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Canton’s Birdsfoot Farm hopes to rebuild after Pink House burns

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CANTON — It was known as the Pink House, but Kerstin “Dulli” Tengeler also refers to it as the “Hippie House.”

The two-story dwelling at Birdsfoot Farm, 1263 County Route 25, burned to the ground March 2, leaving occupants Rogerio Furtado and Zachary Reichenback without a place to live and stirring memories for dozens of people who had resided for a time at the communal organic farm over the past 38 years.

It’s believed the blaze was ignited by a wood-burning stove, said Ms. Tengeler, who lives in the main house at Birdsfoot with her husband, Steven A. Molnar, and their children, Seba and Kira S. Molnar.

After calling 911 about 8:30 p.m., Birdsfoot residents watched helplessly as windows shattered at the Pink House while it burned. Mr. Furtado and Mr. Reichenback were both in the farm’s main house when the fire broke out. Two cats escaped the fire uninjured.

“Within minutes, it was raging. Within an hour, it was all the way down,” Ms. Tengeler said. “By the time the fire departments got here, the house was already gone.”

Five departments responded: Canton, Pyrites, Hermon, Russell and Pierrepont.

The home was uninsured, so funds are needed to build a new house for Mr. Furtado and future Birdsfoot residents, including organic-farming interns.

A fundraiser scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday will feature jazz music played Ms. Tengeler’s son, Seba, an accomplished saxophone player. He will be joined by Matt Bowman, a trumpet player; Dan Saulpough, guitar; Sam Whitesell, piano; Dan Gagliardi, bass; and Sam Walukouw, drums.

The event is free, but donations will be accepted. It will be held at Eben Holden Conference Center on the St. Lawrence University campus.

“We’re making this an opportunity to reconnect with friends,” Ms. Tengeler said. “We want people to share their stories about the Pink House. Many people who still live in the north country have lived there.”

Established in 1972, Birdsfoot is an organic farm where people interested in learning organic farming live and experience working together in a community.

Constructed in 1975 by George Hunt, a St. Lawrence University professor, the Pink House was among the first homes built on the 73-acre property. After the original pink paint faded, the home’s exterior displayed pockets of insulation that looked like yellow foam.

Mr. Furtado worked over the past three years to upgrade the house by installing insulation and a new metal roof. He also fixed structural joists in the floor and replaced windows.

Mr. Molnar said he’s hoping former Birdsfoot residents and other supporters gather for this week’s fundraiser. “Most of the Birdsfooters that are easy to find we’ve reached out to,” he said.

Birdsfoot Farm can be reached at 386-4852 or birdsfootfarm@gmail.com.

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