Good morning, dear readers. As you know, I am currently working on a biography of James Alexander Hamilton, lifelong New York resident and pretty fantastic guy. So, today, I'm excited to welcome a guest who is sharing a bit of New York history with us. Have you ever wondered how Long Island became a famous destination for summer vacationers? Inez Foster is here to tell us!
How Long Island became a Summer Destination
Guest Post by I.M. Foster
By the later part of the nineteenth century, Manhattan had grown into a major metropolitan center and financial hub. Wealthy gentlemen liked to be in the thick of the business world, while their socialite wives enjoyed the cultural aspects of big city life. For the middle class, it was seen as the place to rise up the ladder and meet influential people, maybe even marry well. As for the poor, in many cases, they could afford to go nowhere else.
As the population of Manhattan grew, however, the wealthy and middle class sought to build their homes away from the crowded streets, in a more serene environment. They began to move their families further and further uptown and across the river to the City of Brooklyn, settling in residential neighborhoods like Park Slope The poor, too, hoped to escape the close quarters of downtown Manhattan, and many an Irishman, Italian, or German crossed the river to places like Greenpoint and Williamsburg. By 1898, Manhattan had annexed the Bronx and Staten Island and consolidated with the City of Brooklyn and half of Queens County, both of which were on Long Island, becoming the five boroughs of Greater New York.
This gradual migration created a demand for better transportation. After all, men still had to frequent downtown to do business and their wives continued to enjoy the shopping and cultural entertainment the busy streets of Manhattan had to offer. As a result, around 1878, the first el train was erected in Manhattan, eventually crossing over to Brooklyn, and thus affording residents of the outlying areas the best of both worlds.
In addition, the mid-eighteen-sixties had seen the Long Island Railroad head east to Long Island, opening up a world that had yet to be explored by most city-dwellers: the wide-open spaces and beckoning shorelines of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Populated mostly by farming communities, there were a few villages that became community hubs, Patchogue being one of them. It was known for the manufacturing of items such as lace and lumber, as well as for having, not one, but two, of its own department stores: Swezey and Newins and Hammond Mills. Best of all, it was away from the sweltering hot city streets, at least for part of the year.
Long Island offered a perfect playground for the rich and famous, many of whom built luxurious summer homes along both the north and the south shores. As the Railroad became more accessible, the opportunity was opened to middle-class and blue-collar workers as well. While they might not build grand homes, they could enjoy a day away from the grit and grime of the city, or maybe even a weekend. Soon large hotels and seaside cottages were being built to accommodate the rich and middle-class vacationers who came to enjoy the sun-drenched beaches. Patchogue was one of the villages along the south shore that served as a favorite destination. Hotels, boarding houses, and bungalows along the bay welcomed visitors from all economic backgrounds and became what author Hans Henke dubbed the Queen City of the South Shore.