Maintain to preserve
The historic Gillette House in Sayville

IB/Finnegan

Maintain to preserve

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
1/18/2018


The Gillette House in Sayville, an Islip Town-owned property, is in big trouble. The house that was built in 1848 and once was the home of an Islip Town supervisor, is in need of serious repairs. Though the town has invested money and time to do repairs on the building in the past and vows to continue that commitment in the future, it might just be too little, too late. Let’s hope not. But this is a reality when dealing with older buildings that are not routinely maintained.

Gillette House has had trouble for years as structural issues arose due to weather extremes wearing on its wood frame and antiquated windows, doors, electric and heating units. The roof leaked for years before it was finally replaced this past summer. However, by that point there was a lot of interior water damage. And then more recently, an old heating system failed. The lack of heat during a time when our area was experiencing single-digit temperatures resulted in frozen pipes, which ruptured and caused even more troubles for the sad old building that has been a significant meeting place for a number of community groups, and more importantly, for a food pantry that services the local area.

It is admirable that the Town of Islip has this historic site in its radar and says it now will be doing the needed repairs. But so much of those costly repairs could have been avoided if the building had been regularly updated.

The same can be said of other historic municipal buildings. Brookwood Hall in East Islip was in a similar situation, neglected for years until a huge section of its soffit crashed to the ground. That resulted in a major overhaul to the exterior including a new roof that was completed in 2011. Since that time, and through a public-private partnership, interior work has been done to renovate the space and bring utilities up to good working order. Similarly, work is also being done to save buildings at the Islip Grange.

The Sayville Courthouse, though, has not received much attention. The century-plus-old building on Railroad Avenue in Sayville has also experienced heater problems, broken pipes and water damage so extensive a ceiling inside has collapsed. Again, had the building been properly maintained all along, the required major construction that will no doubt cost the town millions more to repair might have been prevented. That’s if the town intends to invest at all in that long-unused structure. If not, it would be a shame to lose it.

It would be a shame to lose any of these vestiges of our past, which if given the required attention, could continue to be useful. Maintaining them is the only way to ensure that our history will be preserved for many years to come.