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July 11, 2013

House where Cooper wed is in danger

Local woman leading campaign to save DeLancey House

By Greg Klein STAFF WRITER
Cooperstown Crier

---- — A part-time Cooperstown resident is trying to save a historic house that was home to one of Cooperstown’s most famous residents, James Fenimore Cooper.

The 1972 DeLancey house in Mamaroneck is in danger of being sold and torn down, according to Carol Bradshaw Akin. The house is where Cooper married Susan DeLancey in 1811 and where he wrote part of “The Spy,” his first big literary success.

“I would hope a lot of Cooperstown residents would see the need to save the house as a way of honoring James Fenimore Cooper,” said Akin, a middle school teacher who spends part of her time in Cooperstown and the other part in Mamaroneck, a Westchester County village just north of New York City.

Akin said that in the fall of 2011 she had just fought a losing battle to save another historic Westchester home, the Gedney farmhouse, where she and her late husband, Dr. Clayton Akin, had once lived, when she noticed a for sale sign on the DeLancey house.

“The owners of the DeLancey house have been very cooperative, but they are retiring and feel that it might be the right time for them to sell it,” she said.

The for sale sign is down for now, but Akin said that it will not stay down forever.

“The problem is it is a prime piece of property,” she said. “It is right on the (Boston) Post Road. It is across the street from Mamaroneck Harbor. Anyone would love to build there. So we are still under the gun.”

The house was built by Susan’s father, John Peter DeLancey, on Heathcote Hill, the site of a Revolutionary War battle. Cooper and Susan were married there on Jan. 1, 1811. They lived there with her family on and off for several years.

“It isn’t officially labeled the James Fenimore Cooper house, but it has its own significance,” Akin said.

Because it has been moved, from the top of the hill to the bottom, the DeLancey House does not qualify for the National Register of Historic Places and is not protected from being torn down.

“Once it comes off its historic footprint, it no longer qualifies for the historic registry,” Akin said.

Moving the house again is the best chance to save it, Akin said. According to her estimates it will cost about $350,000 to move the house. By contrast, buying the property would cost more than a million dollars. The current owners have indicated that they would donate the house if the money could be raised to move it.

“They have said we have first crack at it,” Akin said. “We would just like the opportunity to save it.”

Akin said she has reached out to the Mamaroneck Historical Society and to her local government officials, including her state senator, George Latimer. 

“I told them what I wanted to do and their response has been ‘go for it,’” she said. “There’s been a lot of support and a lot of good ideas.”

On Saturday, Akin will have a table at the Otsego County Conservation Association’s Lake Festival to highlight the efforts to save the house, and ask for help and donations. The Mamaroneck Historical Society will hold a silent auction fundraiser on Oct. 3; they are hoping to auction items related to Cooperstown, such as tickets to museums or shows, coupons for food or lodging or anything else with a value of more than $30.

Volunteers can also get involved by calling Akin at  547-8698 or by visiting the society’s website at mamaroneckhistory.homesteamd.com.

“I just love Cooperstown, and I love anything James Fenimore Cooper related,” Akin said. “To me, James Fenimore Cooper is not only an iconic figure, but a great American author. We have his family and Cooperstown to thank for him.

“It is hard to do something remotely, and it is hard to get people interested in saving something which is 200 miles away. I hope people will see that this is a very worthy cause. Mamaroneck is connected to Cooperstown in this way,” she added.