industry by providing a unique historic and stable community of workers
    – Attracts small business that prefer to locate in a historic district
    – Ensures a pleasant and interesting town and village in which to live
    – Provides a sense of continuity with the past while providing guidelines for the future
    – Offers building owners specific help and guidance in preserving and restoring buildings through education and design review
    – Publicizes he availability of loans and grants for restoration or rehabilitation of landmark buildings

    The country, state, town and village have established programs, stated duties and responsibilities. Either preservation is important to the community or it isn’t. And looking across the Hudson Valley it would be shocking to say that Saugerties is the one Village that doesn’t care or is too empathetic to do the hard work.

    While this is arguably of the most architecturally significant building complex in the village/town, this decision goes far beyond this one structure. Either start doing the job or stop putting out the hype. The community either cares about its character and the history that is so important to it, or it doesn’t. There are more than enough communities around the area that profit from the history of the Hudson valley by protecting their historic resources. There’s nothing wrong with the most important landmark as people enter the village being the McDonald’s, is there?

  3. Bill

    It certainly would have been nice to spare this eyesore for another couple of decades until it met its ultimate demise through neglect and decay. I’m all for sensible historic preservation, but without proper funding all that was to be accomplished here was to deny a private property owner his rights while the premises became less salvageable by the day. With nothing being accomplished in the past 20 years I have my doubts that the next twenty would have proven my fruitful.

  4. Dragon Inn hearing tonight | Saugerties Times

    […] forward with a  public hearing on the fate of the Dragon Inn tonight at village hall despite concerns that the 2007 historic designation was not valid due in part to  incomplete paperwork. Historic Review Board chair Richard Frisbie said the board could still decide to redesignate the […]

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