Montauk History Overview

Montauk, although very sparsely settled until the 1920’s, has a history that goes back to pre-colonial days. It is more varied and exciting, perhaps, than that of any other village in East Hampton Township. The opening of Second House to the public as a museum, on June 28, 1969, was an exciting day in our history.

In 1879 Arthur W. Benson of Brooklyn bought most of Montauk, but life went on for a while much as it always had. The Long Island Rail Road extended its line to Montauk in 1895 and in 1899 built the old Montauk Inn, which stood where Montauk Manor does now. A small fishing village grew up around Fort Pond Bay. Austin Corbin, then president of the Long Island Rail Road, conceived a project to make Fort Pond Bay a Port of Entry for trans-Atlantic passenger ships, thus shortening the crossing and avoiding overcrowding in New York Harbor. That project was revived in 1900, 1911, 1927, and 1931. In 1933, the railroad inaugurated inexpensive fishing excursions which brought 40,000 sportsmen each year to Montauk. These were discontinued in 1953 when the channel into Lake Montauk was dredged and the fishing boats moved there from Fort Pond Bay.

But few drastic changes had occurred before 1924, when Robert Moses established the State Parks at Hither Hills and Montauk Point, and 1926, when Carl Graham Fisher bought 10,000 acres for what he envisioned as the “Miami Beach of the North.”

Montauk owes a great debt to Carl Graham Fisher. He built roads and clubs and houses and brought in new people to appreciate the beauty of the windswept hills and glorious views of ocean and sound, although he had no idea that any history had ever been made here until he arrived.