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Hamptons Life

Jan 6, 2010 11:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Restored Quogue landmark makes its return

Jan 6, 2010 11:06 AM

After being stolen and severely damaged by vandals six years ago, the life-size horse statue that has long served as a landmark at a Quogue intersection retook its post this winter, after it was repaired by Village Police officers and community members.

The white horse statue had become something of a Quogue icon, as well as a navigational landmark, over the decades it overlooked the corner of Montauk Highway and Quogue-Riverhead Road. The horse actually had two different incarnations: the original version was made of wood and plaster and was placed near the intersection in the 1950s, and a solid bronze version replaced the original in 2000.

But on a snowy night in December 2004, the 1,500-pound bronze statue disappeared, and reappeared later that winter on the side of a road in Manorville, nearly decapitated and missing a front leg. The damaged statue sat in disuse in its owner’s yard for years before members of the Quogue Police Benevolent Association decided to restore it six months ago, according to Detective Michael Fruin, who put the project in motion.

“It was a thought I had for a long time,” he said. “It’s a Quogue icon.”

At first, members of the Quogue PBA were prepared to foot the bill of the restoration, which was estimated to be $1,800, Det. Fruin said. But the body shop at Otis Ford in Quogue, where the statue was repaired, ended up donating its services.

“There’s been a horse on this corner for many years,” said Tom Otis, the owner of Otis Ford, who has lived in Quogue for 63 years. “It’s kind of like a landmark.”

At Otis Ford, workers sealed a deep cut in the horse’s neck and Anthony Mulrenan, 20, carved a new leg out of wood. On December 17, Det. Fruin spent about two hours cementing the finished horse in place with help from Gerald Bennett, the father of Quogue Police officer Danny Bennett, and the owner of Hampton Custom Builder. Speonk Lumber donated 35 bags of cement to the cause.

The horse is now situated at the edge of the residential property, backed by hedges and overlooked by a 200-year-old house. Thick cables now attach its hooves to a cement base to prevent the statue from being tipped over or dragged away.

David Hall, 73, a retired Wall Street lawyer, became the statue’s de facto caretaker when he bought the property in 1983. Since that time, vandals toppled and damaged the original wood statue on five or six occasions, and he grew weary of repairing it, he said.

“It feels like a child,” he said. “I’ve taken care of him so many times.”

About 10 years ago, a group of vandals damaged the horse beyond repair. Mr. Hall said that when he went to survey the damage, he saw just four skinny legs sticking out of the ground, and the horse’s body lying beside them.

When Quogue residents learned that Mr. Hall had no intention of fixing the horse, they pitched in money to cover the costs, according to Mr. Hall.

“People get attached to items, and then the items become a symbol for the whole community,” Mr. Hall said.

He used the funds to buy a bronze replacement, which he hoped would be indestructible.

But on the night of December 14, 2004, the 6-foot-tall statue vanished from his yard. He said he realized it was missing only when he saw tire tracks in the snow near where it had stood.

“I wouldn’t have even noticed it was gone, to tell you the truth,” Mr. Hall said. “You go by it so often, you know? You don’t even see it.”

Quogue Village Police issued a Crime Stoppers alert, and posted fliers with the horse’s photo. Some time later that winter, Brookhaven Town Highway Department workers found the horse on the side of a Sunrise Highway service road in Manorville, according to Det. Fruin. A police report shows that it took just one day for the horse to be found, Det. Fruin said, but Sergeant Thomas Mullen, who responded to the report of the found statue, said it took weeks.

No one was ever arrested for the theft, Det. Fruin said. The police had a suspect, but never enough evidence to back up charges.

“It’s basically still an open case, technically,” Det. Fruin said.

On Tuesday morning, more than a dozen community members who were involved in the statue’s restoration, including police officers, village officials and workers, gathered near the statue to shovel the snow away from its ankles and officially unveil it. The statue’s newly painted exterior glinted in the sunlight.

“They’re not going to push that over,” Det. Fruin said, surveying the work.

Quogue Village Police Chief Robert Coughlan turned around and shot a glance at the horse.

“That’s why his mouth is open,” Chief Coughlan said. “He’s laughing [and saying], ‘Go ahead, try it.’”

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How long until one of Quogue;s finest tailgates it and pulls it over?
By VOS (1146), WHB on Jan 12, 10 1:10 AM
Nice story - probably the latest theives had intentions of scrapping the bronze as the price was up at the time. Hopefully the value is now down so it wonb't be worth it.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Jan 12, 10 12:46 PM
How about painting a certain appendage bright pink again ? !!
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Jan 13, 10 8:43 AM
How about, Hats off to the Quogue Village Police Dept. for getting the ball rolling.
By Middleman (16), east quogue on Jan 13, 10 2:09 PM
That's awesome! That horse is such a part of the area. I am super happy to be able to once again be able to see that landmark in our neighborhood!
By Old School (22), Southampton on Jan 14, 10 7:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Gentlemen! Thank you for your efforts! it warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes to see the White Horse standing tall and proud! And now I know that with all that I feel....... I am HOME again when I see him. HOME and all is right with the world..........such a nice "warm and fuzzy" feeling in such turbulent times. Thank you again
By pageking57 (12), Flanders on Jan 14, 10 8:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
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