POTSDAM - Members of a new group calling itself the Potsdam Historical Preservation Society asked the town board Tuesday night to give them one year to find funding to save an old Queen Anne-style building at 18 Elm St. from the wrecking ball.
But while town officials commended the group for taking an interest in preserving local history, they said the one-time family home, funeral parlor and Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam fraternity was too far gone to save.
"We are here tonight to let the town board know of our presence, and it is our belief that this house should be saved," said Franco Zani Jr., a 2008 SUNY Potsdam graduate who now lives in Kingston. "As an archeologist I have seen houses that are in much worse repair than that, which have been restored."
Mr. Zani said a growing interest in saving the house is being spread via Facebook, and that with a little more time he believes money raised through the online effort can be used to repair the building. He said there are thousands of people signing up online who are interested.
But Councilman Michael J. Zagrobelny said he has toured the old building and beleives it is too dilapidated to save, primarily because of the cost that would be involved. He also said pinning hopes on an online signup effort is futile.
"We've got a current eyesore and a current danger down there, and you want us to wait a year," Mr. Zagrobleny said. "I will tell you quite frankly that waiting a year to see what Facebook can bring is too long for me."
Town officials bought the old fraternity house for $60,000 last year with the intention of razing it and building a new town hall on the location. Officials say it is the perfect spot for a municipal building across from the U.S. Post Office and kitty corner to the village fire department, police station and Civic Center.
John D. Michaud III, a Massena-based video blogger who recently sparked interest in the historic structure through a series of YouTube videos pointing out a connection between 18 Elm St. and Hollywood horror film icon Wes Craven, said the town was missing an opportunity to pull the community together.
"You could have a community effort with this house, you could bring Potsdam together," Mr. Michaud said. "You could have all kinds of events to save a beautiful old house that in my opinion is getting more rare in time because we are losing a lot of our past."
Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said she understood the group's interest in preserving history, and said she herself might be interested in joining their preservation society in the future. But she said trying to repair 18 Elm St., after decades of neglect, was not practical.
"We understand where you're coming from, and it's simply practicality versus idealism here," Mrs. Regan said. "I wish this would have happened 40 or 50 years ago when we could have easily done what you ask."
The Potsdam Town Board has not set a timetable for tearing down the old fraternity, but has hired Atlantic Testing Laboratories of Canton to do a hazardous waste study to determine if asbestos or other contaminants are present.
At the same time the town is in the process of making major repairs to its current 35 Market St. town hall with the aid of a New York state historic preservation grant.
Once repairs are made at 35 Market, the town board hopes to use the facility for a court complex and then move other town office functions to a new facility at 18 Elm Street.