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Aquebogue's Witch's Hat to get a makeover

Witch's Hat, a town-designated landmark in Aquebogue. (Aug.

Witch's Hat, a town-designated landmark in Aquebogue. (Aug. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

They call it The Witch's Hat, and it's one of the oddest-looking buildings on the North Fork.

Beloved by residents in Aquebogue for its resemblance to its namesake, it has been falling apart for years.

Now, a group of locals plans to restore the landmark on Route 25, with contributions of time, supplies and money.

"This is all falling into place," said Georgette Keller, 49, who founded the group called Save Main Road. "This is amazing from a community standpoint."

Veterinarian Richard Hanusch, who owns the building that sits on his office's property, said he wanted to restore it but was quoted $30,000 to $40,000, a price he could not afford.

Keller posted a photo of The Witch's Hat on the Remembering Riverhead Facebook group and started to drum up support to repair the building, which was designated a Riverhead Town landmark in 1987 by the Landmark Preservation Commission.

The Witch's Hat was built in 1927 by English immigrant Harry Fleming, according to Richard Wines, chairman of the preservation commission.

Main Road had just been paved and automobiles were gaining popularity, Wines said. Fleming and his wife Lena wanted to take advantage of the influx of East End visitors. The unique shape of the building was chosen to attract attention. Inside, they sold candy and cigarettes. Later, it had a gas pump and also sold ice cream.

Other roadside stands followed, but The Witch's Hat is the oldest such attraction on Main Road, Wines said.

For more than 40 years, the building has been vacant.

"We would ride our bikes by it as kids and it was a little spooky," said Hal Goodale, 43, a lifelong Aquebogue resident. "I always wondered about it."

Goodale, who owns nearby Goodale Farms, added he has thought about buying it and moving it to his farm as an attraction.

The tip of the hat is gone, allowing rainwater to seep in. Moss and poison ivy snake across the building.

Luckily, Wines said, the structure remains in "reasonably good shape."

Local contractors have vowed to donate time and materials, Keller said, and another group will remove trees and plants. Hanusch said he will pitch in financially. The group will meet next week at the site to make plans for construction, she said.

She is hoping the restoration will be completed by October for a Halloween dedication, when area farms are swamped with visitors picking pumpkins.

Hanusch has no plans for the building after it is restored other than it being an attraction like the Big Duck in Flanders. Keller said she would like to see it used as a tourist information center.

Residents are excited to see a local fixture get some love.

"It's something that's unique and old and that can never be replaced," farmer Susan Wells said. "It's great to see it fixed up."


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