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Organ, Old Whalers’ Church, 2005

Montauk Light could be seen from the top of the wedding-cake steeple of the Sag Harbor Presbyterian Church, they say, before the 1938 hurricane lifted Minard Lafever’s ingenious concoction off the roof peak and smashed it down. The steeple, rising 187 feet above the ground, which is roughly fifty feet above sea level at that point, was built like a telescope, and each section, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Egyptian — Lafever was an architectural eclectic — was pulled up through the one below by block and falls, teams of oxen on the whip. The bell tolled as it fell.

Everett T. Rattray, The South Fork: The Land and the People of Eastern Long Island (1979)

 

That steeple didn’t fall off. It popped off. The pressure built up and it came out like a champagne cork. The big timbers were still there, and it’s a shame they didn’t restore it. They could’ve put it back up again. But then everyone started taking the pieces that fell on the street for souvenirs.

Dominick Cilli, dairy farmer, interviewed by Joyce Egginton (1976)


“Our steeple wasn’t blown down by accident. These people here had got so they were worshipping the steeple more than they did God. So He took it away.”

Donald Crawford, Minister, Old Whalers’ Church, quoted in The New Yorker (1949)