Church Awaits Settlement for Gutted Hall

Ten months after it was destroyed by fire, reconstruction of the Amagansett Presbyterian Church’s Scoville Hall is at least several more months away. Christopher Walsh

    The Amagansett Presbyterian Church’s Scoville Hall looks very much as it has since a fire destroyed the building on Oct. 15. As the one-year anniversary of the fire approaches, the charred husk of the building, dedicated as the church’s parish house in 1925, remains boarded up and partially surrounded by temporary fencing.
    A sign posted in front of the building appeals for donations to finance reconstruction, listing a PayPal address and post office box in Amagansett.
    The delay in reconstruction, says the church’s pastor, the Rev. Steve Howarth, is due to ongoing negotiations with the church’s insurer, Peerless Insurance.
    “We have been going back and forth with the insurance company,” Mr. Howarth said. “They offered us a settlement price that we thought was way too low and didn’t reflect the actual cost of rebuilding the structure as it was. We’ve been in negotiations with them. We think we’re making some progress. We have hopes that we will reach a settlement within a month or two.”
    The church, says Mr. Howarth, hired local contractors to assess the damage and determine the cost of reconstruction, while the insurer hired contractors from Ronkonkoma and Westchester County to do the same. The numbers, says Mr. Howarth, “were vastly different.”
    Church officials do not believe the settlement, when it is issued, will be sufficient to restore Scoville Hall to its previous status, “but we’ve concluded that the settlement we are moving toward is the best we can hope for,” Mr. Howarth said. The Peerless Insurance official assigned to the case, Jonathan Lawlee, did not return multiple calls from The Star.
    Starting in the early morning hours of Oct. 15, more than 100 firefighters from five districts fought the blaze for three hours. The structure was engulfed in flames when they arrived.
    Mr. Howarth, who serves in the Amagansett Fire Department as chaplain and firefighter, was in Stonington, Conn. with his wife, Nancy, when the fire occurred. They were on their way to Massachusetts and a vacation when he received a text message about a fire on Meeting House Lane. He returned to Amagansett the next morning, by which time the building had been destroyed.
    As church officials discuss the rebuilding process, says Mr. Howarth, “a question we get asked frequently is ‘What will the future bring?’ Our intention is that we will certainly rebuild the building, [and] it will be brought up to modern code, including fire suppression. We’ve already had consultations with a number of groups that have a vested interest in how the building is designed.” Scoville Hall had been home to the Amagansett food pantry and served as a meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous, the Masons, and the Church of the Nazarene.
    “The church can get by without it,” said Mr. Howarth, “but the community can’t. They’ve all found temporary housing, and they’re all eager to get back. So we will be rebuilding with the community in mind.”
    “We very much appreciate all the support from the community,” Mr. Howarth added. “Folks have been asking and offering. We’re very grateful.”