Restoring an American Beauty


web Am Hotel

The American Hotel was constructed 163 years ago, yet it remains one of the most iconic buildings in Sag Harbor Village. Historic structures, however, constantly demand attention to keep them pristine and in the coming years the Main Street hotel will undergo a bit of a face lift. Kevin Wolfe, an architect specializing in the renovation of older buildings, was on hand at a recent village historic preservation and architectural review meeting to explain the upcoming project.

“It is a masonry restoration of the exterior facades,” explained Wolfe during a later interview. According to Wolfe, the masonry on all four sides of the building will be restored. The joints will also be re-pointed, added Wolfe, meaning the mortar in between the bricks of the building will be replaced with new mortar. As Wolfe explains it, the mortar has been analyzed by a laboratory to identify an exact mix so that the new mortar will replicate the original material in texture and color. The project also includes stripping away the white stucco from the sides of the building, including the side of the hotel on Carruther’s Alley, the roadway connecting Main and Division Street.

This portion of the project, however, requires a degree of coordination with the village.

“There is scaffolding involved. The strategy is to hang off the side of the building,” said Wolfe at the meeting. “They will use the alley at some point to strip off the coating … but we are trying to do this at a time when business is slowest.”

Although the ARB accepted the project’s certificate of appropriateness, Wolfe didn’t have a set date for when the restoration will begin. He said repairs will most likely commence this fall but take years to finish.

“[The project] will be done in stages, because of the timing of the weather and it has to have the least impact on visitors and villagers. It will be complete in spring of 2011,” said Wolfe.

The project also includes repairing and replacing some of the decorative elements which adorn the front entrance to the hotel. Over the years, reported Wolfe, such things as the parapets on top of the building have either fallen off or simply vanished.

The hotel derives its local fame not only from its formidable exterior and interior, but also from its storied past. The book “Guide to Sag Harbor: Landmarks, Homes and History,” penned by Henry Weisburg and Lisa Donneson, describes how James Howell’s Inn once stood where the hotel is today. According to the book, during the American Revolution, a group of British soldiers were captured at the inn. The inn later housed Nathan Tinker’s cabinetmaking shop until about 1845. After the inn was most likely destroyed in a fire, Tinker built anew in 1846 and created the building which is now The American Hotel. At first, Tinker used the brick structure as a personal residence but it was later turned into an hotel in the 1870s. Weisburg and Donneson said the porch was built in 1876 and a section of the parapets are original to the structure.

Restoring historic buildings, especially ones in the historic district of the village, takes a great deal of sensitivity, but the ARB board members appeared very pleased with Wolfe’s plans for the hotel.

Of the project, chairman Cee Scott Brown said “Aesthetically, this is a wonderful thing.”