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May 13, 2019 4:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Nathaniel Rogers House Faces Another Financial Setback In A Nearly Decade-Long Renovation

John Byrnes Jr. of Lipsky Construction and Bridgehampton Museum Executive Director John Eilertsen. PRESS FILE
May 14, 2019 12:19 PM

The Bridgehampton Museum’s Board of Trustees may need to raise an additional $500,000 in order to finish restoring the historic Nathaniel Rogers House on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

The circa-1820s Greek Revival-style structure has been undergoing renovations since 2010, with numerous delays caused by a multitude of funding problems. The latest financial headache came to the Southampton Town Board’s attention at a work session earlier this month.

Lisa Kombrink, the town’s recently appointed Community Preservation Fund manager, explained that the fund cannot cover the remaining costs associated with repairing the building’s fourth-story cupola or rooftop balustrades. Upon review of the house’s history, Ms. Kombrink explained that neither feature was original to the historic main house—and, therefore, the town is not permitted to use CPF revenue to restore them.

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni called the structural elements “historically out of sync.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman added that the balustrades—an ornamental rooftop terrace—and cupola, or dome, are expected to cost $350,000 and $150,000, respectively. “That changes a lot,” he said.

Over the years, the overall cost of the project has grown exponentially. When the town initially purchased the property in 2003 for $3.1 million, the restoration was expected to run close to $3 million. That number has since ballooned to more than $11 million, according to previous reports from Bridgehampton Museum Executive Director John Eilertsen.

In an email on Monday, Mr. Eilertsen directed all questions regarding the project to Ms. Kombrink, who did not return calls.

The Bridgehampton Museum, formerly known as the Bridgehampton Historical Society, faced its first phase of funding shortfalls in 2012, just two years after initial construction. The organization applied for but failed to secure a $400,000 state grant in 2012, and another $500,000 grant in 2013.

Construction was set back even further when Hurricane Irene made landfall, dumping several inches of rain, which seeped into the structure’s treasured plaster walls.

Additionally, while the Bridgehampton Museum has contributed donated funds, the town has been responsible for shelling out the majority of the restoration’s cost. The pace of the construction has been dictated by the availability of funds. According to previous interviews with Mr. Eilertsen, the project, if fully funded, would have taken roughly 18 months to complete.

After several revisions, the three-story house was most recently slated to open in the summer of 2020. However, with the latest financial crisis, it’s unknown if the grand opening will be pushed off yet again.

Once complete, 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. The second floor will be used for administrative space for the Bridgehampton Museum, and the third floor will be used to house the heating system and light storage.

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I've never understood the costs that go into this renovation. You could build a huge estate for $11 million, with pool, tennis, etc. There are many homes in historic Sag Harbor Village that have been restored to exacting standards that haven't cost near that amount of money. Who is running this showboat?
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on May 14, 19 11:58 AM
In 2010 a prescient reader opined:
"Has a thorough budget been developed and approved for the entire project? No point in starting a renovation which will become The Money Pit IMO. It may not be fiscally prudent to renovate a building like this which may be "too far gone."

Is the framing sound? Are there pockets of rot, and how extensive? Has there been an engineer's report on everything?

Lots of questions TBD, and I doubt ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 14, 19 1:04 PM
Woof ! $11 million already. And we trust our local government to handle such projects? This is why SHTB should not been involved.
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on May 14, 19 5:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Another example of gross incompetency and mismanagement. Shame on all involved. The never ending project.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on May 14, 19 6:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
The CPF money is being mis allocated. Giving money to the Sag Harbor theater? How about 11 million dollars for a 75% finished project in Bridhehampton? Go look at the place no landscaping, missing windows and unfinished inside. The work is horrendous and someone lined their pockets. What a joke!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 15, 19 4:44 PM
Chief, I agree wholeheartedly. Time for a forensic audit. Sheer lunacy
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on May 15, 19 4:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Empire state building 9 months a crappy renovation 11 years? What?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 16, 19 12:52 PM
What a rip off. This deal stinks. A museum is going to lose even more money, I could build tjis place for 25% of what they spent
By Sag harbor resident (5), on May 16, 19 11:20 PM
What a rip off. This deal stinks. A museum is going to lose even more money, I could build tjis place for 25% of what they spent
By Sag harbor resident (5), on May 16, 19 11:20 PM
Time to look into the CPF 11 million is impossible
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 17, 19 1:44 PM