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Shelter Island Historical Society closing in on funds for building

COURTESY PHOTO |  Artist’s rendering of new archival space and research center at the Shelter Island Historical Society.
COURTESY PHOTO | Artist’s rendering of new archival space and research center at the Shelter Island Historical Society.

A late November letter to Shelter Island Historical Society members reports the Society has about 90 percent of the $1.7 million it needs for construction of a new archival vault and research center.

According to the letter from Executive Director Nanette Breiner- Lawrenson, the Society now has $1.5 million in hand. Donors have until Tuesday, December 15 to bring in the remaining funds.

“Thanks to the community’s thoughtfulness and belief in preserving and celebrating Shelter Island history, no bank loan has been taken for the Society’s capital project,” Ms. Breiner-Lawrenson said.

Contributions continue to flow into the coffers to match two challenge grants of $100,000 each — one from Jerry and Belle Lareau and the other from Ed and Nancy Barr.
Based on figures released early in November, it appeared that the grants had been halfway to being matched. Another $100,000 was still needed to secure both contributions and close the gap on the capital funding plan.

“Donations are being made daily and we will continue to raise the balance of the funds if needed after the challenge ends and during the early phases of construction,” Ms. Breiner-Lawrenson said.

Any costs beyond the $1.7 million would be paid by Elizabeth and William Pedersen, Ms. Breiner-Lawrenson said. The Pedersens put up the bulk of the money for the new building and extra expenses would be relatively small, she speculated.

Ms. Pedersen is president of the Historical Society’s Board of Directors and Mr. Pedersen, an architect, designed the new structure.

A new building is vital, Ms. Breiner-Lawrenson said, because only one- third of the organization’s records is available to the public since space is tight in the existing vault.

“The new vault and research center will provide increased access to our collections, while preserving the integrity of the Havens House as the Island’s only chartered museum,” Ms. Breiner-Lawrenson wrote to the Society members.

The Society could start construction once necessary permits, including a wetlands permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Protection, are in place.

Last spring, three members of the Society’s board — Dianne Bowditch, Sandy Baxter and Kimberlea Rea — resigned, in part over objections to a resolution that would permit borrowing up to $500,000 from Bridgehampton National Bank.

Although the resolution passed, no application was filed with the bank.

Those who resigned said they were concerned that a large bank loan could put the organization in jeopardy of losing Havens House, the main structure on the grounds, which would be put up as collateral to back up a loan.

Ms. Breiner-Lawrenson insisted that the worst case scenario would involve renegotiating payment plans, and not having BNB foreclose on Havens House.