The restoration of Cedar Island Lighthouse in East Hampton could finally begin next year after more than four decades’ worth of deterioration at the 19th century building, Suffolk County officials announced Monday.
The Suffolk Legislature recently awarded a bid for more than $165,000 to New York City-based Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership to plan and design exterior repairs, said Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack). The planning is expected to be complete by the end of 2017, allowing the legislature to release a request for proposals to do the repairs around the start of 2018, she added.
“It’s been a very, very, very long time coming and really is a new chapter in the history of the lighthouse . . . ,” Fleming said.
The lighthouse, which was built in 1868, has been largely neglected since it was damaged in a fire in 1974. The windows are boarded up with bricks, and the roof, which has not been replaced, is falling in. Its lantern was removed in 2013 and placed outside the Sag Harbor Yacht Club after being restored.
The Long Island Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society has been planning to repair the structure since 2010, when it signed a stewardship agreement with the Suffolk Legislature to improve and maintain the structure in Cedar Point County Park.
It plans to turn the lighthouse into a two-bedroom bed-and-breakfast in an effort to boost tourism and generate more revenue. But a lack of money and inertia created delays, said Michael Leahy, chairman of the nonprofit’s Cedar Island Lighthouse Restoration Committee.
The county legislature agreed last year to spend $500,000 on the lighthouse’s exterior restoration, but officials said they are seeking donations to repair the interior, which could cost millions of dollars. They said they will not know the full amount they will need until plans are finalized.
Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said he and Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) will also seek state funding for the project during the 2018 capital budget process.
Bob Allen, whose great-grandfather William Follett was the last lighthouse keeper before the structure was decommissioned in 1934, said he plans to give walking tours of the building to help the fundraising effort.
“All these years with nobody out here, it’s deteriorating and it’s really sad,” said Allen, of Greenport.