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Hamptons Life

Feb 5, 2018 11:57 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Nathaniel Rogers House To Open Next Year

The Nathaniel Rogers house is expected to reopen in 2019. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Feb 5, 2018 11:57 AM

Preservation work on the Nathaniel Rogers House in Bridgehampton is expected to be complete—finally—next year.

The circa 1820s house has been under repair for the past decade and a half, but Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Bridgehampton Museum Executive Director John Eilertsen have high hopes that the historic building will be open to the public in 2019.

“It’s been a long process, but we’re very excited,” Mr. Eilertsen said in an interview last Thursday, February 1.

It was not clear what the total cost of the project will amount to when the work is complete. Mr. Schneiderman declined to provide an estimate.

Southampton Town purchased the Nathaniel Rogers House in 2003 for nearly $3.1 million. The purchase was completed with $2.5 million from the town’s Community Preservation Fund and $550,000 raised privately by the Bridgehampton Museum—then known as the Bridgehampton Historical Society—and former Town Councilman Dennis Suskind, a Bridgehampton resident. At the time, the renovation was projected to cost about an additional $3 million, after which the historical society would occupy the building.

In 2015 the project was on track to cost a total of $9 million—a number that is believed to have grown significantly since then.

The town is currently accepting bids from contractors to finish the project. The job is expected to be awarded during the Town Board’s Tuesday, February 13, meeting. Once a contractor is selected, Mr. Eilertsen noted, there is about 18 months of work left on the building.

When the project is complete it will be the longest and most expensive historic preservation project the town and its Community Preservation Fund will have undertaken, according to officials.

Inside the three-story house, made of an assortment of types of timber, much work still needs to be done—electric outlets dangle off the walls, paint is peeling, and fireplaces are falling apart. Mr. Eilertsen explained that the project was more work and money than anyone expected. It took $2 million just to stabilize the structure of the building, he noted.

“The building was really in extreme danger,” Mr. Eilertsen said.

The museum also paid $87,000 toward the restoration of the Greek columns in the front of the white house.

Enough of the original materials of the building are still intact that the house can be preserved instead of being restored, Mr. Eilertsen said. In a restoration, similar materials are used, but it’s not exactly the same as the resources that would have been used in the 1800s.

As the beginning steps of construction inside the house commenced, Mr. Eilertsen noted that there were a lot of uncovered treasures—including a box of cigarettes under a floorboard dating back to around 1910 and several old bottles within the walls.

When the house is ready to be opened, the first floor will serve as a museum with four exhibitions: whaling artifacts from the East End, paintings from local artists, street racing memorabilia, and a room of metal banks and toys.

All of the exhibits were donated to the museum. In fact, so many pieces were donated that Mr. Eilertsen said the showcases will be able to be rotated “for years” without repeating any items on display.

The second floor will be used for administrative space for the Bridgehampton Museum.

The third floor will be used to house the heating system and light storage. When the third floor was built, it wasn’t sturdy enough and the heavy furniture made dents in the floor.

“The floors were waving like an ocean,” Mr. Eilertsen said.

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