Long Island lives up to its name at 190 kilometres (118 miles) long and at its widest it is 32 kilometres (20 miles) across. The Dutch first settled on the island, expanding from their base at New Amsterdam to found Breuckelen (Brooklyn) on the western end of the island in the 1630s. The Dutch didn’t colonise more of the island and it was left to the English to found Hempstead in 1644, 30 kilometres (19 miles) east of Breuckelen. More English settlements followed, and eventually England took the whole area from the Dutch. Today there you can divide Long Island in two - the west where Brooklyn and Queens form part of New York City and the east which is more rural with with its villages, bays and fishing boats.
Stony Brook Grist Mill, Stony Brook
Stony Brook stands on the north coast in the centre of the island. Many tourists come her for its Outlet Shopping Center, but there is also history to be found. Here a Grist Mill was built in 1699, but eventually it was washed away in a flood. A new mill was build by Adam Smith in 1751 and that mill is still standing today. It is still in working order and by a miller much as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Grist Mill was acquired by philanthropist Ward Melville in 1947 and is owned and operated by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization.
Montauk Point Lighthouse
This is the nearest that you can get to England without leaving the island - the most easterly point on Long Island. Unsurprisingly this is the site of a lighthouse, the oldest in New York State and the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the USA. Montauk Point Lighthouse was completed in 1796 and its tower is 33.6 metres (110 feet) high. The double keepers dwelling, seen here in front of the lighthouse, was built in 1860. The lighthouse was automated in 1987, so keepers no longer live here. The dwellings are now a museum run by the Montauk Historical Society who run tours of the lighthouse.
Hannibal French House, Sag Harbor
To the west of Montauk Point is Sag Harbor, which was once a bustling whaling port. Money made from whaling was used to build mansions in the town, and many survive today. This house in Garden Street was built in the mid-19th century for Hannibal French, a wealthy investor and businessman. The interior was designed by famed architect Minard Lefever. Today it remains a private home.
Lawrence House, Old Bethpage Village Restoration
When in 1963 Nassau County acquired the Powell Farm, it found a way to save some of the local heritage. All of the buildings apart from the farm have either been moved here to preserve them when they were threatened with demolition or are reconstructions of lost buildings. Old Bethpage Village Restoration now has over 50 buildings, most of which have a costumed guide who will tell you its history. The Lawrence House was purchased by wealthy farmer and real estate owner Leonard Lawrence in 1774.
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Oyster Bay
Built in 1884/5 on a hillside overlooking Oyster Bay, Sagamore Hill was the home of US President Theodore Roosevelt. The house was built for him and his first wife Alice. Sadly Alice died before the house was completed. Theodore and his second wife Edith lived in the house until their deaths in 1919 and 1948 respectively. The house is now a National Historic site and can be viewed by guided tour. Theodore Roosevelt loved hunting and the house is full of hunting trophies, indeed it is worth doing a ‘bear count’ - how many bear skin rugs can you spot?
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Home Sweet Home & windmill, East Hampton
Situated at the eastern end of Long Island, East Hampton is a pretty little English-style town that has become a playground for artists, the rich and the famous. Founded in 1648 (as Maidstone) it still has a Town Pond , albeit edged with timber in a way that certainly does not date back to the 15th century. The old buildings in East Hampton have been well maintained and are well presented. The historic part of the town is free from the parked cars and unsightly electricity wires that blight most historic US towns. “Home Sweet Home” dates from the 1640s and is now a museum. One problem that East Hampton has not solved is the relentless traffic through the town, and we were visiting out of season!