Friday’s devastating fire in Sag Harbor did more than destroy several buildings, including a beloved, if fusty, cinema lobby and facade, it struck at the very heart of the village’s identity. It also proved resilience and compassion among residents and business owners as well as the wider South Fork community.
Sixteen fire departments and emergency medical services from Montauk to Eastport and Flanders and Shelter Island were called to take part in freezing weather or to stand by in others’ firehouses, and local and county officials came to see what they could do to help. Fund-raising for two men who lost everything in an apartment they shared and shopkeepers’ understanding about their loss of Christmas revenue proved compassion and resilience. The South Fork is blessed to have men and women such as these.
As for the cinema, to call its Art Deco “Sag Harbor” sign iconic would be an understatement. It is difficult to imagine the village without that warm, welcoming light at night or as the backdrop to thousands upon thousands of visitors’ snapshots by day. In an age of dwindling art-movie houses, it was a source of pride in Sag Harbor’s literary tradition that so quirky a venue had survived.
Credit for this is not due to audiences, which could be thin at times, but to the cinema’s owner, Gerry Mallow. Mr. Mallow has at various times sought to sell the place, which he bought in 1979, but has preferred to keep its ever-eclectic selection of films coming to the screen. We hear that a group of local moviegoers had been talking with him about a purchase, and we share the wish that it can be restored. The other buildings damaged or destroyed are sure to be rebuilt, and we hope that the “Sag Harbor” sign will rise again.