Restoration of the Thomas Moran Studio may finally get underway, with an estimate as early as the summer of 2012, and East Hampton Village officials are clear they want the work to get going.
Marti Mayo, the executive director of the Thomas Moran Trust, told the board on Friday that she is crossing her fingers that the historic studio will open to the public by the 130th anniversary of the property in 2014.
The condition of the Queen-Anne style shingled house on Main Street, where artists Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran created much of their work, had been deteriorating for quite some time and the trust was established in 2007 to restore and oversee the use of the National Historic Landmark.
"We're very anxious to be a good neighbor and to ensure this important building meets the restoration standards established by the easement," Mayo told the board. When the trust took possession of the property, it also took on an historic easement, enforced by the village, which sets forth restoration standards, a timeline, and operating parameters.
The trust has already received one extension from the village, which is set to expire in December. Construction was supposed to commence within two years of the adoption of the easement in 2008.
In response, Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said, "For all the right reasons, I think the village will look favorably on the extension, but I think I have to draw a line in the sand and say, 'Hey, this is the last one.'"
Mayo said that while plans are being prepared for the restoration, workers had to do some deconstructing to investigate. "Some things have made it less attractive in appearance in order to do the work that will make it really wonderful," she said. The front of the house and the turret were bowing out and braces were put on to preserve its structural integrity.
"I know people are impatient; the poor house sits there, looks a little worse every year," Mayo said.
However, she said much progress has been over the last year, adding that the trust's application to the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to be filed within the week. "We cannot wait. We're all very excited about that," she said.
Of the nearly $8 million needed to complete the project, $3.5 million has been raised so far, Mayo told the village board. Four fundraising events have been held and narrated tours are done for individuals and groups as part of the fundraising efforts from 2009 through this past summer. The rest of the money will be raised through contributions.
A specialist restoration firm, Stephen Tilley Architects of Dobbs Ferry, completed a pre-design report and, in 2010, he was hired as the project architect. Mayo, hired five months ago, will coordinate the restoration project and continue fundraising efforts. Until then, the 13-member board of the trust had no full-time staff, something that Mayo said was unusual and terrific all at the same time.
Environmental and geo-technical studies, a pre-construction archeological investigation study, and an initial historic landscape investigation has all been completed.
The trust was awarded a $5,000 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support an investigation of the interior finishes. The study will recover and determine the interior finishes of the building in 1916, chosen as the date of significance for the restoration since Moran made no structural changes after that time, according to the trust's statement in August. Mary Jablonski, of Jablonski Building Conservation, one of the country’s best-known architectural conservation firms, has completed the study, which looks at woods, paints, fabrics, stains, and more.
Enginners are almost done with structural engineering studies and a schematic design has just been completed, paving the way for the application to be made to the zoning board, Mayo said.
After receiving village approval, the trust still has to get approval of its plans from the State Office of Historic Preservation and to the US Department of Interior due to a Save America's Treasures grant it received in 2008.
turned over the deed for the Moran home in 2008 after the Town of East Hampton purchased the development rights to the property earlier that year using the Community Preservation Fund. According to reports, Elizabeth and David Lamb gifted the house in 1990, but there was a life estate in place until Elizabeth Lamb died in 2004.