You can’t have a sign that says “Sag Harbor” without both the “Sag” and the “Harbor,” and thanks to a joint restoration effort, the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center will have both parts of its iconic neon “Sag Harbor” sign back when it finishes rebuilding the historic cinema.
According to Chris Denon, the owner of Twin Forks Moving and Storage in Bridgehampton, the “Harbor” section of the sign has finally been fully restored. “Sag” was finished in the spring of 2017, just in time to make an appearance at the Sag Harbor Partnership’s Big Tent Party for the Cinema. Now, “Harbor” sits in his warehouse, ready to be illuminated. The metalwork and painting services were donated and completed by local artisan John Battle and his assistant, and the neon repairs were completed by Holbrook-based neon sculptor Clayton Orehek and financed by Mr. Denon.
What was once a $20,000 project cost him about $8,000 at the end thanks to the various donated services and materials, Mr. Denon said. He is also storing the sign free of charge.
“It looks fantastic,” he said. “It’s getting there. It’s another step in the right direction. I called all the people from the theater and sent them pictures. They’re all emotional and excited. I told them, ‘The sign is done. We just need to add the theater.’”
Nick Gazzolo, president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, which owns the cinema property and is spearheading the building of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, said the group is indeed excited, as well as grateful for “the incredible community effort” it took to restore the sign.
“It’s amazing. The ‘Sag’ has made appearances at the last two Big Tent parties, but the ‘Harbor’ needed a lot more help,” Mr. Gazzolo said. “Now it looks incredible. It made our day when we saw it.”
He said the rebuilding of the cinema is “going full speed ahead” right now, with an anticipated completion date of fall 2019, barring any roadblocks.
“The sign is a beacon to remind people of what we’re trying to bring back,” Mr. Gazzolo said.
The origin of the Art Deco-style sign dates back to the 1930s. According to a history of the sign published by the Sag Harbor Partnership, it was removed in 2004, which shocked a group of citizens including filmmaker Brenda Siemer Scheider. Ms. Scheider made an agreement with Gerald Mallow, then-owner of the cinema, to replace the torn-down sign with a replica, and she led a campaign to raise money to duplicate the sign. It was that replica that was saved from the fire on December 16, 2016, and it has since been restored.