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Montauk blockhouse to be named for civic leader

In the middle of thousands of acres of county and state parkland, a historic building will soon be named for the woman who fought to preserve the land around it.

The building, called a blockhouse, which served as a lookout for German submarines during World War II, will now be named “The Hilda Lindley House,” said Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman, who sponsored the renaming resolution that was passed by the legislature last week.

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Lindley, who died in 1980, was a Montauk environmentalist and one of the founders of the civic group the Concerned Citizens of Montauk. Lindley purchased the blockhouse -- in the middle of Montauk's Theodore Roosevelt County Park, which is in the middle of the Theodore Roosevelt State Park -- in 1951 and then spent years trying to persuade the county to purchase the parkland around the house to save it from development. In 1976, the county agreed, and then gained the rights to the blockhouse through eminent domain.

The county offered Lindley $60,000, or a 35-year lease to remain in the house, where she had raised her three children, at no cost, Schneiderman said. Lindley took the lease, and after she died, her children -- and their children -- have continued to spend summers there every year. The lease expires in February 2011.

The family has asked the county to extend the lease, said Daniel Lindley, Hilda Lindley’s youngest son, who lives in Florida for the rest of the year. But, he says, they’ve yet to receive a definitive response. Daniel Lindley said the house is not easy to live in -- it’s set a mile into thick forestry and has no electricity or running water. The Lindley family survives there on a diesel generator, wood-burning stoves and oil lamps.

Daniel Lindley said he and his family would be willing to serve as volunteer rangers for the park and would ensure that the historic house was preserved.

He said the gesture of naming the house after his mother is a nice one, but not enough. In fact, he said, locally and even on maps around the park, the house is already referred to as the Lindley house.

“It’s just a start to me,” he said. “I would really like to see something more meaningful, as far as my mother goes. I think keeping Lindleys in the Lindley House would go a long way with furthering her legacy.”

Schneiderman said he’s sympathetic toward the family, but he believes the house should be open to the public, or for a use that better complements the park, like a ranger house.

He said nothing has formally been decided on the house or the family’s lease. If nothing else, he said, he would be open to keeping the Lindleys there for a few more years to give the county time to decide on a use for the house.

But regardless of the eventual outcome, Schneiderman said he still wanted to recognize Lindley’s passion for the park and her contribution to the Montauk community.

“To be naming it after their mom,” he said. “I thought that at least they’re are getting something and she’s not going to be forgotten.” 

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