Sunday, May 19, 2013

EAST HAMPTON | LVIS History, 1840-1920

The LVIS History
by Colleen Rando.
The Ladies Village Improvement Society has produced a chronology of events with which it was associated, starting with 1840. The book was prepared by Colleen Rando.

My wife Alice is a volunteer and just brought home a copy. Readers may order their own from LVIS, which may be reached at The history is extensively treated in books published by the East Hampton Star and by the East Hampton Library; the LVIS book has a special perspective.

The chronology goes up to 2012 and includes many interesting photos. I am covering only the first 80 years, selectively and rephrased where I feel like it, and occasionally with some new information:

1840 - Families from NYC and Philadelphia start to summer in East Hampton, boarding with local residents on Main Street and going to the beach in horse-drawn carriages that permit changing at the beach in privacy.

1877 - Artists come to East Hampton from NYC's Tile Club in search of its special lighting, which relates to its flat topography and multiple accesses to bays, inlets and ocean. East Hampton is later referred to a "the cradle of [American] art".

1890 - In the "gay 90s", summer visitors begin building their own seasonal homes, which are called "cottages" and are simply designed of wood covered in shingles, unlike the elaborate Newport mansions.

1895 - The Long Island Rail Road finally gets to East Hampton, instantly changing the accessibility of the resort. The ladies of the resort decide to get ready to try to preserve the culture of the resort in the face of an expected onslaught of visitors from NYC. The first LVIS meeting was held in Clinton Hall. The group erects a flagpole, arranges for its daily raising and lowering, provides for flags along Main Street on Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and other holidays. The LVIS installs oil lamps to light the streets at night, and puts in bike lanes. It cleans the streets with two sprinkling carts.

The Mostly Annual LVIS Fair. My wife Alice Tepper
Marlin  has  done three booths over the years -
the food booth, playland and the silent auction.
1896 - The first of the mostly annual LVIS fairs. Raises $300, which is $8,149 in 2012 dollars after adjustment for inflation using an unofficial inflation calculator (the BLS calculator doesn't go back before 1913). The first LVIS cookbook is published. LVIS dredges the village pond.

1898 - LVIS pays for lamps and $190 for a lamplighter. LVIS takes over the Good Roads movement promoted by the Clinton Cycle Club.

1899 - LVIS spends $1,316 on street sprinkling.  Mrs. Dayton is quoted as saying of the LVIS:
We go in for business. We charge members 50 cents a year [$14 in 2013 dollars - JTM] and we do not have pink tea meetings. We are all business. We hope soon to show what we can do in road building. ... And what do the men say? They smile, look wise and murmur something to the effect that it is their money that does the business. But the ladies don't mind that. They give the brains. So there." [From the New York World, November 22, 1899.]
The New York Journal also weighed in and an article that appeared in this paper was reprinted in the East Hampton Star on November 24, 1899. An excerpt follows:
The women of East Hampton do not agree with former Senator John Ingalls [R-KS 1873-1891, former President of the Senate, led campaign for Kansas statehood, coined the Kansas State motto, 7th cousin of Laura Ingalls Wilder - JTM] that the fair sex has no initiative and rarely knows enough to come in before the rain stops. They want him to visit their town, where the real municipal government is in the hands of women and the men are not allowed to interfere in local affairs. ... Statistics show that when East Hampton was governed by males, there were no crosswalks, the common was ragged and unkempt, and half the time there was no kerosene in the street lamps.
1900 - LVIS arranges for the paving of Main Street from Newtown Lane to Huntting Lane - not very far, but hey, it was a start. The road had cobblestone gutters.

1902 - The Electric Light Company is formed and starts replacing oil lamps owned by LVIS. LVIS insists that all wires be buried underground.

1903 - LVIS hands over to East Hampton Town the business of cleaning the streets, along with, as a guide to the Town, the near-unanimous LVIS recommendation that any request by the Summer People for Sunday cleaning would be unacceptable to LVIS.

1908 - Summer People hold a "gymkhana" horse-jumping contest and raise $700 for LVIS ($18,900 in 2012 dollars).

1909 - East Hampton Town takes over street lighting and road paving along with the street cleaning handed over in 1903.

1910 - LVIS is incorporated. LVIS starts admitting summer people to active membership. Previously summer members were called "associate" members and paid four times as much as regular members.

1914 - LVIS starts looking into the proliferation of signs.

1915 - LVIS gets permission from David Gardiner to make improvements in the Sheep Pound. It is hereafter mowed along with other East Hampton village greens.

1916 - No LVIS fair is held. Incorporation of East Hampton Village is voted down. Woodrow Wilson is reelected on a platform of (1) Opposing involvement in the European Great War, and (2) Opposing a federal amendment acknowledging the right of women to vote. New York suffragette Inez Milholland collapses in Los Angeles on a multi-month cross-country campaign against Wilson on behalf of Votes for Women.

1917 - Wilson declares war on Germany and reverses himself also on votes for women after months-long picketing in front of the White House following sarcasm from President Wilson when a delegation from the National Woman's Party appeals to him with memorials of Milholland's death.

1920 - Proposal to incorporate the Village of East Hampton passes 166-57. LVIS retains its activities relating to trees, village greens, trash cans and flags. Also any activities designed to beautify the Village. In August, Tennessee - the last required state -ratifies the 19th amendment and Votes for Women is the law of the land.

For the whole history of LVIS to date, and many photographs, order the book from LVIS -