Community magic brewing at the Witch’s Hat in Aquebogue

09/13/2014 8:00 AM |
Randy Clement (left) and Mile Weber Jr. of Clement Carpentry of Jamesport working on the Witch's Hat restoration Thursday morning.

Randy Clement (left) and Mike Weber Jr. of Clement Carpentry of Jamesport working on the Witch’s Hat restoration Thursday morning.

The curiously shaped “Witch’s Hat” in Aquebogue is getting a much-needed makeover thanks to donations from area businesses and volunteers.

Spearheaded by the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission, along with the Save Main Road preservation advocacy group, the roadside structure — named an official town landmark in 1987 — will be restored back to its original specifications.

The stand was built in 1926 by Henry and Lena Flemming, and used to sell gas, candy, cigarettes, and eventually ice cream to motorists from the 1930’s to 1970. 

Riverhead Town landmark preservation chair Richard Wines, who’s also a Save Main Road member, a community group dedicated to maintaining the rural character of Main Road, said the groups have secured the contributions needed to get the project done.

Estimating the cost at $30,000, Mr. Wines said Riverhead Building Supply is donating the needed materials while Clement Carpentry of Jamesport will be donating labor. Klatt Sheet Metal in Aquebogue will be donating and installing a decorative metal top to better protect the tip of the structure.

“I’ve been driving by this for years saying someone aught to fix this,” said Randy Clement, found cutting a 4X4 of Douglas fir needed to replace the rotted wood of the building’s “hat.”

The Witce’s Hat sits on the corner of Dr. Richard Hanusch’s veterinary practice, Aquebogue Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Hanusch is also contributing to the cost of the restoration.

The front of the hexagon-shaped building features large pane glass windows, where goods were sold, while a small rectangular extension juts from its rear. The popular name comes from its shingle-covered spire, which will reach 25-feet high once it is restored.

“It was constructed in the beginning of the car era, and is an example of roadside art architecture,” Mr. Wines said. “It was meant to get people’s attention.”

The Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission hopes to nominate the Witch’s Hat, along with the rest of historic Main Road, to the National Register of Historic Places, he said.

Restoration efforts began this time last year, when volunteers from Jamesport landscape company Kaiser Maintenance cleared low-hanging trees and shrubs that began to overtake the structure. Holes and windows in the structure were then boarded up by volunteer Jared Hallock to protect the building through the winter, while volunteer Gary Hubbard completed a restoration of the structure’s original windows, Mr. Wines said.

Mr. Wines said the hope, once restored, is to light up the structure at night, as it had been in decades past.

The project should be completed by Halloween.

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