By Ben Kava
Restoration of the exterior of the historic Cedar Point Lighthouse could be imminent, pending approval from Suffolk County legislators.
“The first priority is to cover the outside of the building with scaffolding and restore the granite walls,” said Lee Skolnick, principal of Lee H. Skolnick Architecture and Design Partnership, which started strategizing in 2017 about how to save the county-owned lighthouse from disrepair. Both the walls and roof need a lot of work, and the building itself needs to be stabilized, he said.
His firm was awarded an initial grant of $166,000 to refurbish the exterior. The county has contributed $500,000 to fund the exterior restoration, and county officials plan to budget $1 million in 2020 and another $1 million in 2021 to ensure that the structure is stable, County Legislator Bridget Fleming said this week.
The Cedar Island Lighthouse is “a very special structure, and we want to assure whoever touches it is qualified to do so,” Ms. Fleming said this week.
Built in 1868 as a gleaming ray of navigation for nearby ships, Cedar Island Lighthouse has lain deserted for the larger part of the last century after being closed in 1934. A fire in 1974 didn’t help matters.
“It’s a magnificent building in pretty poor shape,” Ms. Fleming said. “We are very committed to ensuring the building remains stable for possible usage.”
The group Friends of Cedar Island Lighthouse, along with the Long Island Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, are working with Suffolk County legislators to determine the best use for the space and to cement it as a historical asset of the East End community.
Michael Leahy, chairman of the Restoration Board of Cedar Island Lighthouse and a member of the Long Island chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, envisions a bed-and-breakfast similar to the Saugerties Lighthouse in the Hudson River. That facility welcomes guests by way of a half-mile beach walk or a personal boat.
If Cedar Island becomes a place of respite, there will be two methods of access for guests: a walk down the beach or a ferry or personal boat from Sag Harbor, said Mr. Leahy.
Mr. Leahy also imagines an “educational component in the bed-and-breakfast, for visitors to see what it would have been like in the 19th and 20th centuries,” he said.
Should the project move forward, Mr. Leahy expects an initial outlay of approximately $4 million for interior renovations, which would require significant private fundraising and a capital campaign, Mr. Skolnick said.
A resolution signed by county executives in January of 2014 holds open the possibility of restoring Cedar Island Lighthouse as a bed-and-breakfast, but county discussions today are instead focused on coming to a consensus about how to best use the facility, according to Ms. Fleming.
“Our first priority is to save the building, so we can hold on to it as a historical asset,” she said.