In 1895, the area surrounding the newly constructed LIRR station was unsightly and Main Street was unpaved and unbearably dusty. Twenty-one East Hampton women decided that the time had come to eliminate these and many other problems of a growing East Hampton. The Ladies’ Village Improvement Society was formed at the Clinton Academy Annex and began raising funds to water down dusty Main Street, sweep the crosswalks, clean up the station area, install oil lamps on Main Street, and hire a lamplighter.
The first fundraising activity was a New Year’s Eve Supper in 1895. The following July saw the first LVIS Fair – an undertaking that has become a successful annual tradition loved by all. At the same time, the first LVIS Cookbook, The Way We Cook in East Hampton was introduced.
In 1907, the Ladies expanded their efforts to include the maintenance of both village trees and village greens. That same year the LVIS raised the American flag in the village, which was a precursor to today’s yearly American flag displays on both Main Street and Newtown Lane on holidays and special occasions.
In 1925, the LVIS advocated for village zoning, the prohibition of gas stations on Main Street and the elimination of billboards on any village street. In the early 1950′s, the battle against Dutch Elm Disease began. At the same time, the LVIS began its ambitious Scholarship Awards program. In addition, the LVIS started to monitor the condition of the Nature Trail and began a program to feed the water fowl who congregated there in winter.
The organization was also instrumental in the establishment of the Village Planning Board, and the listing of areas of the village on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1987, the LVIS rescued and rehabilitated the derelict Gardiner “Brown” House (circa 1740) at 95 Main Street which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses the LVIS offices, its Thrift Shop and its Book Shop.
From those twenty-one East Hampton founders, membership has grown to 365 volunteers who address the original mission’s four concerns: PRESERVATION, CONSERVATION, EDUCATION AND BEAUTIFICATION.