Years of neglect and exposure to the elements have caused exterior rusting, a deteriorating roof and an asbestos-laden interior, said Ted Webb, chairman of the Southold Town Historic Preservation Commission.
“It probably needs a couple coats of paint,” he said. “It’s just rusting away.”
The $1.5 million will stabilize rusted-out ironwork at the door and top of the lighthouse. Webb said he thinks more will need to be done to preserve the historic building.
The lighthouse, which Homeland Security owns, dates to the 1800s and guided mariners through Plum Gut for more than 100 years. It was deactivated by the Coast Guard in the late 1970s and was replaced by a modern structure. Plum Island Lighthouse is listed on federal, state and local historic landmark registers.
“It is part of not just our local history, but our American maritime history,” Webb said. “We really have to save it.”
Besides chairing Southold’s historic preservation commission, Webb said he has a lifelong love for Plum Island and the lighthouse. He has visited the structure almost daily for six years while narrating lighthouse cruises around the North Fork.
Webb and other Southold preservation activists have been seeking funding to repair the lighthouse for more than a year, but Webb said Zeldin’s interest in preserving the historic landmark accelerated the effort.
“Plum Island is not just a natural resource, but a cultural and historic monument with a rich history,” Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in a statement. “We must invest in its future by committing to protecting its past and restoring Plum Island Lighthouse.”
Restoration work is scheduled to be completed by December 2020.