Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum"

Costs Rise for Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum Restoration Projects

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By Tessa Raebeck

With the first phase of a three-part plan to renovate and restore the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum nearly complete, necessary additional repairs — and fundraising efforts — are on the rise.

Following complaints about the museum’s exterior appearance voiced to building inspector Tim Platt last May, restoration of the historic 1845 building, also the home of the Waponamon Lodge No. 437 Free Masons, began September 15.

“We can certainly say the scope of the project has grown,” Barbara Lobosco, president of the museum board, said Tuesday. “Like most planned undertakings, things crop up during the course of the project.”

The first phase of the plan covers the repairs and painting of the building exterior, including removal of 10 layers of paint — the last being lead.

The contractor, Ince Painting Professional of Westhampton Beach, which has worked on historic buildings like the Hannibal French House in Sag Harbor and the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, originally estimated the first phase of the project would cost $180,000.

More product removal was required than was originally allotted for and, at this point, the estimated cost for the first phase is closer to $260,000.

“With any project,” Lobosco said Tuesday, “what happens is you underestimate budgets and so on and so forth, other things open up that need to be fixed as well. When you work with an historic building of this age, new doors open up to new repairs.”

The actual application of the new paint is almost entirely completed. The museum is now in the midst of repairs to the porches and gutters, as well as partial repairs to the capital tops of the building columns.

The finials on the roof, which resemble blubber spades and whale teeth, are also undergoing restoration.

The building’s interior is covered by the second phase of the restoration project, which is not expected to begin for a year or so. Several issues have already materialized that necessitate projects the museum had planned to address in the future to be confronted within the next few months.

“We’d rather replace the pipes before they burst,” said Lobosco, referring to deteriorating, galvanized pipes in the basement that need to be restored.

Additionally, the entire basement must be cleaned.

“As we get inside the building,” said Lobosco. “We’ll need more [repairs] as well.”

The third phase of the capital campaign addresses repairs to the building grounds and will likely be implemented prior to the second phase of interior renovations.

“We want to finish the outside first so that it’s cohesive,” said Lobosco.

The museum plans to landscape the property before the summer, fix the front and back porches and repair the exterior fencing.

“The fence is going to be another big issue,” said Lobosco. “We’ve cleaned it up now, but it’s going to cost at least $60,000 just to repair.”

With continuous costs and essential repairs yet to be determined, the museum’s fundraising for the capital campaign is ongoing. Close to $180,000 in funding has been raised so far. The total cost is at present around $260,000, which will only cover the cost of painting. More funding is essential for the museum to move forward with the rest of the restoration process.

Last March, the museum’s fundraising efforts for the capital campaign kicked off with a $50,000 matching grant from the Century Arts Foundation earmarked towards the repair work. The Whaling Museum plans to host three fundraising events this holiday season, exhibit several beneficiary shows this spring and continually solicit private donations throughout the course of the project, according to Lobosco.

This Friday, the museum is hosting an auction at the Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton. Available items include a 200-year-old woven basket, gift certificates to a variety of restaurants in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, donations from In Home and other local stores, and framed film posters from the 1960s and 1970s donated by the notable filmmaking couple Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker, who live down the street from the Whaling Museum. Value of auction items range from $50 to $1,000.

“We’ve been getting local donations which have been great,” said Lobosco. “The community’s been terrific, especially with the auction items. The merchants in town have been very supportive of the museum and our efforts to move forward.”

On December 23, the museum will raffle off a brand new 2013 Fiat 500 Cabrio Pop from Brown’s Fiat in Patchogue. The sleek, black convertible has red and ivory seats and an ivory and black interior. Just 350 tickets are for sale at $100 a piece.

To further aid with fundraising, BookHampton is sponsoring a holiday book sale on the museum’s front lawn on weekends throughout the holiday season. The store will match money raised “dollar for dollar,” said Lobosco.

With its interior closed for the winter, the museum plans to reopen for the season on Earth Day with a show by local artist and Pierson Middle/High School art teacher Peter Solow, with sales from his work also earmarked for the capital campaign.

At the official opening on Memorial Day, “a whale show” is going to be on display. Proceeds from the paintings will be split 50/50 between the artists and the restoration project. Funds raised via three additional shows during Summer 2014 will also go towards the restoration efforts. The exact content of the shows is unannounced at this point, but Lobosco said one show will consist of only Sag Harbor artists.

In addition to special events, the museum continues to raise funds through its mail drive and individual donations. Lobosco is also hopeful for another matching grant.

