It was a scene that would have made Walter King proud.
Dozens of ladies donning fancy hats with feathered plumes and bows fashioned on the sides peeked in the windows and were enticed through the doors of the Lyzon Hat Shop in Hampton Bays on Saturday, just like old times.
The shop — which King opened in the 1850s and operated as a hat shop to that era’s glitterati like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers — was renovated to replicate its original design, just in time for its grand opening as a museum, which will be run by the Hampton Bays Historical Society.
“It’s very appropriate,” said Michael Lyzon King, whose grandfather was Myron King, son of the hat-maker Walter King. Lyzon King was part of a group of family members who travelled up from Nashville, TN to attend the grand opening.
“We came back in 2006 and the place was really run-down, but it’s amazing what they have done to it. They really revitalized it,” he added.
The shop is located at 116 West Montauk Highway in the historical corridor next to the Prosper King house. Anita and Bryan Whalen donated the building to the Hampton Bays Historical Society, which was restored using about $590,000 in funds from the town’s Community Preservation Fund.
Some of the shop’s original hats are on display in the museum, as well as old black-and-white photographs of celebrities and socialites wearing the hats.
In addition to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the grand opening festivities included a performance of the Long Island Sound Chorus of Sweet Adelines International, hat making tips, a quilting demonstration, and old-fashioned ice cream demonstrations.
“It was a good day for hats,” opined Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, joking about the combination of 90-plus degree temperatures and the reopening of the hat shop. He credited Brenda Sinclair Berntson, president of the Hampton Bays Historical Society, for “pouring her heart into” the project, noting if it were not for the society, the work would not have been completed.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who helped establish the CPF through legislation almost 20 years ago, credited Berntson for her leadership. “It requires community support, but obviously it requires persistence, and it is really that persistence of Brenda, the historical society, the community that led to the successful results that are here today,” he said.
Berntson said the shop is the result of a team effort by the community. “It’s not one person who did it. Everybody helped to do it,” she said, adding that she was happy the King family was able to come and share their memories and donate items. “This really makes it very rewarding.”
Lyzon King, who inherited his great grandfather’s wedding band for his own wedding, said the shop holds a special place in his family’s heart.
“My grandfather — to his dying day — talked about this place,” he said. “He talked about the happy memories here and the great gatherings that took place here and it’s very suitable, very appropriate for the occasion. I’m very pleased.”
The hat shop’s next event is the first of its summer lecture series, “History of the Long Island Rail Road,” which will be presented by Don Fisher, president of the Long Island Rail Road Museum, on July 26. The lecture starts at 7 PM. Admission for all non-members is $5. For more information about the Lyzon Hat Shop or its events, visit www.hamptonbayshistoricalsociety.com.