Towards the End
LONG BEFORE Billy Joel called it home, Amagansett had a rich and interesting life of its own. How many of the summer people who flock there today know that during the 19th Century, Stephen Talkhouse, now a hot music club, was the nickname of a chatty Montaukett Indian named Stephen Pharoah who took a legendary walk from Montauk to Brooklyn in one day. This was an area whose livelihood was dependent not upon tourism but upon whaling. Montauk, years from becoming a mecca for sport-fishing, surfing, and beach life, was known as the Wild West of the East -- a destination dining spot for cattle herds on the munch.
Ready for some heavy-duty time-tripping?
Marine Museum Fittingly housed in a seaside cottage a mere clam shell's throw from the beach is the Amagansett Marine Museum. There, with some help from an East Hampton Historical Society guide, you'll wander amid artifacts depicting several hundred years of local maritime history. What you'll quickly realize is that although many families might not have been directly involved in harpooning whales, everyone in the region was, in one way or another, connected to the whaling industry.
On the wall along the staircase, you'll see photographs of prominent whaling families -- the Edwards family, the Lester clan and the Bennetts. There are photographs of David Pharoah, a Montaukett Indian involved in whaling, and of his kinsman, Stephen "Talkhouse" Pharoah, who became famous for his one-day Brooklyn-to-Montauk walk as well as his gift of gab, and now the nightclub that bears his nickname. Then, there was the Dominy family, best known as furniture makers, who also were involved in the whaling industry and helped at lifesaving stations set up along the coastline to provide aid and rescue in case of shipwreck.
Miss Amelia Cottage Museum
In this quaint little white cottage, you'll discover three centuries in the life of one family. The house was built for Catherine Schellinger when she married John Conklin Jr. in 1725; it was moved to its present site in 1794. Its last occupant, Mary Amelia Schellinger -- known as Miss Amelia -- was born in the house in 1841 and lived there until her death in 1930.
From the outside, the house looks the way it did in 1850, but inside, each room is furnished to represent a different era of its past.
Downstairs, you'll see the large family room, with its beehive oven from 1725. Learn about how the earliest residents spun wool and made candles, how they drew water for cooking and bathing purposes. You'll also discover how the original paint in the downstairs bedrooms was uncovered and analyzed. One bedroom is a deep sage green. Then, there's the red "borning room" situated to catch the early eastern light. It is here that 30 Schellinger children, were born, mostly during the early morning.
Roy K. Lester Carriage Museum
You don't have to travel far to find what has to be the niftiest collection of vintage carriages on the East End. They're housed right behind Miss Amelia's Cottage in the Richard H. Jackson Carriage House and the Roy K. Lester Barn.
First, at the Carriage House, you'll be charmed by the shiny turn-of-the-century Doctor's Buggy with its bright yellow wheels. Next to it is a 1953 photograph of original owner Dr. David Edwards and his bride, Carrie Mulford, riding on their 50th wedding anniversary. Other carriages invite the viewer to picture the vehicles in their heydays. Imagine the beautifully spindled beach wagon -- known as a rockaway -- transporting parties of summer bathers to the shore. You'll also see a gorgeous canopy-top surrey from 1910 as well as a wonderful 1895 Studebaker wagon.
A few steps away is the Roy K. Lester Barn, built in 1734 and moved to this site in 1979, when it was donated to the Amagansett Historical Association by Ruth and Mary Lester in memory of their brother Roy, an avid collector of carriages.
Given its name, one might think that Second House was the second of three renowned cattle-keepers' houses to be built in Montauk (the first no longer exists, having been destroyed in a fire in 1909). Actually, it's really the second Second House -- the first was built in 1746, to be replaced by this one in 1797. Enlarged at the beginning of the 18th Century, it was not only a refuge for cowboys but also an inn for those few wayfarers who made their way past the mosquito-infested Napeague stretch to Montauk, where they could hunt and fish.
The house, updated in 1990 by Victoria magazine, has a somewhat split personality. The upstairs rooms were decorated by the magazine in a Laura Ashley motif. But the first floor remains more authentic, showcasing some early American furniture belonging to the Kennedy family. You'll see some Dominy pieces, a spinning wheel and, of course, a picture of the area's most famous Indian resident, the renowned Stephen (Talkhouse) Pharoah.
Since the first Third House, erected in 1742, burned down, this structure -- built in 1806 -- is the second Third House. Currently part of the 1,059-acre Montauk County Park, the sprawling, rustic lodge is where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders camped out on their 1898 return from the Spanish American War. On the hilly grounds, the troops took time to recover from war wounds and tropical illnesses before mustering out.
Montauk Lighthouse Here, at the lighthouse, a small but sophisticated museum in the adjoining lightkeeper's house is home to a priceless collection of photographs and memorabilia dating back to the structure's beginnings. First commissioned in 1792, the lighthouse wasn't actually built until 1796. Although renovated in 1860, the original base from Washington's era still remains.
In the first room of the museum -- the lightkeeper's parlor -- you'll find not only a visual history of the various lighthouse keepers but a wealth of drawings, architectural blueprints, and photographs of the lighthouse between 1791 and 1939. The room's centerpiece is the original commissioning document complete with Thomas Jefferson's signature.
The adjoining room, which once functioned as the lightkeeper's bedroom, is named in honor of Georgina Reid, who devised a terracing method to stop the erosion of the bluff on which the lighthouse is perched.
In the central hallway is a marvelous exhibit entitled "Lighthouses Surrounding Long Island."
Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.
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