“It will be ongoing for years,” she said of the restoration projects, “so the fundraising efforts will continue.”

John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Cultural District

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The John Jermain Memorial Library has its eye on a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant for creative placemaking that could lead to the creation of cultural district in the village. The idea would be to connect a group of not-for-profit entities that would be charged with promoting the arts and culture that makes Sag Harbor a special place.

According to Eric Cohen, the library’s technology and multi-media coordinator who is spearheading this initiative, the library intends to apply for the grant in 2014. In order to be successful, the library – which intends to be the lead agent in the application process – needs the support of the Village of Sag Harbor, which must partner with JJML in this endeavor.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Cohen gave a presentation on the grant proposal. He said the library will make formal application to the village later next year as it moves closer to filing its request with the NEA.

While the proposal is still in the conceptual phase and something Cohen said village residents will be asked to weigh in on in a substantive way, at its core is the creation of a Sag Harbor Village Cultural District encompassing geography around five entities – Canio’s Books, JJML, the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, the Sag Harbor Custom House and the Sag Harbor Historical Society.

“The point of the cultural district is an acknowledgement of what already exists in Sag Harbor,” said Cohen Tuesday night. “It is also a mechanism for Sag Harbor’s cultural institutions to work together for the benefit of ourselves and community.”

Cohen said ultimately the idea is to strengthen the community and make it a more desirable place to live, but also the district would serve as an economic engine, attracting more visitors to Sag Harbor specifically because of its arts and culture.

While ideas have yet to be solidified, Cohen said over the course of the next year, joint programming between these not-for-profit organizations will be devised as a first step towards making the cultural district a reality.

The NEA grant, which JJML Director Catherine Creedon discovered while looking at different grant opportunities for the library, is for creative placemaking – a personal passion of Cohen’s.

According to the NEA, in creative placemaking “partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city or region and arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired.”

Grant funding ranges from $25,000 to $200,0000, depending on the project. Cohen said projects within the grant could be as simple as creating a needed dance studio space or sponsoring a series of outdoor art exhibits. Creating a cultural district is also one of the initiatives supported by the grant.

“We want the community to help us plan this together,” said Cohen.

Police Debate Continues

While the Village of Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have made little headway in negotiations for a new police contract, on Tuesday night resident Robert Turner urged the board to find some way to agree to a contract with the PBA and discouraged any discussion about using an outside agency to police Sag Harbor Village.

Turner said one of the reasons he and his wife moved to Sag Harbor was because it had everything they were looking for in a village — including a local police force.

He also suggested that figures detailing salaries of officers and the original 4.5 percent request for a salary increase made by the PBA did not go far enough in showing residents what the actual impact on their taxes would be if that contract was approved.

“What is the assessed value cost in this contract as opposed to the old contract,” he asked.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the last contract was for five years and gave officers over that period a 26 percent increase in pay, with even larger increases for night differentials and longevity.

According to Mayor Gilbride, he expects the contract dispute will likely move to binding arbitration.

In other village news, the board accepted the formal resignation of Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals Chairwoman Gayle Pickering, with regrets, and appointed board member Anton Hagen as the board’s new chairman effective immediately.

The board also accepted the resignation of Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board member Michael Mensch.

In a letter to the village board, Mensch cited personal and professional reasons for his resignation.

“I have enjoyed the position and my fellow members immensely, and hope in the future I can be recommended again,” said Mensch.

Striking Oil On Main Street

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Twenty years after Edwin L. Drake, or “Colonel Drake” first struck oil almost 150 years ago, The American Agriculturist produced a section of its paper devoted to the petroleum boom and the Titusville, Pennsylvania community where the black gold was, for the first time, commercially and successfully unearthed in the United States. The unknown author wrote, in May of 1871, “There is a principle of Nature’s economy that when a demand is created, a supply is ready … and the wealth which for so many years had lain dormant was roused to life just at a time when the needs of this great country and the world demanded it.”

And to many, including the minds behind the new exhibit, “Oil! Whales, Wells … What’s Next,” at the Sag Harbor Historical and Whaling Museum, it appears another shift in supply and demand is on the horizon. Much like the whale oil that made Sag Harbor a major port and resource in the 1800s – the Golden Age of American whaling, as the museum notes in the exhibit – the rising cost of the precious petroleum that heats many of our homes and fuels our cars is becoming too burdensome for many to bear.

As cleverly noted in its title, the exhibit not only shines light on the history of our national and international dependence on oil – whether whale oil, petroleum or other illuminants – and how primarily market forces, not innovation, created shifts in supply and demand, the exhibit also asks what future resource will sustain our energy consumption.

