By Kitty Merrill
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The metal structure atop the Cedar Island Lighthouse, aka the lantern, embarked on a voyage last Thursday. The first phase of a total restoration of the lighthouse entailed lifting the lantern with a crane, placing it on a barge and sailing to Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, where the beacon's home took a ride to the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard for evaluation and restoration.
According to a release from the Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society, the "lift off" was made possible thanks to Chesterfield Associates and Bob Coco's Construction donating their time and talent. The process last week was "textbook," said restoration committee chair Michael Leahy.
Built as an aid to whaling ships headed to Sag Harbor, the Cedar Island Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1934. Phelan Beale, the husband of Edie Beale of Grey Gardens fame, purchased the landmark, which stayed under private ownership until it became part of Suffolk County's park system in the 1960s. A fire gutted the lighthouse in 1974 and it's been boarded up and deteriorating ever since.
The light was originally built on a three-acre island. In 1938 the great hurricane created a sandbar connecting Cedar Island with the mainland in the area now known as Cedar Point.
During the period from 1798 to 1912, 22 lighthouses were built from Queens to Montauk Point; 20 of them remain today. Most have been restored and some are in private hands. The Cedar Island Lighthouse is one of the few remaining historic lighthouses still waiting to be saved. Suffolk County Parks has authorized the Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society to restore and "Relight the Lighthouse."
The planned total restoration will include both exterior restoration and a total rebuild of the interior.
Said Leahy, "This is very exciting for the Village of Sag Harbor. This National Landmark is one of the most significant structures in the Hamptons. We are pleased with this start but we need significant financial support to complete the full restoration."
For more information and to help out, visit www.cedarislandlighthouse.org.