The film is grainy and washed out, but a revelation nonetheless. The frame of what would become Guild Hall. The L.V.I.S. summer fair. A boat launched from the beach in Amagansett. And the grand Maidstone Inn, as it is consumed by fire.
These scenes and more can be seen today at 5 p.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott in “East Hampton in the 1920s and ’30s,” a 28-minute archival film shot by the illustrator Hamilton King. A panel discussion among candidates for the East Hampton Town Board focusing on preservation will follow the screening, which is free. A wine reception will precede the screening.
The screening and debate coincide with “Jazz Age East Hampton (1919-1933): Clothes, Clubs and Contraband,” an exhibition at the East Hampton Historical Society, which is co-hosting today’s event. The exhibition will close on Sunday.
Six enormous film reels had been stored at the historical society for some time, Genie Henderson, LTV’s archivist, said. When Richard Barons became the society’s director, he saw that the reels bore the name of Frazer Dougherty, a founder of LTV. “Richard Barons called me and said, ‘These belong more to you than to us.’ We had no idea what they were,” Ms. Henderson said. A telephone call to Mr. Dougherty, who lives in Florida, yielded little information. “He had heard about Hamilton King,” Ms. Henderson said of Mr. Dougherty’s interest in the film, “and somehow tracked it down.”
With no hardware on which to play the film, its contents remained a mystery until the reels were sent to a company in Ohio to be digitized. In addition to the aforementioned content, other scenes depict the opening of the Georgica gut, accomplished with horse-drawn sleds and shovels, the harvesting of hay in Springs, and bathers at the ocean. A piano soundtrack reminiscent of the era accompanies the film.
Given the passage of time and the technology with which it was made, the video quality is poor. At this time, restoration is prohibitively expensive, Ms. Henderson said. “If we can ever get a grant or raise the money, I would like to have it restored,” she said. “It’s a shame to see it in this condition, but we