Grants Will Be Sought to Restore Revolutionary War Grave Sites at Old Burial Ground in Sag Harbor

Historian Zachary Studenroth presents plans to restore grave sites at the Old Burial Ground in Sag Harbor to the village board Tuesday night. Kathryn G. Menu photo.

The Old Burying Ground, one of the South Fork’s oldest cemeteries, is home to more than 330 gravesites, some dating back to the Revolutionary War. And many are in dire need of repair, local historic preservation consultant Zachary Studenroth reported to the Sag Harbor Village Board at its Tuesday night meeting.

Mr. Studenroth, a member of the Burying Ground Preservation Group — a committee dedicated to preserving the history and records found in burial sites across the region — is working with the Southampton Colonial Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on a grant application through the national chapter of DAR to restore 20 grave markers of Revolutionary War patriots found in the Old Burying Ground, located next to the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor.

The grant, if approved this spring, Mr. Studenroth said, would provide $10,000 from the national chapter, with an additional $10,000 raised through the local branch of DAR, toward the restoration — and, in some cases, replacement — of the grave markers, which bear the names of fallen soldiers Aaron Clark, Jeremiah Hedges, Josiah Hand and John Squire, among many others.

“The condition of the stones was determined to be somewhat advanced,” said Mr. Studenroth, when the gravesites of the Old Burying Ground were surveyed two decades ago. “These are fragile stone artifacts, exposed to the elements, and are still outside and are deteriorating over time.”

As the village, and not the Old Whalers’ Church or a nonprofit entity, owns the Old Burying Ground, Mr. Studenroth asked the board for permission to pursue the grant funding and to begin work on the site if it is approved. The board was unanimous in its support.

Cinema President Apologizes to Trustees

April Gornik, the chair of the board of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, approached the Board of Trustees Tuesday night, offering a public apology about the size of necessary HVAC equipment on the roof of the Cinema Arts Center.

Screening for the HVAC systems is currently an issue before the village’s Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, which is expected to take up the cinema’s application as a discussion item during its 5 p.m. meeting on Thursday, November 14.

On Tuesday, Ms. Gornik said the arts center board, and previously the Sag Harbor Partnership, had aimed throughout the development of the Main Street art house theater to be transparent.

“We have tried to maintain that all along, and we have run into problems, and we know we are coming before the ARB for that system being much larger and more apparent than any of us thought it would be,” said Ms. Gornik, reiterating that her board was as surprised as the public was at the size of the units.

“I want everyone to know we are as shocked as you that the equipment is as apparent as it is, and we are desperately seeking a solution,” she said.

Sag Harbor Village Board member Bob Plumb said in his research, additions to the roof of the structure pushed the HVAC systems toward the back of the building, making them more visible to shops in the Shopping Cove pathway off Main Street. He also said that a system of that size would be necessary to circulate air through a building the size of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center since it is devoid of windows. What was filed with the building department, he added, were drawings showing units smaller in size.

Ms. Gornik agreed and noted what the board of the cinema was shown by its own architect were the same plans filed with the building department. “We were equally shocked … we were told it could be tucked here, it could be tucked there,” she said. “I am acknowledging this, and we appreciate your help and any suggestions you might have for us.”

    Code Changes Up For Hearing Next Month

Lastly, the board reintroduced two local laws that would change the village zoning code to limit the amount of native vegetation that can be cleared from vacant land in Sag Harbor and that would change the definition of “height” for buildings in the village.

The first amendment would change the definition of “height” for buildings and other structures in a way to make the measurement more “accurate,” according to the proposed law. Presently, the definition measures height from only one side of the building. The new definition would measure height “at any point of the building to existing grade that may exist around the structure.”

The second law creates a new section of the code that limits the amount of native vegetation that can be removed from a vacant lot. Under the law, clearing would be limited to 50 percent of a lot’s coverage.

“I would just, when we do that, come back to the question of what is ‘native vegetation,’ because that is a broad term and there is some discussion of what is native and what is non-native,” said board member James Larocca.

Both proposals will be up for public hearing at the board’s December 10 meeting.