Clearing the Road for Antique Fence Repair


The Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board is not opposed to the village replacing the fence at the Old Burying Ground with another, antique replacement, if that proves more cost effective than restoring the ancient fence.

On Monday, November 24, village clerk Sandra Schroeder approached the board to discuss options for the fence, which is derelict and according to village officials, in dire need of replacement.

The Village of Sag Harbor took over management of the Old Burying Ground and its fence about nine years ago, according to Schroeder, and for the last three has been trying to find a way to address the fence, which is rusted out and broken in several sections. The fence’s restoration or replacement, according to masons who have bid on the project with the village, will also require the replacement of a concrete wall adjacent to the Old Burying Ground on Madison Street, as well as a sidewalk.

The Old Burying Ground, which sits next to the First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church, has been used as a burial site since the mid-1700s, although it ceased to be an active burial ground more than a century ago.

The village board of trustees had budgeted $25,000 towards the fence’s restoration last year, however, bids for both the masonry and the ironwork have come in anywhere from $220,000 to $375,000, far beyond what the village planned to spend on the project.

Last week, Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris said he hoped to move forward one way or the other on the project, but would look to village residents and the ARB for advice in moving forward. He noted that instead of expending funds for a restoration of the current fence, the village could also look at a replacement fence.

Schroeder said on Monday that she has met with ironworks specialist John Battle about the project, and his immediate suggestion was that eight sections of fence be removed, as they pose a safety hazard in their current, broken state. Schroeder added that there is a possibility an expert like Battle may not even be able to repair sections of the fence, which are eaten away, but that the village could consider allowing him to remove a few sections and see what is possible after Battle’s investigation.

ARB member Diane Schiavoni, who spearheaded the effort to replace a damaged Civil War Monument fence at the intersection of Main and Madison streets, asked Schroeder if she has looked at the Scranton, Pennsylvania company Olde Good Things, which has antique fences available for purchase.

Board chairman Cee Scott Brown wondered if the board would be comfortable allowing the fence to be replaced with a different fence.

“What we are talking about here could be upwards of $300,000,” noted Brown.

If the project at the Old Burying Ground proved too costly the board unanimously was in favor of the village seeking a replacement.

“I don’t think any of us would notice if we used a similar, old iron fence,” said board member Robert Tortora, who added that a fundraising campaign could kick start a movement for the community to raise money to aid in the restoration.

“Ideally everyone could sponsor a section,” he said. “I’ll sponsor a section.”

Brown noted that unlike last year, when Schiavoni was able to fundraise to repair the Civil War Monument fence, the economy may not be favorable for a fundraiser of this magnitude.

On Tuesday, Ferraris said he would seek to have the eight sections of fence Battle was concerned about removed all together for safety’s sake, and the board of trustees would “keep options open” on the fence for now. The village’s new grant writer, he added, will be empowered to explore any public funding available for the project.

In other news, Stephen Breitenbach Jr. was approved for a new sign for Coastline Construction at its new home at 45 Division Street. Elizabeth Brandon, 68 Harbor Avenue, was also approved for a one-story addition, a landing and Bilco doors at her residence, and Mike Arena was approved for two small additions and a pool at 8 East Union Street. John Louise was also granted approval for a chimney restoration project at 117 Main Street and Gordon and Carol Rutledge were approved for sections of a new roof, the removal of a sunroom and porch and the construction of a new deck. According to Gordon Rutledge, the project is in anticipation of a future application for solar panels. 



  1. Why not auction off a limited number of plots in the Old Burying Ground to finance the fence restoration? There have to be plenty of people who would be willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being buried in such an historic cemetary that has been closed for over 100 years.

  2. My own opinion is that the old fence has reached a point of no return in many sections. If they are going to replace it with a similar iron fence, the 300K plus figure does not surprise me. It reminds me of the time the SPLIA put a split rail fence around the Customs House on Garden Street about 30 years ago. It looked stupid and the organization should have known better. Fortunately it’s gone now. Yes, fences play an important part in the historical district.