The renovation of the old Sterlington Hotel/Meson Olé on Third Street in Greenport is just about complete.
Shelter Island builder James Olinkiewicz, who purchased the building in January 2016, proudly shows off the transformation, which took him nearly eight months to accomplish.
“We had to take everything down to the two by fours,” he says. “There was all kinds of rot and we had to totally rebuild the front.”
In its new embodiment, the three-story Burr Hotel (the building’s original name) will house a restaurant, a Goldberg’s Famous Bagels shop and three apartments.
Built in 1843 the building was renamed the Sterlington Hotel in 1894 and was used as a boardinghouse for summer visitors and rail workers until 1980 when the Meson Olé restaurant opened there. It sat vacant for about five years before Olinkiewicz purchased it.
“I always loved the building, always wanted to buy it,” says Olinkiewicz. “We used to have Christmas parties here in the late 90s.”
It took him four years to nail down the purchase the building and when he finally did, it was in such a state of disrepair that the village had considered condemning it and tearing it down.
“Lucky for me they didn’t,” says Olinkiewicz.
Once he owned it, the village gave him emergency permits to stabilize the building and after seven or eight months getting all his paperwork in order, Olinkiewicz began the major renovation.
On the north end of the building, a Goldberg’s Famous Bagels shop will open next week. On the south end, Olinkiewicz has prepared the space to accommodate a bar and 45-seat restaurant with an additional 60-seats outside on the pergola covered patio, which can be used in the nice weather. Both areas have floors made from salvaged wood treated to resemble antique wood flooring.
Olinkiewicz tried to keep as many features of the original building as possible, but it was difficult because of the deteriorated state it was in. Ninety-five percent of the original framework was preserved and in the rooms some of the original beams are visible on the ceilings. There is a large stone chimney in the restaurant dining room, also from the original building.
Upstairs are three apartments; all have three bedrooms and overlook either the harbor or the downtown. Each has central air conditioning, hardwood floors and a balcony. A modern sprinkler system is installed throughout the building.
The apartments have all been rented to people who work in or near the village — something that meant a lot to Olinkiewicz.
“I promised the village these would be for workforce housing,” he says, adding that he is keenly aware of the need for housing for the working people of Greenport Village.
“I have a 62-person waiting list for housing,” he says.
He has not rented the restaurant out yet, although he has had a few people call to inquire.
“I want to rent it to someone who has extensive restaurant experience,” he says. “I spent so much time and effort creating this, I don’t want it to fail.”
There are no dedicated parking spaces for the building, although Olinkiewicz installed handicapped parking in the rear for use by the restaurants. Since the building was an existing structure, it wasn’t required to provide parking, he said.
Olinkiewicz is clearly proud of the work he’s done on the 174-year-old building, which has been painted a cheerful coral color.
“I love buying old buildings and bringing them back to life,” he says. The Burr Hotel can not be listed on the National Register of Historic Places because previous owners made too many changes to the original structure.
“Just because it wouldn’t qualify for the historic register, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a plaque,” he says with a laugh as he tightens the last screw on the oval Burr Hotel sign on the building’s front.