This time last year, preservationists were in an uproar over the owner’s plan to demolish the once-stately Queen Anne style mansion on Rt. 9W, known to most as the Dragon Inn. Now the talk is once again of demolition, but this time it’s the unfinished, recently collapsed addition, which preservationists can’t wait to see go.
“We have a couple of people with crowbars just waiting to go to tear that part of the building down,” said Mark Smith, laughing. He’s the leader of the Friends of Clovelea, a group that hopes to preserve the property. It takes its name from the estate’s original moniker, given by industrialist William R. Sheffield.
Last year the village’s Historic Review Board denied the request to demolish the building, and it will again be asked to rule on the demolition of the addition this year.
Beyond that, the future of the property is unclear.
In an interview Monday, Wu said that something does need to be done with the addition, and that it will be torn down if the review board gives its permission.
He also said that he still owns the building, and it’s still for sale.
“It’s been a tough winter and no one has approached me about buying the building,” Wu said.
“We just want to clean up the front of the building,” he added.
There was one point last fall when it appeared that Wu would lose the building to foreclosure. He owed more than $70,000 in back taxes and mortgage payments, but according to the Ulster County Department of Finance, which is responsible for collecting taxes, Wu is “paid up to date, and is on a monthly payment plan in order to keep up to date.”
However, he does have an outstanding local tax bill for 2014 of $10,135.30.
Wu and the Friends of Clovelea have been talking about the building since last year, when Wu granted the group access to the property to do a cleanup. The group believes if the property is clean and the addition is removed the property will be much more attractive to a buyer.
Although Friends would like to purchase it and turn it into a B&B, “it’s just too expensive,” Smith said.
“My hopes were higher than they had been in a while late last year,” said Smith. “Wu’s contract with Win Morrison as his real estate agent had run out and he was talking with Westwood Metes and Bounds and we met with them. They had someone with their agency really interested in historic preservation and expressed interest in marketing it and selling it.”
“But when Wu said he still wanted to get $600,000 for it, that put an end to it,” Smith added.
“He still wants just too much for the condition of the building, although he says he’s interested in some sort of a partnership with us,” Smith said.“Wu says he cares about historic preservation, that he is interested in using the building as a restaurant or turning it into a B&B. We talked about putting cottages up on the property, but he wants too much money for it. So we’re still searching for some solution.”
The property has been unused since a fire damaged much of the rear part of the building in the 1990s.