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Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society

More than $1 million in foundation renovations have been completed despite challenges

Huntington ligthhouse. Photo from Pam Setchell

The jewel of Huntington Harbor will be opening its doors to welcome visitors for the first time in more than two years.

The Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the structure, will offer its first tour of the lighthouse July 15 after completing $1.1 million in repairs. A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for July 11 to celebrate the structure’s reopening.

“It’s been a very long two years,” said Pamela Setchell, president of the preservation society. “We keep walking around pinching ourselves that we did it. We did it. We’re thrilled out of our minds.”

“We keep walking around pinching ourselves that we did it. We did it.”

– Pamela Setchell

Tours of the lighthouse will be offered by volunteers on a first-come, first-serve basis from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. once a month. Guests must be wearing flat, rubber-soled shoes to board the boat, according to Setchell.

The nonprofit organization last offered a tour of the historic landmark in September 2015 before the building was closed for phase one of restoration efforts to its exterior foundation. The lighthouse was in danger of becoming unstable and crumbling into the water.

Frank Scobbo, vice president of Port Washington-based Scobbo Foundation Systems, was hired as the contractor to shore up the 100-year-old structure.

“It was a labor of love, commitment and dedication to get the jewel of the harbor repaired,” Scobbo said.

He and his approximately 10-person staff took on the daunting task of replacing the damaged rebar, or steel reinforcement, in the lighthouse’s foundation, patching sheetrock and concrete in the underwater structure.

“The sheer location was one of the primary issues,” Scobbo said.

Working on a building located a mile offshore, the contractor said extensive pre-planning was necessary to account for the tides, currents and changing weather conditions each day. In 2016, a sudden squall sent waves crashing over the deck of a barge full of stone for the lighthouse’s base, causing it to take on water, according Scobbo. It required a rapid response of two Huntington Bay constables, Stephen Taylor and Timothy Lutz, and Scobbo’s crew to prevent the boat from sinking.

“It was a labor of love, commitment and dedication to get the jewel of the harbor repaired.”

– Frank Scobbo

“It was very scary, it probably took a couple of years off my life,” Scobbo said.

All supplies and equipment needed to be transported out via boat and a single forgotten item could have meant a 45-minute trip back to shore, according to the contractor. Scobbo said these challenges made the lighthouse’s restoration one of the most difficult projects he’s ever worked on, having previously repaired Stepping Stones Light in Nassau County and restored a 200-year-old Times Square building.

The Huntington Harbor Lighthouse still requires some additional work, according to the contractor, including the placement of more boulders on the east side of the structure and window replacements.

“They have a lot of work to do, but now the most important part is done,” Scobbo said.

The cost of the project was paid for through approximately $740,000 fundraised by the preservation society that was used to secure a matching $250,000 state grant, and a $145,000 grant received from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation in September 2017.

Those interested in taking a tour of Huntington Harbor Lighthouse can find a full list of tour dates on the preservation society’s website at www.huntingtonlighthouse.org/tours.php. Tickets cost $20 per adult, $15 for seniors and $10 for children age 5 or older, with family discounts available. Children younger than age 5 are not permitted due to safety issues and insurance concerns.

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

The future of a historic lighthouse in Huntington Bay is looking bright.

The 105-year-old Huntington Lighthouse will undergo much-needed repairs this fall thanks to preservation efforts by members of the nonprofit Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which in August secured a $145,000 matching grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, when announcing the grant recipient, highlighted the lighthouse’s “vital role as a cultural entity, enhancing education and preserving heritage in the community.”

The Gardiner grant, which the preservation society applied for in July 2016, will be used to complete what members are calling phase one of restoration efforts to the lighthouse’s exterior foundation.

It will also allow the lighthouse to reopen for tours and educational groups again after two years of dormancy, as well as mark the return of the Lighthouse Music Fest.

Steel sheeting has been placed around the entire base of the structure to ensure more stability for the next 100 years against rough weather conditions. A brand new landing platform will be installed to replace a deteriorating one.

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, said she believes it was her passion for the historic landmark that clinched the highly-competitive grant during the interview process.

“For me, it’s just a dream,” said Setchell, a lifelong Huntington resident who has been exploring the lighthouse since she was young. “Just knowing she is going to be strong for another 100 years and hopefully go on to tell its story to everybody and to children and continue on … it means the world.”

She said without these restoration efforts, the lighthouse would become unstable and rapidly deteriorate, undoing the last 30 years of work the society has done to upkeep its interior. Setchell joined the society upon its formation in 1985 when threats of demolition loomed over the structure.

“We took it over in a deplorable state, put her back together and now she’s actually one of the poster children for offshore lighthouse restoration in the country,” Setchell said.

She pointed to the offshore lighthouse as unique among others on Long Island as it’s one of the few, due to its location, that allows the public to fully experience it. Many other lighthouses on the island are off-limits to visitors due to treacherous waters, she said.

Bernadette Castro, a longtime Huntington resident and former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, echoed Setchell’s admiration for the lighthouse.

“For 50 years, I have looked out my dining room window and sat on my back terrace and appreciated that magnificent little structure,” Castro said of the lighthouse. “It is part of the landscape of those of us who live nearby.”

The recently acquired $145,000 grant, in addition to the nonprofit’s previously-raised $740,000 to secure a $250,000 New York state matching grant, as well as fundraising efforts among Huntington Bay residents, closes the gap on the $1 million foundation repair.

Annual Huntington Lighthouse Music Fest comes to town for 9th year

The Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society held its annual Huntington Lighthouse Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 5. This festival, which is only accessible by boat, featured nine music acts and was enjoyed by all ages. The society also announced the launch of The Beacon Society initiative, a challenge grant program established by Bernadette Castro, long time Lloyd Harbor resident, successful business woman and former New York State commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, to benefit the ,lighthouse’s capital campaign. The initiative is designed to raise $80,000 within the next 10 months to help fund Huntington Harbor Lighthouse’s $1.5 million Foundation for the Future capital campaign for critical repairs to the historic structure’s foundation its watertight integrity.

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