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Clayton mansion bought by Florida businessman to be restored


CLAYTON — Following years of neglect, the Fairview Manor Estate on the waterfront of the St. Lawrence River has been bought by a Florida businessman who plans to renovate the historic mansion and sell it.

Ronald J. Cooper, of St. Pete Beach, Fla., bought the mansion and its 16.8 acres of waterfront property at 38289 Route 12E in the town of Clayton from the Dedek family of Daytona Beach, Fla., on May 13 for $800,000, according to Jefferson County property sales records. The records show the property had an assessed value this year of $1,250,000.

Previously a summer retreat for a religious order and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 6,249-square-foot mansion includes 620 feet of waterfront, 30 rooms, a 2,000-square-foot river-view balcony, two duplex cottages, a private chapel, a smokehouse and a summer screen house.

Mr. Cooper, who owns a seasonal residence in Clayton near the estate on Route 12E, said he plans to renovate the elaborate cobblestone home. He then plans to sell the estate, which he believes could be bought as a private home or a commercial enterprise. He plans to retain about 9 acres of waterfront property to build a house of his own.

“I would like to see the estate come back to its former glory,” said Mr. Cooper, a Rochester native who has spent summers in the Thousand Islands area since 1953. “My intent is to sell the manor off with some of the waterfront property, and then hold on to the rest of the land to decide if I want to build a house.”

Jeannette F. Dedek and her late husband, John N. Dedek Sr., used the mansion as a residence and restaurant after purchasing it in 2000 for $1 million from the Sisters of the Holy Cross of St. Joseph’s Province, Ottawa, Ontario. The teaching order of Catholic nuns had used the manor as a summer home since 1962.

Mr. Cooper, 68, said he plans to renovate the mansion, which had fallen into disrepair with a leaky roof. Roof repairs have already been made, while plasterwork and painting is planned. He could not estimate how much he plans to invest in it.

“I haven’t had a chance to go through it with a contractor to see how much damage there is,” Mr. Cooper said. “You can imagine in a house of that age the work that needs to be done.”

He said he believes the mansion has the potential to be revived as a commercial enterprise. “I want to have someone come in and make something really cool that is a real asset for the community,” Mr. Cooper said. “It think it has tremendous potential — it’s a one-of-a-kind thing. It could be a restaurant again, a bed-and-breakfast or winery. There has been parking for about 125 cars out there.”

The house was built in 1938 by Carl J. Zimmerman, who founded a chemical company in Natural Bridge known as St. Lawrence Talc. The company’s name later was changed to Carbola Chemical Co. Inc. The house was sold to the sisters following Mr. Zimmerman’s death in 1958.

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