An historic Larchmont home known as “The Orchard,” that spearheaded a movement against overdevelopment went up in flames Sunday, July 31.
The total destruction of the more than 6000 square foot house at 40 Ocean Avenue in Larchmont Manor comes after one of the largest fires in Larchmont in recent years.
The Larchmont Fire Department says shortly after 2 am Sunday, a woman living in the house alerted the fire department of smoke. Firefighters were on the scene within three minutes to find smoke coming from an area located in the attic of the two and half story home. Fire Chief John Caparelli says that two women – a housekeeper and an au pair – were inside the home when one was awakened by a piece of ceiling falling onto her bed. The occupants immediately fled the house.
Firemen arrived to find flames along the roofline and in an upper bedroom. The blaze quickly escalated to a three alarm call with more than 40 firemen from units in Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, Greenville, Pelham, Rye and New Rochelle battling the raging fire for nearly 6 hours. The firefighters were assisted by Larchmont Police, Larchmont/Mamaroneck VAC, Scarsdale VAC, Westchester C&0, ConEdison Gas and Electric, Larchmont Water/DPW, and the 60-control dispatch and fire coordinator teams.
There were no injuries. The family who lives there was away at the time.
Westchester County Cause and Origin determined the cause of the fire to be electrical accidental equipment failure in the attic.
Fears of overdevelopment erupted several years ago when the house and large property were sold to a developer with plans to add several more homes to the landscape. Neighbors protested the expansion, forming a group known as Preserve Larchmont, which eventually led to a building moratorium in the village.
The original development plan by KOSL Building Group sparked community outrage by calling for the demolition of the historical house and subdivision of the property into four lots to make room for “four McMansions,” Preserve Larchmont said at the time.
The historic house was built in the late 1800’s and designed by a locally significant architect, Frank Ashburn Moore, who also completed important local civic structures, such as Village Hall and Larchmont Public Library. The NY State Historic Preservation Office had determined the house to be eligible for listing on the National Register.
Concern about overdevelopment in Larchmont led the Village of Larchmont in 2017 to enact new zoning laws aimed at curbing overbuilding and limiting demolitions and subdivisions where appropriate.
The new owner had since been granted permission to build. An agreement reached in 2019 required the original house be preserved in its entirety, and no more than two additional houses built on the property. The current occupants were renting the home.
The Fire Department wishes to remind everyone to take the same actions as these occupants, which are to get outside and stay outside, and immediately call 911 when you see smoke or fire.