Preservation Long Island is pleased to present a 2020 Project Excellence Award to the Town of Babylon‘s Repair and Adaptive Reuse of the Oak Beach Life-Saving Station/Community Center.
Severely damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Babylon Town engineers initially recommended demolishing this structure. However, the building’s historic significance and the availability of grants from New York State encouraged the town to consider an alternative plan. Thanks to research by Town Historian Mary Cascone and the leadership of Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, the Babylon Town decided to rehabilitate the structure and return it to active use as a community center. The building serves the Barrier Beach Civic Association and features new educational displays of artifacts and panels about its history and former occupants. This project exemplifies how repair and adaptive reuse can be a worthwhile and cost-effective investment for communities. It also provides an excellent model for the public planning, grant funding, and completion of a major rehabilitation project at a historic civic building with severe damage.
Funding to raise the structure to nine feet above sea level and complete the rehabilitation project was provided by a $750,000 bond and $882,000 in grants from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). Work was overseen by Vincent Piccoli, the town’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Works, in consultant with OPRHP, Joel Snodgrass of Steward Preservation Services (project consultant), and Chris Penders of Pioneer Construction (project contractor).
The Oak Beach Life-Saving Station was one of 23 stations built in 1872 along the South Shore to enhance shipwreck rescue services. It represents one of the first permanent structures Long Island’s barrier beaches and is believed to be the only surviving example of its kind. Occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard between 1915 and 1945, the station served as a lookout post during both World War I and World War II. Owned by the Town of Babylon since 1945, residents have used the building for a variety of purposes over the years including church services, a post office, and a community center.
Preservation Long Island’s biennial Preservation Awards are made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.