The original concept — which has evolved into an exhibit coupled with an Energy Fair and plans to possibly travel the exhibit to other venues — was conceived by the museum’s board committee on exhibits and its members’ own curiosity.

 “There has always been a question about what was the true end of whale oil. How did it actually happen,” asked Whaling Museum Executive Director and exhibit curator Zach Studenroth. “And it occurred to someone that with the oil crisis – which I think we are living in right now with the high price of fuel – there is a connection to the pricing of oil, which was also the end for whale oil.”

At the same time this discussion was taking shape, explained Studenroth, he referenced colleague Eric J. Dolan’s work on American whaling, which is detailed in his book, “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.” He learned the end of the American Whaling industry truly was connected to economic pressures as demand rose, supply dwindled and new illuminants or oils found their way onto the market at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

While nationally whale oil was recognized as the best form of oil to burn, in the 1840s and 1850s, explained Studenroth, as the cost of the illuminant continued to rise, the population continued to grow and the Age of Industrialism created demands for oils that could affordably provide not only lighting, but lubricants for machinery. Whale oil suddenly became obsolete as other oils, namely petroleum, became the more affordable solution to the demands of the population.

“There was greater and greater demand, and less and less supply,” said Studenroth. “So the price kept going up. It was that point in the history of whale oil that we realized we are exactly at right now.

“It’s really like déjá vu,” continued Studenroth. “It gets to that point where an alternative has to be found; and it is not because a group of smart people, environmentalists or scientists say it is a good idea. It has to be that the market is such where, by popular demand, people will buy that alternative resource.”

The exhibit details the shift from whale oil to other resources, including other animal and plant oils for lighting, but it was not until Drake found success in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859 that someone was able to strike oil commercially, creating a frenzy similar to the gold rush a decade earlier in California.

John D. Rockerfeller would found the first iconic oil company shortly thereafter – Standard Oil – and the economic goldmine which would be known as Big Oil was born.

But, cautions the exhibit, man should take a lesson from history, which often repeats itself, and begin to seek an alternative to petroleum before the wells dry up completely. As the exhibit notes, there are a number of non-renewable and renewable energy resources available – whether they be solar energy, wind or waterpower or biomasses like ethanol or bio-diesel, which can run combustion engines, or more controversial non-renewable energy resources like nuclear power.

“What we say here is we have reached that point again where all these alternatives are being explored and though not one has really clinched it, we are at a point where something has to work and science and the marketplace are going to have to get together and figure that out,” said Studenroth.

Conservation, he added is its own new resource.

“Using less overall, from a cultural standpoint – not just as individuals, but a culture of using less – is alone a major part of the solution,” he said. “That’s a whole other resource, but we will have to change the, ‘I can afford it, so I will use it’ attitude.”

The exhibit “certainly raises the bar” for the Whaling Museum, notes Studenroth, and was largely possible through not only the museum’s vast resources on whaling history, but also through grants provided by the New York Humanities Counsel, the New York Council for the Arts and Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office. Dolan, Paul Forestelle who is about to take on the position of new provost and chief operating officer at Long Island University’s CW Post campus and is a well-known marine scientist added their expertise on the whaling industry and whale oil. The museum also was aided from an 19th Century lighting expert, as well as restoration experts, the East Hampton Historical Society and the Drake Well Museum, which donated a salesman’s sample case of oil from the 1940s to the exhibit.

The design of the exhibit also blew Studenroth away, after he was able to enlist the help of Selina Hunt of C & G Partners in Manhattan – a firm well known for working with the Smithsonian or the Met.  Working with Hunt, said Studenroth, enabled the exhibit to be one that is accessible and interesting to everyone, rather than just history buffs.

And while the exhibit just debuted a little over a month ago – on May 24 – and will run through the end of October, Studenroth says the success of the exhibit has already inspired the museum to continue a second viewing next summer, as well as travel opportunities to other museums in the New York area. “Oil! Whales, Wells … What’s Next,” may also make its way to the Drake Well Musuem in Titusville next year as that institution and community celebrates the 150th anniversary of Drake’s first oil strike. Studenroth also foresees educational opportunities, for all school districts on the East End, as he will seek to develop a curriculum around the exhibit.

“Oil! Whales, Wells … What’s Next,” will be on view through October at the Sag Harbor Historical and Whaling Museum at 200 Main Street, Sag Harbor. The Sag Harbor Energy Fair, inspired by the exhibit, will be held July 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on July 13 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. A luau will be held Friday night beginning at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 725-0770.