The Argyle Lake Falls have fallen into disrepair and Babylon Village is exploring a restoration project to bring this historic focal point of the community back to its former glory.
For decades, the falls have been a venerable spot for weddings, graduations, proms and just anyone who wants a beautiful setting to take photos, fish, or sit and reflect
On closer inspection though, Argyle Falls starts to lose some of its luster.
Discoloration of the facade, flaking paint, and even whole pieces of the spindles and railings are coming off the structure in places. (Scroll down or photos.)
A painting hangs in Village Hall, a landscape of the falls in its most idyllic form.
“Anybody who looks at that picture they know instantly it’s Babylon Village,” said Jackie Marsden, village historian and president of the Babylon Village Historical Society, during a meeting between GreaterBabylon and village officials at Village Hall. “It’s like an icon.”
The falls were originally dedicated as a World War I memorial in 1921, she said.
It’s namesake, according to historical documents provided by Marsden, was the duke of Argyll, who reportedly visited Babylon and was an investor in the Argyle Hotel (also named in honor of the duke) that was constructed nearby in 1882.
The repairs would be cosmetic, but an inspection of the falls shows just how much work needs to be done.
According to Charles “Skip” Gardner, the village’s public works superintendent, the job can be performed in stages. Parts of the falls would be turned off temporarily for construction.
The railings and spindles will all need to be removed and either replaced or sanded down and repainted, the walls across the front of the falls need to be cleaned up, as well as the stairways leading up to each side of the falls. A standing ledge will also have to be repaired.
“If you look at it [the falls] you see a lot of cracks in the face of it,” Gardner said.
Trees around the falls have roots that are pushing on the sides of the structure, causing more damage. The trees will need to be altered.
The last time the falls had a major repair was in 1988, when, according to Gardner, the village shored up some of the concrete on the north side of the falls. In the meantime, the village has performed maintenance repairs and fixed the railings after vandals damaged them.
But, Mother Nature has taken its toll.
“It was basically beat up during the two storms, Irene and also Sandy,” said Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino. “That’s when we started noticing it.”
There was also a major rainstorm three years ago that dumped 14 inches of rain within an hour that caused major stress to the falls.
Those storms caused what Scordino described as extensive cosmetic damage.
At this point, the condition of the falls is not a public safety hazard, but an aesthetic one.
The village is in the early planning stages, waiting on a comprehensive assessment from a company to give an idea what the project would cost. Some of the work can be done by the village, which would help defer some of the overall costs.
“We’ll help them as much as we can to lower the price,” said Scordino.
There will be a lot of manual labor involved to bring the falls back to their former glory.
Scordino said all work on the falls would be closely monitored; permits will have to be in place before construction begins and the village will have to coordinate with the state DEC.
“Because it’s an important estuary there are certain things you have to do to contain the materials, and you have to have a certain plan in place before the work is done,” he said.
Before they move forward with any plans, the village needs to know what it will have to shell out for the restoration project. Then they can begin to think about where the money would come from.
“First, we want to find out how much it’s going to cost us,” said Gardner. “Once we have the DEC permits and engineers reports, we will put it out to bid with the specifics to have it done.”
The officials would not estimate a price tag for the project.
“I couldn’t guess how much it would cost right now,” said Scordino.
He said that funding options will have to wait until all the engineering reports, permits and estimates come in.
“Once you have that we can have a better idea of what we’re looking for.”
photos of Argyle Falls by Lon Cohen