“Ocean Keeper,” a short documentary about the Amagansett Life-Saving Station that premiered at last year’s Hamptons International Film Festival, will be screened free for the community on Friday night.
The event starts at 6 p.m. at LTV Studios at 75 Industrial Road in Wainscott and will include an opportunity to meet the director, Eileen Olivieri Torpey, who, along with the sister duo of Isabel and Deborah Carmichael, produced the film. An update on restoration efforts of the structure will also be provided.
Told through interviews, the nearly 30-minute film blends archival and contemporary footage to tell the story of the heroic house and its inadvertent role in an ill-fated Nazi plot to blow up power stations.
The film journeys through the station’s more than 110-year history, including the times when four Nazi saboteurs were found by coastguardsman John Cullen during a nightly beach patrol in front of the station in 1942 and, 24 years later, when writer Joel Carmichael bought the building for $1 and rescued it from demolition.
Constructed in 1902, the station was the last of 30 life-saving stations built along the south shore, a major commerce shipping route at the beginning of the 20th century that saw many shipwrecks. The men who worked at the station saved thousands of lives over several decades. Life-saving stations across the country were part of the United States Life-Saving Service, a precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard. Their purpose was to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers.
From 1915 to 1944, the U.S. Coast Guard took over the life-saving stations. The one in Amagansett was decommissioned in 1944 and sat abandoned until Mr. Carmichael purchased the property in 1966 and moved it to Bluff Road, just blocks away from the beach, where it was repurposed as a family summer residence. It also took on a new role as a salon for local artists and intellectuals.
Following Mr. Carmichael’s death in 2006, the house was donated to East Hampton Town and relocated back to Atlantic Avenue for the purpose of historic preservation.
The film made its television premiere on WNET Thirteen last year as part of the channel’s “Treasures of New York” series, as well as on WLIW 21, and has since been broadcast on public television channels across the country.
“It’s a gem of history. It’s a story of courage, a story of hope and a story of generosity,” said Ms. Torpey. “There’s a little bit of something for every one of us.”
Calling the film an “if-these-walls-could talk” documentary, the director said she was present on the day the station was moved back to its original site in 2007.
“When you get a strong feeling about a story, it’s important to listen to it,” she said. “The biggest thing for me as an artist and a filmmaker is bringing what is invisible and making it visible. A lot of people say, ‘What is a life-saving station? Is it a lighthouse?’”
She said she anticipates an audience of all ages.
“I always love when we’re able to give something to the community that is free and open,” she said. “It’s in the spirit of the building that it would be free and open.”
Peter Garnham, a member of a committee formed by the town to oversee the restoration, said restoration of the exterior has been completed by a single donor, local builder Ben Krupinski, while individuals are raising money room by room for the interior.
The committee is in the process of forming a nonprofit organization that will be responsible for the station and operating it as a public facility, he said.
“It’s truly a story of this wonderful old building that was almost lost, as it were, to the public and has now been put back and restored,” he said.