Without a doubt, the most beautiful beach pavilion in the Hamptons is Main Beach in East Hampton. It is an old-fashioned wood-shingle structure spreading out about 80 feet along the back of the beach. There is a main office to get information and used paperback books, beach lockers and cabanas, a luncheonette, bathrooms, a lifeguard equipment storage facility, a foot shower and a great windswept covered wooden deck along the ocean side where people can sit in the shade under a porch roof and watch the beachgoers on the beach.
In many ways, it is a beautiful public Victorian mansion. Everyone loves it. The lifeguards and beach boys raise the American flag up the 50-foot flagpole every morning, after which the tables and chairs are put out under the awning. Main Beach is open for the day.
I am not sure when the Main Beach pavilion was originally built. I think, however, it is about a hundred years old. It’s been rebuilt—stick by stick, exactly as is—several times since. It gets weathered by fog, wind and salt and it just needs that occasional total re-creation.
When I first got here in the 1950s as a teenager, this beach and pavilion were for everybody. There were no beach stickers and no pay-to-park places. There were not so many people in town back then.
I always loved going to Main Beach in those days. It was also special because although there were several other beach pavilions in the Hamptons—one in Southampton, one in Hampton Bays and one in Westhampton Beach—none of those were as grand and welcoming as this one.
Today, only the residents of the Village of East Hampton, a small section of East Hampton Township that extends from the new East Hampton Town Hall to the airport turnoff, are eligible to get beach stickers to go to this beach. For others, there is a parking lot where the cost is $30 a day—if it isn’t full—but that’s only Monday through Friday. Weekends it is restricted to just Village Residents.
I’m a resident of Springs. I am not welcome at Main Beach anymore. And the fact is that the people of Amagansett, Pantigo, Wainscott, Northwest, Napeauge and Montauk, comprising a population of about 60,000 in the summer (vs. 6,000 for the Village of East Hampton), are left without any ocean beach pavilion whatsoever. This is for a stretch from Main Beach to the Lighthouse—a distance of 28 miles. It is amazing that the town has not acted to address this.
I should note that the town of Southampton has addressed this problem. There is the Ponquogue Beach pavilion in Hampton Bays. And there is the public county beach at Cupsogue on Dune Road with a pavilion.
This lapse is particularly glaring in Montauk, which is part of East Hampton Township. There is a parking lot at Kirk Park Beach, which has bathrooms as a centerpiece. And there is another bathhouse at Ditch Plains, also just bathrooms. For food, there are the beach trucks. That’s it.
In Amagansett, there are two ocean beaches that welcome residents, but neither Atlantic Avenue nor Indian Wells has a pavilion.
I should point out that there are a dozen or more road endings throughout the Hamptons where people can walk out onto the beach. Some have bathhouses, others just porta potties. A few have parking lots. What I am talking about is a proper, comfortable beach pavilion, particularly one from which you can look out to the ocean—where you can get out of the rain, sit in a shaded area and enjoy the breeze.
East Hampton Town should build a proper beach pavilion on the dunes at Kirk Park in Montauk. Currently, there is a mile-long stretch of beach in Napeague that the oceanfront homeowners there have tried to take under their control—so far without success—and there are discussions underway whereby, if the Town loses, they might be able to get it back by eminent domain and build a public beach facility there. Do it. Even if you win. And build a wonderful beach pavilion where you could buy a lobster roll or ice cream cone and sit on a deck under a roof and enjoy the scene.