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Fire destroys closed Catskills hotel

ACCORD, N.Y. -- A fire of unknown origin destroyed the stately Wildmere Hotel in the Catskills Thursday, just hours after its owners criticized the state for trying to condemn the resort and take over the land.

The hotel, which also was known as the Lake Minnewaska House, had been closed the last two years.

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Seventeen fire companies were called in to battle the blaze, which started at 1:35 p.m. and was declared under control Thursday night. No injuries were reported, authorities said.

The cause of the blaze, which left only a few chimneys untouched, is still under investigation.

The hotel, located about 80 miles north of New York City, had been used since 1984 as office space by its owners, the Philips family.

Earlier in the day, Ken Philips Jr. called a news conference to rip state efforts to claim the land through eminent domain and condemn the property. Philips said such a move would set a dangerous precedent.

The Philips family has wanted to turn the huge,ornate hotel that has a sweeping view of Lake Minnewaska into a health resort and build condominiums on the property.

Their efforts have been opposed for the last year by environmentalists and the state Parks Department, which has been conducting condemnation hearings in an attempt to take over the land.

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A spokesman for the department Thursday declined comment on Philips' statements.

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