Members of the Southold Historic Preservation Commission came before the town board Tuesday and said they have been working with the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Cuncil to preserve the Sacred Heart Church and its related properties in Cutchogue.
The process is "a difficult one," Jim Grathwohl, chairman of the commission, said, because the National Catholic Church "does not let is properties be listed or made public landmarks."
Grathwohl said the goal is to work with the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council and the church "to come up with some way of preserving the properties."
Currently, he said, only the "church proper and the rectory" are even being discussed; both are over 100 years old.
The parish hall and convent, across the street on Main Road, are not being included in current talks, he said, "because the church has not said what they plan to do."
Originally, Grathwohl said the commission was told the Diocese planned to "tear down the church and rectory. Now, they say that's not true," he said.
With an eye toward preservation, Grathwohl said an informal committee is being put together.
"It's a landmark in Southold Town," he said.
The Sacred Heart parish continues to evaluate its future -- with no absolute plans in place, a representative for the Diocese of Rockville Centre said in June.
“The Diocese is not aware of any definitive plans for any buildings on the Sacred Heart parish campus. The parish, along with the Diocese, continues to evaluate the best use of all of its resources for its parishioners,” said Sean P. Dolan, spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, after a number of requests from Patch about the future of the church, rectory, and convent.
The Sacred Heart Church, closed since December, as well as the rectory and carriage house, is one of seven properties listed as 'endangered' by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, was built in the late 1870s.
Despite a sit-in by some parishoners to keep church services going at the Roman Catholic worship house, was ultimately considered too much of a danger to keep open.
“The interior walls are detaching from the studs,” Deacon Jeff Sykes told Patch shortly after the parish held its final mass. “This is due to years of water damage leaking into the church — the foundation bricks are collapsing and the cross beams are rotted. We cannot guarantee the safety of the church.”
Repairs have been estimated to be as much as $2 million – though some churchgoers, hoping to keep it open, have doubted those numbers.
But despite worries from some church members that the Roman Catholic Diocese has plans to tear down the structure — a true landmark of downtown Cutchogue — Sykes said that is not the case.
“The Diocese is reactive, not proactive,” Sykes said. “The decision to close had to be made by us, the parish, not them. The plan was to close the doors, and we are not sure of future plans, but to say that we plan to tear it down is totally inaccurate.”
Lynn McCaffery Stevens, one of the protest organizers with deep ties to Sacred Heart, said earlier this year that she still had her doubts about the motivation behind the closure.
“Once it’s closed, what is to stop them from tearing it down?” she said.
Do you think a decision about the parish should be made sooner than later? Share your thoughts with Patch.