A preservation group has removed the lantern structure atop the historic Cedar Island Lighthouse near Sag Harbor to begin a long-awaited restoration.
With an estimated $20,000 in donated services from two volunteer contractors and a boatyard, the Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society removed the lantern last week and transported it to the boatyard in Sag Harbor for evaluation and eventual restoration.
The chapter has been trying for years to mount a restoration effort for the empty lighthouse in Cedar Point County Park, but until now all that was done was refurbish the oil storage house adjacent to the main structure.
"It was a textbook day. It went exactly as we planned," said Michael Leahy, chairman of the restoration committee.
Before the liftoff for the deteriorating lantern -- the metal frame structure atop the lighthouse that once housed the lens -- Bob Coco Construction workers and volunteers went to the site several times to prepare it.
"We determined that the lantern was just sitting there by its own weight," Leahy said, and it was not otherwise attached to the building. "When it was constructed, they probably put some mortar around the base and it had just disintegrated."
Coco and his crew drilled four holes in the platform supporting the lantern and put in eye bolts so a crane could lift it.
On Oct. 31, Chesterfield Associates of Westhampton provided a landing craft and crane for the lift. After a short trip out from Sag Harbor, the landing craft deposited the crane on the beach and it was attached to the lantern.
"We really held our breath while the crane pulled and pulled, and it took about two or three minutes and eventually the lantern slowly but surely lifted up," Leahy said.
It took a half-hour to load because the lantern and its support platform left only about 6 inches to spare on either side.
After 21/2 hours at the park, the landing craft returned to Long Wharf and volunteers from Sag Harbor Yacht Yard came with a trailer to pick up the lantern and return it to their facility. That required Bob Coco to lift utility wires along the way because of the height of the lightning rod on top of the lantern.
The marina staff had built a special platform in front of their Bay Street shop to support the lantern.
"The weather cooperated" with no wind until after the lift was completed, Leahy said.
The organization is developing a restoration plan for the lantern. "It's not in great shape, but most of it is there," he said. "It is restorable."
The restoration will probably involve cleaning the corroded metal with blasting by walnut shells or something softer than sand, and then putting a protective coating on it.
All of the glass has been broken by vandals. Leahy said experts will be brought in to evaluate the structure and make recommendations for restoration, including whether glass, Plexiglas, Lexan or some other material will replace the missing windows.
"The platform for the lamp is fine," he said. "The lamp is gone. Nobody knows where it went."
He said ultimately a historic lamp and lens from another lighthouse might be acquired or a replica fabricated once the tower is restored and visitors can go up into the lantern to see it.
Removing the lantern left a hole on top of the lighthouse, which will be covered by a temporary platform during restoration.
Eventually, Leahy's group hopes to restore the exterior and totally rebuild the interior, which was destroyed by a fire in the 1970s.
The lighthouse was constructed in 1868 and served mariners until 1934, when it was decommissioned and an automatic flasher installed adjacent to it. The lighthouse was transferred to private owners after World War II. It was purchased by Suffolk County in the 1960s and became part of Cedar Point Park.