A Conversation with David Lys

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David Lys is the president of the Amagansett Life Saving and Coast Guard Society. Courtesy photo

By Christine Sampson

The Amagansett Life Saving and Coast Guard Station Society will throw open the doors of its restored station building on Atlantic Avenue on Saturday after successful efforts to bring the building back to life over the lasts several years. David Lys, the organization’s president, got to the heart of the facility’s historical significance and its future.

How are you feeling these days with the restoration of the Amagansett Life Saving Station complete and a new life ahead of the historic building?

I’m feeling pretty fulfilled and proud of the community of Amagansett and East Hampton, who came together and reclaimed this building for our future. It’s really a beautiful building and never would have been taken care of without the community’s support — from fundraising to the team of contractors and the providers of materials at a minimal dime to the taxpayer. It makes me proud to be part of the community.

Were there any surprises along the way, whether pleasant or otherwise?

Yes, there were. I’d never restored an historical structure, not even my home. The challenges were with the design and build. Inside the walls are ready for another 30 years of use, meaning telecommunications, security, insulation — but to fit that all within the 1902 structure was challenging. Surprises? When people show up whose family were stationed here, that’s a great surprise. We are now becoming the model of success for restoration of a building. We’re now becoming a place for those who lived on the maritime trade or coast guard families to reflect. That’s a big surprise to me.

What’s your favorite part about the history of the Amagansett Life Saving Station?

Personally, my favorite part about the history is that I never knew about it. I grew up on Newtown Lane and never knew about it until I was in my 30s. I went back and read through all the history. Yes, there was a Nazi landing, but my favorite part is that it was such a community place, a meeting place, through the 1930s and 1940s. We were such a maritime community that this is where they gathered. They came to the building as a focal point.

What do you have planned for the grand reopening ceremony on Saturday?

A lot of pomp and circumstance. I am going to call it “twice saved” — once saved by the Carmichaels, and recently when we saved it for restoration. We’re going to thank them and the community very publicly in a big event. We want to show off the building. We will be having an opening exhibit of a lot of historical photographs and also antiquities from the life saving service and Coast Guard, and show the process of restoration. We’re expecting the Coast Guard Auxiliary band, the Amagansett School choir, Coast Guard station officials, and I think we’re going to have hundreds of people here.

How meaningful do you think this restored life-saving station will be as a museum and also office space for the Town of East Hampton?

It’s going to be an administrative office for the lifeguards for East Hampton Town, for John Ryan Jr., who commands over 60 people during the summertime. It’s a perfect nexus to have a modern-day life saving office in an historic life-saving building. I think it’s going to be extremely meaningful, particularly for our maritime history. The more we can connect, we think it’s a very effective tool and a great gathering spot for educators to use.

The grand re-opening ceremony will take place at the station, located at 160 Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett, on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. Mr. Lys is also searching for artifacts from the early Coast Guard or life saving service, whether through donations or to be borrowed, to display at the museum. Those who are interested in getting involved can contact him through the organization’s website, www.amagansettlss.org.

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