“Excited” would be too weak a term to describe the sentiments of Bridgehampton Historical Society President Gerrit Vreeland as he stood before a small gathering behind the Nathaniel Rogers House on the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road. Although skies were overcast on the afternoon of July 24, nothing could cloud the society members’sunny optimism.
“This is a terrific example of what a partnership between a private and a public organization can accomplish,”Â said Vreeland.
The partnership mentioned is one between the historical society, which is a not-for-profit corporation, and Southampton Town. The organizations have come together in a joint effort to renovate the historic building, one time residence of artist Nathaniel Rogers, one time Hampton House hotel, and most recently an empty, deteriorating example of 19th century Greek revival architecture.
“It’s a diamond in the rough,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot on Thursday, who added that she is relieved to see the lot “not become a shopping mall.”
This process began five years ago, when over 270 individuals from the Bridgehampton community donated over $550,000 to the historical society to go towards purchasing a portion of what was then known as the Hopping Property. Since that time, work has already started while fundraising efforts have continued.
“A great deal has been done, though it doesn’t look like it,”
laughed Vreeland. Leaks in the roof have been fixed and chimneys have been stabilized, while preliminary reports have been given by architects Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, wood specialists, structural engineers and historic preservationists.
Vreeland announced the estimated total costs for the restoration project is $4.5 million, but reminded those in attendance at the presentation that an estimate is “an art not a science.”
Of that sum, the historical society already has commitments of $2.2 million, including $1.1 million from Southampton Town over the next three years. Another $850,000 has come from private donors, and $250,000 from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The building has been listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places.
Renovation is scheduled to begin late fall of this year, and with continued public and private support the society hopes to complete the project in three years. At that point they will move their headquarters into the Nathanial Rogers House, complete with exhibition spaces, a research center, and archive area. According to executive director John Eilertsen, the historical society will continue to maintain their current location at the Corwith House, situated at the other end of Bridgehampton’s Main Street.
Extensive work is already planned for the house on the exterior alone. Aside from necessary repairs to the roofing and foundation, there will also be restoration on all windows and the existing brownstone foundation walls. Wood cladding and trim will be replaced, and all wood doors will be restored. The support piers for the front columns must be reconstructed as well.
Everyone who spoke that afternoon stressed that the overall success of the project is dependent on the continued support of the local community. Said Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, “What’s gotten us to this point is that people in Bridgehampton care.”
And to the public, Supervisor Kabot implored, “You need to open up your pocketbooks and your hearts.”