Tim Lee, a Cold Spring Harbor builder, is one of the new owners of Snouder’s Corner Drug Store, which he purchased with two partners, Claudia Taglich, of Oyster Bay, and Lenore Mahoney, of Sag Harbor. They sealed the deal on April 30. Lee, the president and owner of TML Builders and Lee Land Development, said he will maintain the original building, which the former owner, Hamid Nazif, said he did not want to do.
Nazif, a Great Neck businessman, bought Snouder’s in September 2015, five years after the store had closed. He had architect Michael Sergio Tedesco hire A.S. Engineering Services P.C. to evaluate Snouder’s in October 2017. The structure’s condition was fair to poor, the evaluation concluded, and the building did not meet local codes. Because repairing the structure did not appear feasible or cost-effective, in A.S.’s opinion, it recommended that Snouder’s be demolished and a new building be constructed.
The news was unpopular among preservationists, residents and the town, prompting the Town of Oyster Bay Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold a meeting last November to present the findings of its own architectural firm, Pokorny Associates. The commission voted unanimously to accept the conclusion that the structure should be restored.
Architect John Collins, who has been a member of the Town of Oyster Bay Landmarks Preservation Commission since its inception in the 1970s, and the president of the hamlet’s Raynham Hall Museum, said he is pleased and relieved that Lee is now in charge of Snouder’s.
“Unlike Nazif, Tim is very interested in restoring Snouder’s and in celebrating the history,” Collins said. “The building needs a lot of work and hasn’t been loved or maintained for a long time.”
Lee, who has worked on the exterior of Raynham Hall Museum, the Oyster Bay Rail Road Museum and the newly opened restaurant, 2 Spring, said he has had his eye on Snouder’s for 15 to 20 years. A lifelong Cold Spring Harbor resident who specializes in historic restoration, he said he loves Snouder’s architectural details, all the varying styles of shingles on the building, the tower in front, and finds interesting the different period windows.
“I thought it was a shame it was in disrepair,” he said. “Now that Oyster Bay is doing better and permits are being approved, I was able to convince investors.”
The drugstore, on the corner of South and West Main streets in the heart of Oyster Bay, dates back to 1884, and is the oldest operating business in the hamlet. The first telephone in town was installed there, and Theodore Roosevelt was known to ride from his home at Sagamore Hill on horseback to call the White House.
Lee is working with the town’s building department to perform preliminary work cleaning up the building. Some of the findings have been disgusting, he said, like the discovery of dead animals. But he has also found old pharmacy bottles and discovered writing on the wallpaper that he has uncovered leading up the stairs.
“People wrote on it, including a man leaving to serve in World War II,” Lee said. “He wrote how much he loved working at Snouder’s and hoped he would return. This finding is so cool.”
Lee said he does not plan to change anything at Snouder’s, but since the building has been there so long, he had to choose what version of the structure to restore. He plans to restore it to look like it did in the 1920s. “The building will be a lighter color, according to the historic photos,” Lee said. “I want it to feel lighter, happy and inviting, to be a jewel for the town.” The cost of restoration, he said, will be substantial.
What will be housed in the structure is not yet definite, he said.
“This is my wheelhouse,” Lee said. “What I do with the construction is never easy, but we will work through whatever comes our way.”
Harriet Gerard Clark, the executive director of Raynham Hall, said she was impressed with the work that Lee did three years ago on the house museum. The former home of Robert Townsend, a member of the Culper spy ring, it is nearly 300 years old. Many believe the Culper ring was integral to the American victory during the Revolutionary War.
Lee worked in the rear of the house on the exterior restoration of the 19th century wing, Clark said. He replaced the rotted wood, taking the building down to the bare wood, and painted it and restored the window frames. Clark said that Lee does excellent work.
“This is great news that Tim will be working on Snouder’s,” Clark said. “It’s been such a shame to have a historic building in such bad shape for so long. It’s been like having an orphan on the block in a way.”
Lee estimated that the project will be complete in a year and a half.