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North Hempstead plans $4 million lighthouse restoration

Stepping Stones Lighthouse, seen here in 1915, will

Stepping Stones Lighthouse, seen here in 1915, will be restored by North Hempstead Town, which plans to build a fixed pier and floating dock to make the lighthouse more accessible. Credit: Town of North Hempstead

North Hempstead Town is embarking on plans to restore the once stately Stepping Stones Lighthouse, which guides boaters on the Long Island Sound to safety even as it sits crumbling on its perch north of Kings Point village.

The Victorian Second Empire-style structure, built in 1876 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, has a deteriorating foundation, boarded-up windows and other signs of decay and neglect. Officials plan to construct a fixed pier and floating dock to make the lighthouse more accessible.

The lighthouse sits a mile from the shoreline, but can only be reached by boat at high tide. Building a pier and dock is the “first step” to preservation, Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said Wednesday in a statement.

“We are fully committed to restoring this local piece of maritime history and are very anxious to get started,” Bosworth added.

At a Tuesday meeting, the town board voted 7-0 to hire engineers to work on the project and begin designing the dock, at a cost not to exceed $128,100. The town has budgeted $520,000 in its 2017-2021 capital plan for the dock and pier construction, and hopes to reimburse the money with grant funding.

The town is awaiting a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which it applied for last year, to begin work, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere. The complete preservation is estimated to cost more than $4 million, she added.

The project is the result of a multiyear campaign by the town, following a battle to maintain stewardship over the lighthouse.

After the town took ownership of the structure in 2008, the National Park Service threatened in 2012 to take it back because the town did not properly maintain it to standards outlined in the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. The town then partnered with the Great Neck Park District and Great Neck Historical Society to restore the lighthouse.

Alice Kasten, president of the Historical Society, said the lighthouse “needs the community to love it.” The Historical Society has raised more than $30,000 in donations to contribute to preservation.

Catherine Turton, a park service spokeswoman, said the town has been keeping up with annual monitoring reports, which detail steps taken, including maintenance and preservation.

Town officials and local leaders are hoping to make the community aware of the lighthouse’s existence and history.

“Lighthouses are sacred to many people, they are beautiful structures,” said Bob Lincoln, a Park District commissioner and Great Neck resident. “Every one of them has a past. There’s a tremendous attachment to the past. It’s almost a romance, if you will.”

A number of facts about Stepping Stones

  • 1876 — Year lighthouse was built by Irish bargemen and stonemasons
  • 1932 — Updated with a green light
  • 1944 — Lighthouse was modernized
  • 2005 — Added to the National Register of Historic Places
  • 1,600 — Number of yards offshore the lighthouse sits in Kings Point village
  • 49 — Feet above sea level

Source: Town of North Hempstead

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