Lighthouse buffs are hoping the third time's a charm for restoration of the abandoned and vandalized Cedar Island Lighthouse.
Twice in the past 21 years, nonprofit preservation organizations have partnered with Suffolk County, which owns the 1868 landmark in Cedar Point County Park near Sag Harbor, for restorations. But the work never progressed beyond restoration of the adjacent oil storage house seven years ago by the U.S. Lighthouse Society's Long Island chapter.
Now the society is trying again. Its new Cedar Island Restoration Committee hopes to raise $2 million to convert the gutted structure into a museum or bed-and-breakfast inn.
"We think it's a great private-public partnership," parks commissioner Joseph Montuori said. "This group is very energetic. People love lighthouses so I think this is going to fly. I think a lot of people will volunteer to help when the word gets out."
The latest restoration push began more than a year and a half ago after Michael Leahy, a longtime boater with homes in Westbury and Sag Harbor, watched a documentary about lighthouses and contacted the society about restarting the restoration process. Since Leahy had worked on Wall Street before starting a real estate and construction business, the society suggested he lead the effort. So far, the 10-member committee has raised about $75,000.
Hicksville engineer Joseph Lucchesi, a committee member, surveyed the structure and determined that restoring the exterior, the first phase of the work, would cost about $935,000.
The first job, Leahy said, will be replacing the leaky, temporary roof at a cost of $200,000. The asphalt roof was installed by the county after vandals broke in in 1974 and torched the interior, leaving nothing but the granite walls now supported by interior scaffolding. Leahy hopes to install a sheet metal roof next fall.
After that, as grant money and donations allow, the bricked-up windows would be replaced and the lantern atop the structure would be restored or replaced. Then the original interior layout would be recreated.
"Whether it would be used as a museum or a bed-and-breakfast hasn't been determined yet," Leahy said. "One of the benefits of a B&B is that you would have somebody living here all the time so that would really cut down on the vandalism. And lighthouses that have been restored into bed-and-breakfasts generate some income that can help with the maintenance."
The county will help with logistics and applying for grants. Boat tours of Cedar Island and other East End lighthouses are planned as a fundraising tool, with details to be announced at Cedarislandlighthouse.org.
The government decommissioned the lighthouse in 1934 and replaced it with a steel skeleton tower. The site went through several private owners until it became part of Suffolk's park system in 1967.
When it was built, the lighthouse was on a three-acre island. The hurricane of 1938 created a sandbar, connecting Cedar Island to the rest of East Hampton. The new peninsula was dubbed Cedar Point.