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Group pushes town to landmark lighthouse, fort on Plum Island

The Plum Island Lighthouse and Fort Terry, seen

The Plum Island Lighthouse and Fort Terry, seen here, date to the late 1800s and 1900, respectively, and are in need of repair according to Southold's Historic Preservation Commission. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

Preservationists have asked the Southold Town Board to designate a pair of structures on Plum Island as official town landmarks.

The Plum Island lighthouse and Fort Terry, which date to the late 1800s and 1900, respectively, are in need of repair, according to Southold’s Historic Preservation Commission.

James Garretson, chairman of the commission, told the board at a recent work session that a commission member who conducts tours near the island — which is in Gardiners Bay just off Orient Point — recently noticed the lighthouse “has been deteriorating very seriously.”

He said the landmark status would give the town better footing with the federal government to discuss repairs and preservation efforts for the structures. The government owns Plum Island and has put it up for sale. The public can’t visit the island, home to the Animal Disease Center whose work is scheduled to end by 2023-24. After that, a new facility with a wider mission is slated to open in Manhattan, Kansas.

It is “important for us to get an avenue to discuss with the federal government to do something about this,” Garretson said, referring to the commission and the town.

Town officials have said it would cost about $1.5 million to restore and repair the lighthouse. A historic resources survey of the island states that the lighthouse has both historic and architectural significance as part of a system of navigation aids through the eastern entrances to Long Island Sound.

Fort Terry served as a heavily armed coastal defense fortification before it was decommissioned in 1948.

Board members said they would reach out to other groups and officials who might support preservation efforts for the lighthouse and fort.

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