The City Island Nautical Museum is getting even more historic with recent renovations to the classic schoolhouse building.
The museum, located in an historic structure originally built as P.S. 17 around 1897, is keeping its part of the schoolhouse authentic to the period with the installation of 17 new windows designed to look like those that originally graced the building.
The new windows are similar to the ones depicted in an artist rendering of P.S. 17 from around the turn of last century, said Barbara Dolensek, museum vice president and administrator.
“We were trying to get as close to the original design as possible, while keeping the modern standards, so they are safe,” said Tom Nye, museum president and curator.
He added that the windows that were part of the museum’s space before were installed in the 1980s before the building was landmarked, and they look like regular replacement windows from that period.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission had to approve the design of the new windows, said Dolensek, which necessitated a presentation before the commission before work could begin.
A LPC spokeswoman stated that the commission understood that the museum is a non-profit with financial limitations that is staffed entirely by volunteers and must rely on donations for capital improvements, Dolensek said.
Councilman James Vacca provides funding for programming, which is allowed under city rules, though capital improvements don’t appear to be allowed, she said.
A Landmark’s spokeswoman also said that the LPC compromised with the museum to keep costs on the project down.
“The commission allowed the applicant to use vinyl, a material the applicant requested, instead of wood, which would be more costly,” she stated in an email, adding that it only required the windows visible from the street to be in the historic style.
There is an obligation for people with older buildings to keep their properties in good repair, said Dolensek. The museum is happy to meet that obligation, she said, though at times it can be a challenge.
The new windows already appear to be more energy efficient, and in some cases, much safer than some of the old weathered windows at the museum, said Nye.
The capital improvements have strained the museum’s finances, and it may have to charge an admission at some events, said Dolensek.
The museum already has a ‘suggested donation’ at its door, but they may consider a minimum donation for entry, she said, as well as reaching out to state elected officials for possible funding.
Large group tours of the museum, which contains artifacts and exhibitions relating to City Island’s rich history as a shipbuilding and seafaring community, already pay a fee to visit the museum, she said.
The museum attracts people to the island, especially during its off-peak season, and many of the tour groups spend a good deal of money at local restaurants during those visits, said Dolensek.
Expecting donations from individuals to permanently sustain the museum, which has been in existence since 1964, is not a feasible long-term strategy, she also said.
The museum shares the building at 190 Fordham Street with the Nautical Winds Condominium complex.