Restoration Of Nathaniel Rogers House In Bridgehampton Still Underway

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On the windy corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road in Bridgehampton, the Nathaniel Rogers House sits vacant and fragile behind scaffolding. Envisioned as the historic headquarters for the Bridgehampton Historical Society, the 19th century building’s crumbling facade has slowly undergone restoration.

Since 2003, the town has owned the home and the historical society has acted as its steward. According to John Eilertsen, the executive director of the historical society, the $6 million project is going at a snail’s pace, especially now that a $500,000 state grant the group and the town were hoping for has fallen through. Mr. Eilertsen and Town Community Preservation Fund Manager Mary Wilson said the grant was highly competitive.

Working off a $700,000 state grant awarded to the restoration in 2009, approximately $1 million in funding from the town’s Community Preservation Fund and $1.5 million that the historical society has raised, the exterior of the house has been given a fresh coat of paint, its stately columns have been restored and its foundation, structure and roof are under repair. Currently, the house is without its columns because steel plates to secure them must be installed first.

“The house is going to look much different when the scaffolding comes down and the columns go up,” Mr. Eilertsen said. “It’s going to start looking like a house again.”

The final two phases will restore the mechanics of the building, like plumbing, electricity and heating, and the interior of the structure. Mr. Eilertsen said there needs to be a total renovation inside, including repairs to existing plaster and drywall and the wooden flooring. He said that most of the existing flooring will, fortunately, be reused.

In 2011, Mr. Eilertsen said the completion date was set for July 4, 2014. When asked if it were still likely it would be completed by then, he seemed hopeful but hesitant.

“If somebody came and gave us a check for $3 million or $4 million, then yes,” he said. “But the pace is dependent on funding. So I would love to be done by July 4, 2014, but, again, it depends on funding.”

He said his architects said that if all the money was in his hand, the home could be completed within 18 months. “That was six years ago,” he said, adding that the town has helped support the project.

Ms. Wilson said the town applied for a $400,000 grant in 2012 and didn’t win it, but tried again this year for a $500,000 grant—more hopeful this time around—but was not selected again. She said the state changed the criteria for the grant and as a result it became more competitive. She said the CPF will continue to work with the historical society to fund the project and apply for future grants.

When the renovation is complete, the Rogers House will be the new headquarters for the historical society.

“We already have rooms planned—exhibition rooms for some semi-permanent exhibits, community research areas and an audio-visual area to record oral histories,” Mr. Eilertsen said. The house will also have a gift shop, a visitors welcoming area and administrative space. Finally, the house will see a flurry of activity after many years.

Built in 1824 by Abraham T. Rose, the man who also built the former Bull’s Head Inn across the highway, the Rogers House was remodeled by owner Nathaniel Rogers in 1840, who was an accomplished artist born in Bridgehampton. He died shortly after and the house remained in his family until 1857.

In 1886, E.P. Storm, who rented the home, operated it as the Hampton House until 1888.

In 1894, John Hedges and Frank Hopping bought the home and transformed it into “the most elegant inn in Bridgehampton,” according to the Bridgehampton Historical Society’s archives. The two men operated the Hampton House hotel there until 1949. The last innkeeper, Caroline Hopping, leased the front yard to a gas station in 1952. When she died later that year, the assessment of the property read “a house which is very old and in run-down condition.” For the next 50 years, it was the residence of James B. Hopping and his family.

Wanting to preserve the Rogers House’s long, varied history, the Bridgehampton Historical Society plans on incorporating as much of the past as possible.

“The house will be restored to reflect the evolution of the building—we’ll leave the outside as Nathaniel Rogers had it and the inside as the Hampton House Inn had it,” Mr. Eilertsen said. “It’s a pretty old house that needs a lot of attention and a lot of planning.”

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