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Feb 18, 2015 10:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Nathaniel Rogers Renovation On Track To Cost $9 Million, Take 13 Years

Feb 19, 2015 7:34 AM

The stately Nathaniel Rogers House, with its towering white columns and soaring Greek revival facade, is a perfect symbol of the past—of an architectural era gone, of a time when construction knew no bounds of zoning, and of a time when a person of means might yearn to live on a corner of Montauk Highway.But its recent history, more than a decade’s worth, is as a hulking building that elicits curiosity from passersby, primarily because of its seemingly eternally dormant status.

A dozen years and already more than $5 million into an effort to renovate it, the house is something of an albatross, sitting amid a barren plot of dirt encircled by chain-link construction fencing. Work on the property has proceeded in fits and starts, largely hidden behind the white exterior walls of the house, hardly noticeable even to those who move through its shadow daily.

The long-envisioned goal of turning the property into a polished alabaster trophy at one of the South Fork’s oldest intersections appeared again as a glint on the horizon last month, as the Southampton Town Board approved a contract with a new construction company to complete the renovation work—and formalized the assignment of another $3 million in public money, plus $500,000 in privately raised funds, to the task.

By the time it is completed—that could be sometime in the next 20 months—the resurrection of the house will have taken more than 13 years and some $9 million, with more needed to be raised through private fundraising. That will make it the longest and most expensive historic preservation project the town and its Community Preservation Fund will have undertaken.

Still, the town and the Bridgehampton Historical Society, which has privately raised nearly $1 million for the project, say the project has been an endeavor worth the patience and financing it has demanded.

“Historic renovations in and of themselves are far more intricate and complicated than a plain renovation, or building new,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “It takes time, but it is worthwhile time. That building is so visible and stands in that corner of history, with the War Monument and the Topping Rose House. It’s a key component of this mission to preserve our community character that we’ve been working so hard at.”

To date, the town has directed approximately $4.6 million to the house, about half for its purchase and another half for work already completed. The Bridgehampton Historical Society, which will make the Nathaniel Rogers House its headquarters when the renovation is complete, has kicked in another $1 million in privately raised funds.

Historical Society Director John Eilertsen said that much of the long history of the renovation was consumed by not-so-simple logistics.

After two years of pleading by the Bridgehampton community and negotiations with the house’s irascible former owner, James Hopping—who had been working with developers on two different sets of commercial redevelopment plans, both of which would have razed the house—the town purchased the property in 2004 for just shy of $3.1 million.

The purchase was completed with $2.53 million from the town’s CPF and $550,000 raised privately by the 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.

The initial purchase also came with built-in delay: Mr. Hopping was to be allowed to remain living in the crumbling structure for another year. He moved out in 2004.

It would be another six years before a construction boot tracked mud into the Nathaniel Rogers House.

“So much happened over that time,” Mr. Eilertsen said. “The town and the museum renegotiated our agreement, there was a lot of back-and-forth over the renovation plans. It’s not a simple thing to do, of course.”

Finally, in 2010, actual work got under way. Apple Restoration & Waterproofing Inc., the construction firm hired to conduct the bulk of the work, began its disassembly of the interior’s historic features, like windows and trim, so that the ancient framing of the walls, ceilings and floors could be reinforced, and the exterior could be shored up. By the end of 2011, the town had written $1.7 million in checks—some of it offset by $630,000 in state grants—to Apple for the replacement of the roof, and for patching and repainting the building’s exterior.

That summer, Hurricane Irene swept through the area, dumping several inches of rain—much of which found its way through the plastic waterproofing that Apple had used to ostensibly seal the gaps in the exterior that were awaiting attention. When workers reentered the building some time later, they found mold infesting the spaces behind the building’s treasured plaster interior walls.

It would be another year of haggling, negotiations and assessments before a specialist would be assigned to tackle the painstaking task of ridding the building of mold, and nearly another year—and another $100,000—before that work was completed.

In 2013, with the town’s contract with Apple in the trash bin and the mold expunged but the house still gutted, work to shore up the building’s foundation was conducted, and the search for a contractor to complete the renovation, the bulk of which remains ahead, was begun anew. Last month, the Town Board unanimously approved the new agreement with WGP Contracting, which pledges another $3 million in CPF money and $500,000 in private funding from the Historical Society.

Mr. Eilertsen said that the Historical Society also will be responsible for many of the “others” that will be needed to complete the rebirth of the structure, like landscaping, paving the parking lot and furnishing the interior, which the society expects to tally up to nearly another $500,000.

“A million here and a million there—pretty soon it adds up to real money,” Mr. Eilertsen quipped, wryly, at the painful truth of the project. “Somebody said 10 years ago that we could knock it down and do an exact replica for half the costs. But this is a special house. You look around the town and you see so many historic buildings being destroyed, and you realize that this one is precious to us.”

