A fundraiser to restore the Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station will be held Saturday at the historic site where Nazi saboteurs once rowed ashore in a rubber dinghy loaded with explosives, cash and clothing.
David Lys, chairman of the advisory committee heading the restoration effort, said the museum will document that headline-making story and other aspects of the building’s history, in addition to information about modern-day lifesaving on the East End.
“It’ll be the only museum dedicated to lifesaving stations in New York State,” Lys said. “There’s been a little bit of a resurgence in interest in lifesaving stations; there really aren’t many of them left at all.”
Project supporters, who include actors Alec Baldwin and Robert Downey Jr., hope to raise $175,000 to complete the transformation. The goal is to turn the building, at 160 Atlantic Ave., into a museum that will document the rich history of the property and house an office for East Hampton Town lifeguards.
Shortly after midnight on June 13, 1942, a Nazi submarine ran aground on a nearby sandbar. The saboteurs’ plan was to blow up canals, bridges, and aluminum and magnesium plants between 1942 and 1944, during World War II.
Four men attempted to bribe Seaman John C. Cullen when he spotted them, but he ran back to the station and told his commander, Warren Barnes, about the incident. The men and four others who had landed in Florida were later captured and tried. They were all found guilty and sentenced to death, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt commuted one man’s sentence to 30 years and another’s to life in prison. The other six were executed.
The job of the men who lived at the station, constructed in 1902, was to keep watch at night and in bad weather for ships in distress.
“It’s part of our maritime history,” said Robert Hefner, an East Hampton Town historian who helped prepare a history of the station. “It’s a reminder that the ocean was a place of maritime economy and there were dangers. Today the area is more of a summer relaxation and recreation spot, but before it was more of a working place.”
Restoration work has included restoring the building’s original wood, and installing new windows and a new electrical system.
Lys, who said he hopes the project will be completed by September, said much of the work was done by inmates provided through the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Work Community Program. The fundraising started about five years ago and work on the building began about four years ago.
“We’re doing this through a public and private partnership so there’s no taxpayer expense,” Lys said.
Tickets for the lobster bake fundraiser are $150 for adults and $75 for children under 12. The event will begin at 6 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to amagansettlss.org or call Lys at 516-885-6454.
Baldwin, who has a vacation home in Amagansett, attended a fundraiser last year to help fund the restoration.
“In New York, contributions in the many millions keep venerable institutions alive and healthy,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “In East Hampton, gifts in the hundreds of dollars help locals save a piece of history and stay in touch with a way of life and each other. The Amagansett Life-Saving Station, and the fundraising for it, are what this town is about.”