By Emily J. Weitz
The magic of Sag Harbor’s Main Street is almost impossible to taint, when the Christmas lights twinkle and the garlands are wrapped royally around white columns.
Almost, but not quite.
When storefronts stand vacant and the village’s landmark windmill looks crippled with its broken blade, it seems the recession has finally hit home.
The iconic windmill has been in need of repairs for some time, but when a major windstorm knocked a significant portion of one of the blades down a few weeks ago, its deteriorating condition became harder to ignore. Emails bounced around the circuits of concerned citizens, notably the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Save Sag Harbor.
Now, in a spirit reminiscent of the Sag Harbor Cinema sign restoration several years back, people are poised to pool their energy to save the windmill.
The only question is “How?”
It’s not like the windmill has been completely neglected. Built in the 1960s for the Old Whaler’s Festival, the village just completed a round of repairs including new siding and windows, at a cost of $8,700, according to Phil Bucking, a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
“The next round will include floor repairs, additional wood shingles, and replacement of the windmill blades,” he said in an email. “There are currently bids out on the different phases of the project. Once a blade design has been determined, cost estimates will be needed for them as well.”
Bucking says a contractor is researching a long-lasting design for the blades so they won’t need to be replaced again anytime soon. As for the siding, it’s now “a combination of new and old wood shingles,” says Bucking. “The goal is to re-side the entire building.”
“We want it to stay as a landmark,” says April Gornik, head of the advisory board at Save Sag Harbor, “and it also has to be safe. Blades can’t be falling off. All the blades most likely need to be replaced. There’s a lot to do.”
Because the blade came off in a windstorm, the first question was in regards to insurance, which was not immediately clear.
“I was told emphatically that there was no insurance on the windmill,” says Gornik, “and then I was told the opposite. We still need to establish who is really responsible, and whether there’s insurance, a deductible… Perhaps most importantly a fund needs to be established specific to the windmill. Once that happens, we’re in favor of working with the Chamber to make sure repairs occur.”
Save Sag Harbor has mobilized in the interest of village identity many times, and they are already planning how to raise the necessary funds for the windmill.
“We’d like to do something very family-oriented and fun,” says Gornik, “and have everyone join together because the windmill, like the movie theatre sign and the Whaling Museum, have both sentimental and historical significance to the village.”
Gornik envisions an event at a local restaurant, with lots of donated food and drinks, raffles and auctions.
“We’ll make it fun and big, and have it happen in the winter,” she says. “People need things to do in the winter. It’s just really important that everyone comes together.”
Bucking emphasizes the significance of the windmill as “a Sag Harbor icon. Repairs are needed. While the final cost hasn’t been determined, a project of this scope will cost several thousand dollars.”
The Chamber of Commerce and Save Sag Harbor are collaborating to organize the fundraising event.
“Over the coming weeks,” says Bucking, “the details will be worked out. Volunteers are needed so if anyone is interested in getting involved, they are encouraged to contact the Chamber (725-0011) or Save Sag Harbor (email@example.com).”
It does seem, with closing businesses and buildings in need of some upkeep, that there’s a deeper resonance to the disrepair of the windmill.
“It has everything to do with the economy,” says Gornik. “It’s difficult for everyone… It’s hard to get people interested in things like this that might seem superfluous when they’re stressed about the economy. But it’s also a way to celebrate what we are, who we are, what we have and a shared pride we can enjoy in this area. Preserving buildings like this reminds people that we have a lot to be grateful for, and celebrate together. It’s important these things remain in good repair, as a celebration of who we are.”