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Sometimes it pays to go with a more experienced and referenced bid initially, than the cheapest. Apple construction should pay for their incompetence.
By H2O (85), easthampton on Feb 21, 15 9:04 AM
Kneejerk, ignorant statement from our "conservative" local color.
By Mr. Z (11658), North Sea on Feb 23, 15 3:29 PM
Were surrounded by some of the best building companies in the country, and the town hires idiots. Your goverment at work.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Feb 21, 15 11:47 AM
By the way the house is 50 percent done at best with 5 million invested. I believe you need the district atty to investigate where the money went.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Feb 21, 15 11:50 AM
Apple is a low end builder with political connections
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 21, 15 2:27 PM
Sounds sketchy.
By Water Girl (16), East hampton on Feb 21, 15 4:47 PM
what a colossal waste of money
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Feb 21, 15 5:30 PM
2 members liked this comment
i totally agree! money would have been better spent acquiring The Hills land in East Quogue to prevent the golf course and massive develpment
By Jaws (243), Amity Island on Feb 26, 15 2:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
my previous comment was incorrect, I confused the name with Big Apple, Westhampton
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 21, 15 7:12 PM
So SHTown can spend CPF dollars on maintaining or rebuilding CPF purchases. Great! But with the way it's handled I guess Conscience Point is doomed to fall into the ground along with all the other neglected properties SHTown bought for preservation. This one has been a DUMP for decades. They should have torn it down & rebuilt from scratch for less money is it was that important. I don't think it was that important and now has cost taxpayers many times what was originally budgeted. SHTown at work ...more
By G (339), Southampton on Feb 21, 15 7:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
The town should just give up and admit they made some colossal mistakes in buying most of these properties and put them on the market. Return Conscience Point to commercial use. Return Hot Dog Beach, Sandbar, Drift Inn, Summers and Neptune to RWB zoning because the Grande Plan recognizes recreational uses are necessary to the well being of the town. Examine how this Rogers fiasco has cost so much money and accomplished so little, then sell it to an organization that can accomplish a renovation ...more
By VOS (1230), WHB on Feb 22, 15 1:11 AM
2 members liked this comment
I would have prefered that the town used that money to build something useful, like an aquatic center. What a waste.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Feb 22, 15 4:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Luckily if they run short of money they can just keep raising taxes.
By Preliator Lives (431), Obamavillie on Feb 23, 15 6:52 AM
The problem seems to be in part, the management of properties by CPF. They have the money, why can't they get anything done in a timely manner?

This story repeats itself too many times. Clearly there is an issue here that needs to be addressed. While there are inherent issues with low bidders, the CPF office needs to be vigilant in watching these projects and making sure they are done properly.

There has got to be away to get historical structures restored in a timely fashion ...more
By bb (909), Hampton Bays on Feb 23, 15 12:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
There is a simple way to get the structures restored and usable. Remove the politicians and bureaucrats from the mix and things will get done.
By bird (824), Southampton on Feb 23, 15 3:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
You people are crazy spending this kind of money on this kind of structure. What are you thinking? Why doesn't the populace rise up and put a stop to this waste.
By Doug Penny (63), Hobe Sound on Feb 23, 15 5:18 PM
since I came thru the family (Hopping/Hedges) I could tell many a story back when it was the HAMPTON HOUSE. I had many great experiences in that house as did my mother and uncle.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Feb 23, 15 7:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Remember, folks: ATH has been discussing building a new Town Hall. If she gets elected in 2015, for one last term, she will push for a new Town Hall, then be free and clear in two years leaving the bills, the lawsuits and the mess behind her. Look at the mess she's made in the current Town Hall already. We do NOT NEED TO SPEND MONEY ON A NEW TOWN HALL! We also can't afford to keep her in office any longer either.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Feb 24, 15 11:03 AM
... if they are going to move Southampton Hospital to the college site, it might make sense to turn the existing hospital into Town Hall.
By William Rodney (555), southampton on Feb 24, 15 11:48 AM
I agree with Anna that it is one of the most important and visually beautiful intersections in Southampton Town. Topping Rose, the Rogers house, the building housing the Almond restaurant, and now, potentially, the creme de la creme, a full blown beer and beach ball selling CVS. A true "corner of history" as per ATH.
By William Rodney (555), southampton on Feb 24, 15 12:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
Did I read this correct? taxpayers have already paid 5 million and they want another 9 million?
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Feb 24, 15 10:44 PM
what is John Faloon working on this place?? that guy got me for some decent money .. did great work but put a bunch of bogus bills also. and tried to get my friend for 40K !!!! for a fence and house only !!
By david h (405), southampton on Feb 25, 15 3:26 PM
Bulldoze the money pit. Construct affordable housing
By kpjc (160), east quogue on Mar 2, 15 8:33 AM
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