The iconic mechanical eagle that sits at the top of the Stony Brook Post Office is in need of restoration after serving the community for over 80 years.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas; Photo credit: Don Jacobsen

From a distance, the eagle that adorns the facade of the Stony Brook post office looks like any other eagle on any other public building.

But look closely, and wait till the top of the hour. There — it flaps its wings.

Stony Brook's mechanical eagle has been heralding the new hour since 1941, to the delight of residents and visitors to the North Shore community.

But the bionic bird has been getting a bit weary after more than eight decades of greeting guests and telling time, officials said.

Age and weather have eroded the wooden eagle's wings, and the gears that make them flap fail to operate sometimes, said Gloria Rocchio, president of the nonprofit Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which is responsible for the eagle's care. 

Not only that, arrows held by the eagle's talons fell off not long ago, Rocchio said. 

The heritage group has launched a campaign to raise $69,000 to fund repairs. The wings will be fixed and repainted, and the gears — originally built from car parts and other spare equipment — will be refurbished, Rocchio said.

"It's getting old," Rocchio said Tuesday. "We have a [livestream] camera on the village green and people call us and tell us the left wing isn't working or the right wing isn't working, or not at all, so we know it needs some restoration."

She said she hopes restoration work begins this fall.

Fundraising events include an online auction that starts May 22, and a June 22 "Summer Soiree" gala at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook. 

Nestled beneath the Colonial-style post office's cupola and clock and above a row of four columns, the eagle has been a fixture of the community since it was dedicated on July 4, 1941.

Ward Melville stands in front of the Stony Brook post...

Ward Melville stands in front of the Stony Brook post office on Nov, 13, 1966. The hand-carved raptor was installed by the developer when he built the post office as part of the Stony Brook Village shopping center. Credit: Newsday/Don Jacobsen

The hand-carved raptor — whose wings span 20 feet — was installed by developer and shoe magnate Ward Melville when he built the post office as part of the Stony Brook Village shopping center.

Ever since then, the eagle has flapped its feathers to signal the top of each hour, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. An analog timing device in the post office's third floor attic operates the cupola clock, which in turn sets the wings in motion at the top of the hour, said Michael Colucci, the shopping center's facilities supervisor.

Heritage organization officials believe the eagle is the only one of its kind in the world.

The eagle will remain on public view during the work, Rocchio said, adding officials feared it was too risky to take it down for repairs.

“It’s a real Rube Goldberg kind of thing,” Rocchio said. “I’d be very afraid that we wouldn’t be able to reconnect it.”

Stony Brook Postmaster Chris Yanke said the eagle is a tourist attraction and local conversation piece.

“A lot of parents bring their kids down here to look at it," Yanke said. "They bring their out-of-state relatives to look at it. It’s really a thing. ... It makes it a very unique post office, to be honest with you.”

Iconic landmarks

The Stony Brook post office — and its iconic eagle — is part of a shopping center owned by the nonprofit Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which manages historical and cultural sites in Stony Brook. Here are a few:

Brewster House (1665): Possibly oldest house in Brookhaven Town, was tavern and general store during Revolutionary War.

Hercules (1820): Figurehead that previously appeared on the USS Ohio warship and the Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays.

Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (2022): Inductees include Billy Joel, The Ramones and Public Enemy.

SOURCE: Ward Melville Heritage Organization

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