Gornik, Fischl Earn Board’s Approval for ‘The Church’ Plans

A rendering of The Church by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.

Changes to previously approved plans at the former Sag Harbor Methodist Church at 48 Madison Street — to become a new art incubator, dubbed “The Church,” being developed by artists April Gornik and Eric Fischl — were unanimously approved by Sag Harbor’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review last Thursday.

Mr. Fischl and Ms. Gornik sought to modify the plans for which the property’s former owner, entrepreneur Sloan Schaffer, had won approval in February of 2014. The two artists purchased the property from Mr. Schaffer in June for $7 million.

Louvered shutters are being restored to the former steeple and front doors are being made to replicate the previous historic doors, though the board queried architect Lee Skolnick about why replicas needed to be made since the originals are intact.

“The originals don’t work because we have to swing them out,” he said. “They used to swing in. … The way the opening is framed, we would have to cut into the sides of the actual doors.”

Board member John “Chris” Connor asked Mr. Skolnick to save the original doors. He later cited Dorothy Zaykowski’s book “Sag Harbor: The Story of an American Beauty” in recalling they were “massive front doors that were replicas of the famous bronze doors of the Baptistry in Florence, Italy.”

Mr. Skolnick responded by saying they are saving “everything we can — and the bell, which is presently stored on the site.”

He said they have even located a stained glass window that used to sit above the front door, which will be restored to its former location in place of a solid panel that had been in previous plans.

A landscape plan, designed by Edmund Hollander, includes thick screening from the neighboring properties, a stone terrace on one side and a plan to preserve a large tree deemed important. It, too, won approval.

Board member Dean Gomolka, who is the board’s authority on landscaping, said he liked the plan.

“I think it’s a wonderful project,” he said.

The board previously had approved new windows that will feature portraits, painted by Mr. Fischl, of important figures in Sag Harbor’s literary, artistic and cultural history.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Ms. Gornik’s reaction to the board’s approval was “phew.”

“This means that the direction we wanted to take the building can go forward,” she said. “We weren’t asking for anything really radical.”