Dale Salzberg and Andrea Brosnan will tell people they work in an office much like any other, but their work space is a far cry from cubicle life.
As employees of the Village of Old Field, Salzberg, village clerk, and Brosnan, village treasurer, share space in the ground floor of the Old Field Point Lighthouse, originally built in 1823. The tower was rebuilt in 1868.
With sweeping views of the Long Island Sound and the Port Jefferson Harbor, the lighthouse was given to the village in 1935 and has been used as village hall ever since.
“The drive up is the best part,” said Salzberg, who started as deputy clerk in 2005 and became clerk a few years later. “Then you get in here and the message light is blinking, there are e-mails to answer and files everywhere. It’s just an office.”
Brosnan said she has always loved lighthouses. So she was awestruck at her luck when she first started, but quickly filled her days staring at her computer screen rather than out the window.
“The Port Jefferson ferry goes back and forth right there,” she said, pointing out the window over her desk.
She turned her head to the right slightly, facing her computer: “But I’m always looking right here.”
With the lighthouse, the village also acquired the original keeper’s cottage, which was called that even though the lighthouse keeper lived in the lighthouse building. For years, the keeper’s cottage was used for village board meetings, but it’s now closed because it’s not handicap accessible and it wasn’t economical for the village to maintain two historic buildings, Salzberg said.
Brosnan said the village budgets about $25,000 a year for basic maintenance of the lighthouse, but bigger projects, like restoring the lighthouse tower and the keeper’s house to be accessible to the public, would be a much larger effort requiring local fundraising and grants.
Mayor Michael Levine said restoring the keeper’s cottage and lighthouse tower are items on the board’s wish list, but he said figuring out how to raise the money has never been discussed in detail.
“I have no idea where we would get the funding,” he said, adding that the job would likely have a six-figure price tag. “The village operates without any fat whatsoever.”
The glass and iron beacon sitting 67 feet above the Long Island Sound contains a working light that flashes red and green every 30 seconds and can be seen from 13 nautical miles offshore, Levine said. The lens is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, which visits Old Field twice a year to inspect it.
Salzberg guessed that half of the village’s 1,000 residents don't know that village hall is located in the lighthouse. She didn’t until she went there in 2005 for a village car sticker and learned they were hiring. Though she was amazed by the beauty of working at the lighthouse when she first started, she said it’s not the main perk of her job.
“It’s not working in the lighthouse,” she said. “It’s working for such a small town. Your municipality are your friends.”