Green Light For Lighthouse Project

Michael Wright wrote in

Suffolk County has agreed to let an East Hampton-based preservation group spearhead the renovation of the historic but dilapidated lighthouse at Cedar Point County Park, once the gateway to one of the country’s biggest whaling ports.

Members of the Long Island Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society said this week that they have reached an agreement with the county Department of Parks to give the group the licenses necessary to oversee the renovation, which will allow them to begin raising money in earnest for the effort.

“The new county Commissioner of Parks [Joseph J. Montuori] has been very supporting,” Lighthouse Society director Michael Leahy said this week. “We think we’ll have the license signed in the next month ... then we’ll have to get to raising the money to do the work.”

Restoring the lighthouse—known as the Cedar Island Lighthouse because the peninsula was an island prior to the 1938 hurricane—is expected to cost upward of $1 million and possibly as much as $2 million depending on how the county and the Lighthouse Society agree the building should be used in the future.

Mr. Leahy said the society has stated its goal for the complete restoration of the lighthouse at $2 million. But the main focus of the fundraising effort will be directed toward a “phase one,” to restore the exterior of the building. That work will more likely run in the neighborhood of $1 million, Mr. Leahy said.

The Lighthouse Society has already paid an architect $7,500 to have plans drawn up for replacing the roof on the 150-year-old stone lighthouse building. The plans call for a raised-steel roof, which is a departure from what was on the building when it was built in 1860. The steel roof would be more durable and less expensive than trying to replace the original slate roof. Steel roofs were found on similar structures of that time.

The Lighthouse Society and the county have not yet agreed on what the ultimate goal for the building will be. County officials, Mr. Leahy has said, 
have leaned toward a museum honoring the history of 
Long Island’s lighthouses. The society has suggested the idea of using it to generate revenue, making it a bed-and-breakfast accessible by boat from Sag Harbor.

Mr. Leahy said the society plans to a push this coming summer to enlist the support and financial assistance of some of the wealthy visitors and residents of the East End who are boaters. A banner hung from the lighthouse last summer asking for assistance brought numerous inquiries but little in the way of donations, he said.