By Kathryn G. Menu
The restoration of the Nathaniel Rogers House, the dilapidated former homestead that was built in Bridgehampton 187 years ago, is about halfway through the first phase focused on repairs to the foundation, new framing and a new roof.
The Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday received an update on the work from Bridgehampton Historical Society Director Dr. John Eilertsen. Eilertsen promised that by mid-summer the graying exterior of the building, which is at the corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road, would be painted its original white color, vastly improving the look of the building, which sits at the eastern gateway to downtown Bridgehampton.
As Dr. Eilertsen explained to the CAC, the restoration of the building will attempt to preserve both the Greek-style architecture Nathaniel Rogers wrapped around the original 1824 house when he remodeled the residence around 1840, as well as interior renovations completed by the Hedges and Hopping families for their Hampton House hotel following their purchase of the property in 1894.
“The goal is to show the evolution of the building,” said Dr. Eilertsen.
The historical society and the Town of Southampton have jointly pursued the restoration of the home, with the town purchasing the seven-acre parcel of land with money from the Community Preservation Fund in 2003. The historical society bought the house itself, but never took ownership of the residence, instead conveying the home to the town with an agreement that the historical society would remain stewards of the property.
Getting the restoration off the ground, according to Dr. Eilertsen, has taken some time since all town projects must go through a bidding process and “a lot of red tape.” However, the project has had ample support from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, which has given the town two grants to help fund the restoration and has encouraged the town to apply for a third grant as they near the end of phase one construction and begin to raise monies for phase two.
Dr. Eilertsen added that the red tape associated with a municipal project that has received grant funding will ultimately protect the Nathaniel Rogers House with strict standards that require the building to be restored to what it was in 1890 and to ensure it will never be converted into a privately owned business.
Dr. Eilertsen said the first phase of the restoration, which is being constructed for just under $2 million, is focused on making the structure sound through framing improvements on the interior and with a new roof, along with painting on the façade and addressing issues with the foundation and sub-structure.
Dr. Eilertsen said if the historical society can raise enough money before the first phase of construction is completed in September, they would also like to restore the columns on the front of the Nathaniel Rogers House. Otherwise that project will be folded into the second phase of construction.
That bidding process, said Dr. Eilertsen, will likely begin sometime next year. In total, Dr. Eilertsen estimated that the entire restoration project will cost between $5.5 and $6 million, and that right now an estimated $3.5 million in funding still needs to be obtained, whether through grants or private donors.
Once completed, the Nathaniel Rogers House will be open to the public, with the historical society maintaining offices and a climate controlled archival space within the structure.
Bridgehampton CAC Chairman Fred Cammann noted that the town also plans on eventually making the entire seven-acre parcel a public park, which he envisions as the perfect eastern gateway to downtown Bridgehampton.
Dr. Eilertsen said over time, the historical society would like to explore highlighting the historical significance of some of the outbuildings on the property, including a stable and chicken coop and small house on the east of the property, which are now covered by vegetation but are believed to have been the home of an African-American caretaker of the Nathaniel Rogers House.
“We wouldn’t be able to restore it, but we would like to at least replicate it,” said Dr. Eilertsen.