East Hampton Library’s 5th iteration of the highly anticipated “Tom Twomey Series” will premiere on Saturday, May 18. This year’s series will feature six one-hour programs that range from a Washington Update to All About Oysters to At Home with the Wiborgs, and more.
We caught up with Chip Rae, Library Board Member, to learn more about this year’s focus.
Tell me a little bit about this year’s topics, speakers, and hosts.
CR: It’s our fifth year and we’ve learned a lot in the last four years. We had a committee that looked at a variety of topics starting in the fall, and we picked six topics this year – one a month. Some years, we’ve had eight or nine, but we’ve decided to six this year. We’re starting a little later because we want to make sure we get weekenders and folks who are here for the summer.
We’re starting off with something near and dear to everyone who drives through East Hampton and that’s the bioswale on the Village Green, the first green and then the second green that’s underway.
The second one, politics is one that is riveting. Rita Braver, a well-known CBS News correspondent, and her husband, Robert Barnett, who is a leading Washington, D.C. attorney, will be in East Hampton at their home this summer, so we invited them to take part in the series. They’re going to talk about whatever the current thing in Washington is at that point, and the two will switch places with Barnett asking the questions of Braver.
Then we always try and have a local architecture lecture and the Wiborg family, they had the largest estate where Wiborg beach is. Anne Surchin, she’s an architect that’s written a lot about the estate, is going to talk. And then we met a guy named Dan Cohen who had been a volunteer researcher for the Historical Society. And when Laura Donnelly, who’s the great granddaughter of the Wiborgs, lived in the last remnant of that estate and it was an incredible garage complex, right on the ocean, next to the Maidstone Club. And when she moved out three or four years ago, for a few days, she invited the Historical Society and the Library and in the attic of this garage of the chauffeurs quarters were all the original papers to the estate dating back to 1905/1910/1920. They kept everything. So a lot of it was gathered up. And some of it came to the Library and some of them went to the Historical Society. And then Dan Cohen has been reading all these papers. And he’s written a paper himself, about 30 pages, on what the Wiborgs were like based on looking at all these documents, letters, bills, correspondence, and he’s going to talk a little bit about his research, and then to cap it off, Laura Donnelly, who’s a great granddaughter, has agreed to give the introduction. So very local, but very riveting and it was a huge house just to the right of the Maidstone Club.
Then we always try and do a little tour. Last year we did a little garden tour. This year we’re going to do a small house talk and tour. And a lot of people are thinking about downsizing and they would like to live in a smaller space. So we went, we found a woman who had written a book, Roberta Sandenbergh, on living in smaller spaces and how to do it successfully. And then we looked around the Village and found three sort of iconic village houses that you know, represent the smallest houses in East Hampton Village. And those owners have agreed to open their houses for a tour afterwards.
The fifth one is going to be about oysters, populating the oyster beds around East Hampton with the health of the oyster industry, a little bit about how many people are trying to coax it along. And at the end of that talk, we’re going to have a reception with the Montauk Brewing Company on the patio.
And the last one is on the cartoonist Charles Addams. He lived in Sagaponack. He left a foundation, which includes his house. The director of the foundation, H. Kevin Miserocchi, is going to talk about the Tee and Charles Addams foundation.
And was this the first time that you had someone contact you about participating in the series?
CR: Yes, which is nice. So that means after five years we’re gaining a little traction. I actually had a fellow contact me just a month ago, who spent many (10/15) years with Robert Gardiner during his last days on Gardiner’s Island giving tours and we’re talking to him about another talk on Gardiner’s Island next year. So, it’s nice, once you get a little bit of a traction people often step forward to say they’d like to talk. So that’s great.
So the committee is already thinking about 2020 then?
CR: You know we have because it’s the LVIS’ anniversary, their 125th anniversary, and they’re talking to us about having a speaker talk about the history of the LVIS, so that’s another one that’s come to us. So actually, there’s two for next year and one for this year. It makes it a lot easier for the committee.
And I’m sure as time goes on, more and more people will reach out.
CR: Yeah, you know, our audiences range from, over the four years I’ve been doing it, to 40 people at the low end and 300 people at the high end. So we, depending on the speaker and the date and the weather, and what else is happening. We’re very comfortable with around 100 people and we increased the size of the room so we can accommodate about 150. But last year, we had 300 for one.
Something tells me that the Washington update will be a hot ticket.
CR: I think it will be because I remember when we had a couple of New York Times reporters and it’s riveting to people.
Is there anything new with this year?
CR: Well, we brought back the half hour wine reception before, which is very popular, and Judith Hope, who was the wife of Tom Twomey, whom this series is named for, she has underwritten providing the wine for the half hour before the event, during the evening events. So that was nice. She wants to stay involved and she’s very generous.
And what topics are you personally looking forward to?
CR: Well, I’m involved with the Wiborg one, so I’m really looking forward to that one because I love architecture and you know, this house was so famous and it is forgotten, but it was the biggest house in East Hampton in its day and it’s all gone.
And will the lectures be streamed again this year?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CR: We’re always looking for people to contact me if people have ideas for lectures that they would like to suggest. We’re very open to suggestions.
The complimentary lectures will take place in the Library’s Baldwin Family Lecture Room. Admission is free, but advanced reservations are requested, as seating is limited.
East Hampton Library is located at 159 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, visit tomtwomeyseries.org.