Scoville Hall in Amagansett may finally be knocked down in the next two weeks. Gutted by fire on October 15, 2011, the charred building with huge holes in the roof has been boarded up while the First Presbyterian Church of Amagansett and its insurance company, Liberty Mutual, hash out a settlement.
Built in 1925, the hall had a downstairs level as well as a meeting space on the main level at the top of the front steps, and the lower level has proved a sticking point with the insurance company, delaying progress for more than a year and a half.
“They’re still insisting that the first floor can be saved and we just build on top of that,” said Reverend Steven Howarth of the Presbyterian church. The lower level rises about six feet above the ground, and the company wants to save that as well as the floor joists and flooring of the main level, he said.
Liberty Mutual said last week that it would send a contractor to tear down the walls “from that point up,” Reverend Howarth said. After that, engineers for both sides will assess “the scope of the rebuilding that’s necessary.”
The church cannot afford to rebuild Scoville Hall and would have lost a great deal of money if it had accepted the initial settlement offer, Reverend Howarth said. “From our perspective it’s been really frustrating to hold back like this,” he said, but he added that “it’s been worthwhile to hold out to try to reach an equitable settlement.”
The church had its pastor’s office and Sunday school at Scoville Hall, which was also used as a meeting place for groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, the Amagansett Food Pantry, and a Latino congregation, the Church of the Nazarene.
The hope is to put up a building whose exterior would resemble the old Scoville Hall, but whose interior would be reconfigured “to make it a building that will serve the community in this century rather than last,” Mr. Howarth said. Ideally, that would entail putting in an elevator to make the building accessible to the handicapped, but there are no plans drawn up yet, as it’s unclear how much money there will be to work with.
The firm of Barry Slotnick, a high-profile New York City attorney with a summer house in Amagansett, has been helping the church in its negotiations with Liberty Mutual.
Meanwhile, Sunday school is meeting in the church sanctuary around the corner, the pastor has been working out of the manse, and the Amagansett Fire Department has been letting the church use the firehouse for its dinners.
“Interestingly, the church has discovered we can get along without it,” Reverend Howarth said of the hall, “but, really, the reason we feel it needs to be rebuilt is because of the community’s need for it.”
AA, which was meeting there nine times a week, has since “bounced around and hasn’t really found a home that’s working well,” Mr. Howarth said. In a domino effect, other groups like Narcotics Anonymous had to move, and the food pantry was relocated to St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. Reverend Howarth said he thinks the Church of the Nazarene is meeting at the East Hampton Neighborhood House, adding that its pastor, Hector Oscario, had asked him to “please, tell me our home will be returned.”
“Those are just three of the groups,” Reverend Howarth said. “It’s a unique community resource. … The hall is used every day, all year round.”
Since initial damage sustained during the fire, other parts of the roof have caved in, further exposing the inside to water damage and mold. Reverend Howarth said he suspected that once a settlement has been reached, the building process will move along swiftly.
Asked if anyone has complained about the damaged building, Mr. Howarth, who lives next door himself, said no. “Not one person has said a word to us,” he said. If they are upset, he added, “they’re being gracious about it.”