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Jul 28, 2008 11:48 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Rogers House facelift enters a new phase

Jul 28, 2008 11:48 AM

The Bridgehampton Historical Society launched the second phase of effort to raise funds to restore the Nathaniel Rogers house last Thursday with a tour of the landmark house at the corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road for town officials and society members.

Work hasn’t begun yet on the restoration because the building’s steward, the Bridgehampton Historical Society, needs to raise $2.3 million more to assure the project’s completion.

Though as recently as early this spring, historical society representatives said it would cost about $3 million to complete the renovation, historical society executive director John Eilertsen said this week that the project could cost as much as $4.5 million.

The historical society has been raising funds at a brisk rate and has been promised $400,000 from the Community Preservation Fund for exterior renovations to the building in each of the next two years. It now has $2.2 million to be used for the renovation project.

The historical society hopes to hire a contractor for the project before the end of 2008 and to have the project completed three years after that.

The historical society, which has its headquarters in the Corwith House at the opposite end of the retail business district on Montauk Highway, will occupy the Rogers house as its headquarters when the renovation is complete.

Bridgehampton residents raised the money to purchase the house for $500,000 in 2003 and the town bought the underlying land for $2.5 million using the Community Preservation Fund.

Since the house was purchased in 2003, it has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“We’ve done a lot of the behind-the-scenes work,” said Mr. Eilertsen, who added that much of the actual construction will be exterior renovation. The interior of the building, which was occupied as a private residence until 2004, is still primarily intact.

The house needs framing and substructure support work, including shoring up the Greek Revival supporting columns on its facade.

The building is actually two houses wrapped together, an 1824 federal style house built by Abraham Rose, and the Greek Revival house built around it in 1840 by Nathaniel Rogers. The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities has called it one of the two most important Greek Revival houses left on the island.

Mr. Eilertsen said that many of the problems that need repair are in the areas where the two structures are joined.

“What’s visible was very well done,” he said. “What’s invisible wasn’t as good as we’d liked.”

The original 1840 addition included a cupola that is no longer on the house, but the historical society would like to replicate it based on historical drawings.

When complete, the house will be used for the society and other community groups for lectures, performances and educational programs. It will also house a gift shop and museum offices. The Corwith House and a barn next door to the property that is currently being renovated by The Hampton Library will all be part of a network of public historic houses in Bridgehampton.

The historical society’s development committee is now at work soliciting donations, and plans to hold fund-raising events, both here and in New York City.

The historical society held a cocktail party in memory of the Bridgehampton restaurateur Bobby Van in June, which raised more than $10,000 for the restoration effort.

A Bridgehampton resident recently donated a customized off-road Jeep that the society will auction at its Christmas party on December 12, using the money raised to help pay for the renovation.

“We knew it was going to be expensive,” Mr. Eilertsen said. “When we start working on a historic house, not to mention two folded into one, we may end up with more surprises yet. It’s not a complicated house and we’ve seen most of what’s behind the walls. We’re hoping we won’t find too many structural problems.”

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