The La Grange Inn has stood at the corner of Higbie Lane and Montauk Highway in West Islip for more than 260 years. It started out as a remote country resort, a place where people came to spend their entire summers fishing and hunting. For most of the last hundred years it has been a restaurant and catering hall, hosting weddings, anniversaries, and parties.
Without getting into details, one can say that La Grange was built before 1750. George Washington probably didn’t stay there, but General Lafayette did.
One can also say Robert Moses, Ethel Merman, and Bob Keeshan ate there regularly. New York mayors and governors attended events there, and it is the most prominent historical site in West Islip.
But the last few years have been an uncertain time for La Grange. People driving by have had trouble telling whether it is open or not, and in many cases it hasn’t been. The most recent establishment in 2010 could only manage to stay open for just a few months. The La Grange task force/West Islip Association and West Islip historical society have been working to find a suitor for the building who wishes to preserve it, but it has become an uphill battle.
As the owners have purposely neglected it, it has become an eysore, making it more attractive to those who wish to swoon in and destroy it. Enter the November 2012 proposal by CVS to put a 24 hour drug store in and demolish La Grange. CVS so far is only willing to move a tiny potion of the historic structure to a corner of the property and has said they intend to demolish the rest.
Could the timing of the November 2012 announcement of this and the plans to rezone the land have been brought forth just after Hurricane Sandy intentionally? When much of our attention was devoted (understandingly) on he aftermath of the hurricane? Perhaps the developers thought it might have been easier to get it through while people had fewer resources to object.
We then have the November 14th hearing before the planning board where few said they were looking forward to a beautiful new CVS, but most lamented the destruction of the Inn. An online petition to fight the change sprouted up, and when I saw the news posted to my Long Island and NYC places no more facebook page I took up the fight with the Save The LaGrange Inn Facebook page.
While public opinion seems to be overwhelmingly in favor of saving La Grange, and common sense seems to dictate that a 260 year old inn is more desirable than an all night drug store that would replace it, we now must still rely on the town board to help save La Grange.
If the board comes through, the survival of La Grange is by no means secure. The next problem will be what to do with the now vacant building. It must be turned into a viable economically sustainable property in order to to ensure a an enduring future, and that will not be easy, and that will not be cheap. The owners seem determined to let it go to waste and want it sold at their high asking price. They do not seem interested in saving a legacy.
I cant help but think that it is a shame, that with countless structures destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, many of those being restaurants, that we would just go ahead and let one more be taken from us. This one being taken not by the unpredictable wrath of mother nature, but by the predictable greed of opportunistic land developers. With so much recently lost, is this the right time to purposely take more? La Grange, with its marvelous past could be just waiting for someone with a vivid imagination and a few dollars to turn it into something truly beautiful for a lasting future.
People To Contact
Below are some key decision makers, the people to tell you are against rezoning the property. Against a CVS being put in place of a demolished La Grange.
Islip Town Planning Board
Planning and Development Page
David Genaway, AICP
655 Main St
Islip, New York 11751
Islip Town Countil
655 Main St,
Islip, New York 11751
Town Supervisor Tom Croci
West Islip Association Facebook Page