By the end of the month, the Montauk Lighthouse Committee will learn whether the Lighthouse is eligible for national landmark status, which would preserve it and free up grant funding for it through the Historic Preservation Fund.
“Hopefully the gods will smile upon us and we will be granted this status,” Richard F. White, the chairman of the committee, said. “We have made it to the finish line.”
If it is approved, the Lighthouse would be the third place in East Hampton Town to achieve landmark status, joining the Pollock-Krasner House and the Moran House. It would be the eighth in Suffolk County.
The granting of the status would be the result of almost six years of lobbying for it, Mr. White said. The research and grant application were done by Robert Hefner, an East Hampton Town preservation consultant, and Eleanor Ehrhardt, a member of the Lighthouse committee.
Part of the lengthy process, Ms. Ehrhardt said, was to prove that the Lighthouse was significant to the country apart from the fact that it was commissioned by George Washington. The proof was that it was part of the development of New York City as a leading seaport and that it guided ships from Europe to New York. “It also directed and saved them from crashing into the rocks at the Point,” she said. The application has already been through many stages.
Landmark status would assure the preservation of the Lighthouse forever, Ms. Ehrhardt said. “That’s important so generations to come will know our history. If our past disappears, including the Lighthouse, we will lose our history,” she said.
A group including Mr. White, Ms. Ehrhardt, Brian Pope, who is the assistant site manager at the Lighthouse, and Mr. Hefner will have just 20 minutes to plead its case to the National Park Systems Advisory Board Landmark Committee on May 24 or soon after. “We’re very optimistic,” Ms. Ehrhardt said.
In a release this week, Representative Tim Bishop said he approves of the landmark status. He called the Lighthouse an iconic Long Island structure that deserves to be included on our nation’s list of historic treasures. (Years ago the Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.)
“I write this letter not only as a U.S. Congressman, but as a native of eastern Long Island whose family has called this community home since the 1600s,” he wrote. In the past two centuries the landscape of Long Island has changed so much, but the Lighthouse has remained a constant, he said, writing, “I can show it to my grandson the way my grandfather could show it to me.”
Mr. Bishop said that a debt of gratitude is owed to the Montauk Historical Society for its continued efforts. “Generations to come will benefit from their stewardship of our history,” he said.
Those interested in learning more about the application can look it up online at www.cr.nps.gov/nhl.