As I reflect on these past 10 months as MHS President, it is with a grateful and appreciative heart, to recognize who we are, what has been accomplished and, very importantly…where we are going. These are seminal and multi-generation events and times for our Historical Society. To think it started in 1962 with a wonderfully dedicated Montauk-lover and public servant Richard Gilmartin. I imagine if he could see what has transpired here these past 60 years, he would be filled with pride and awe.
It is not possible to mention everything that should be spoken of in this annual summary, but I would like to relay some highlights.
First, we exited the awful Covid pandemic and its restrictions to our activities. What a pleasure it was to welcome back our visitors from around the world, press forward with our Capital Projects and re-activate our wonderful programming and events.
Starting at our National Landmark Lighthouse, it was wonderful to reopen the John McComb 1796 Tower. To personally witness the delight of our visitors as they exit from the Tower (with selfie photos in hand) never gets old. Recognition and appreciation must be given to our front-facing docents, retail, maintenance and Administrative Staff, who, on a daily basis process, educate and enlighten our tens of thousands of visitors. And providing a memorable experience for our guests while the biggest Capital Projects in our history are actively ongoing.
The Tower Restoration is ending its 3rd year of work. The ISG Crew, with oversight by George Abbale and our relentless and professional Director, Nick Racanelli at the helm, is inching to completion. It is expected that the Tower repointing will be completed by next Spring, followed by the Daymark recoating in early Summer. The 4 years of grueling, tedious and Historic work will be archived for generations to come and include a maintenance plan for those who succeed us.
As an addition to the Tower Restoration and due to the wonderfully successful Capital Campaign, work has begun on restoring the 1860 Keepers Dwelling to its Coast Guard era colors. New roofing is already on (thanks to the generosity of Riverhead Building Supply and GAF), the front porch is being replaced and beautiful new white shingling will soon follow.
Our Montauk Oceans Institute has some really exciting developments occurring with a Virtual Aquarium. We have engaged both Vertigo for software and Adwar for hardware, to make this interactive and Montauk aquatic environment a reality. We thank the wonderful generosity of George Filopoulos for funding the major part of this new attraction. MOI continued the weekly lecture series in partnership with Professors from Stonybrook University. This combined with presentations from Global Explorer and marine biologist Gaelin Rosenwaks and numerous book signings and interviews added a dynamic dimension to our property. Another real highlight was the Pelican film and discussion, spearheaded by our Executive Director Mia Certic and her cinematographer husband Miodrag. We look forward to a more in-depth film on the Pelican in the near future.
We also continued a music series that started with a Spring Festival, followed by the Army Reserve Band, a Wallflowers Concert and the always world-class Music For Montauk.
So much more was on our plate during the 2022 season, which was well managed under the direction of our Site Manager, Jason Walter, and ably assisted by Amy Hubbard, Lauren Ciardullo, Henry Osmers, Cindy Dess, Tricia Wood and Beth Sporing. And I need to mention here the beautiful Lighthouse Gift Shop under Lauren’s leadership. It really is a standout performer that enhances and reminds our guests of their visit.
A big thank you needs to be extended to the Lighthouse Committee. 37 years in existence and under the leadership of Dick White, it performs a vital function in property oversight.
The Revetment Project currently underway and nearing completion is another major milestone for MHS. Under the guidance and supervision of Greg Donohue, the 2-year 120,000 ton armoring of our surrounding slope-face will provide a 100-year protection for Turtle Hill. It really is a magnificent jigsaw of interlocking stone that will also offer pedestrians easier access to our waterfront. We are grateful to the Army Corps of Engineers and NYS DEC for funding this vital protection and H&L Contracting for their diligent work.
The Second House Committee, under the patient care of Chair Jesse James, is deeply involved in addressing the challenges of restoring this Historic gem. In partnership with East Hampton Town, we are hopeful to reopen the oldest home in Montauk in 2023. The tradition of Craft Fairs continued this past Summer, with 3 very successful events. We are also grateful to the 2nd House Garden Club for maintaining the various gardens on property, all the while fighting off those pesky deer.
Lawrence Cooke continues to lead the Indian Museum at 2nd House. For those who have not visited, it is a must-see. The treasures displayed (on loan and owned) are truly historic remembrances of the founding ancestors of Montauk. This museum keeps their memory alive in vivid detail.
Another seminal moment for MHS was the East Hampton Town CPF purchase of the Carl Fisher Home from the Akin Family. It’s very rare to get a second bite at the apple like we did with Fisher. Originally turned down in 2018, it was a joyous moment to have government, family ownership and MHS align to make this transference happen. We recognize we have a lot of work ahead. But with the talented and diverse Committee we put together, there is no doubt that we will make this 4th MHS jewel property a success.
Importantly, we have strengthened and expanded our Administrative Team at MHS. I am very grateful for the diligent and superb work and leadership of our Executive Director Mia Certic. It’s not possible for me to list the number and variety of projects Mia is working on. Two excellent full-time assistants were brought aboard with Ariana Garcia-Cassani and Jonathan Cope. We are now able to produce content, research deeper and entertain more Historic projects than ever before imagined. We all truly look forward to achieving goals, furthering our outreach and programming to where it was only a dream.
Financially, we are on very sound footing. Our balances are strong, budgeting solid and monthly and annual reporting professional.
In closing, I would like to recognize the MHS Board. This is where the Leadership starts. All of your service and dedication is greatly appreciated. The depth and diversity of any Board is a must. We are fortunate to have financial, construction, legal and historic expertise within our Team. This diversity will serve us well against the challenges ahead. I would like to thank Brian Pope, an outgoing Director for his 14 years of service to this Board and the Lighthouse Staff. Also recognize the wonderful addition to our Board of Julie Marcley and Rori Finazzo. You have both joined an amazing organization. We look forward to the strengths and energy you bring to our group. We are all here because we love and care about Montauk. The Montauk we knew growing up has changed enormously this past decade. It’s in our capable and caring hands that its rich and vibrant history will never be forgotten.
I’ll end with a reminder of our Mission.
“The purpose of the Montauk Historical Society is to collect, restore, preserve and display historically significant buildings, objects and writings and to preserve and share the history and culture of Montauk and the East End for this and future generations”.
Joe Gaviola, President