Sag Harbor – A Storybook Village

By HRES Staff Writer - September 26, 2014

Sag Harbor, once a thriving whaling port from the mid-18th to mid- 19th centuries, has gradually evolved into a bustling but quaint tourist town. First mentioned in Southampton Town records over 300 years ago in 1707, it was designated the first Port of Entry in the State of New York by an act of the First Congress of the United States passed on July 31, 1789. The Port of Sag Harbor was incorporated as a village on March 26, 1846. This two-square mile village overlooking Sag Harbor Bay attracts people from all over the world who come to enjoy its beauty, charming boutiques, fine dining, art galleries, festivals, marinas, and maritime history.
Sag Harbor attracts boats, yachts, ships, and other sea vessels to its seaport with its famous dock on Long Wharf. At the entrance to Long Wharf is the Chamber of Commerce Windmill built in 1966,
based on the original windmill erected in 1760. Here you can find out about the many events going on in town. The Sag Harbor American Music Festival takes place on Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27. On Friday at 8 p.m., see the Christina McBride Trio at the Old Whalers’ Church on Union Street. On Saturday, enjoy free performances throughout the Village of Sag Harbor from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Then at 8 p.m. go to the Sag Harbor Musical Festival After Party with music by Mamalee Rose and Friends at the Bay Street Theater. On Columbus Day Weekend, enjoy Three Nights of Divas at the Bay Street Theater featuring Judy Carmichael on Friday, October 10, Judy
Gold on Saturday, October 11, and Betty Buckley on Sunday, October 12, each at 8 p.m.

Take a stroll down Main Street and you will feel like you have stepped back in time. The architecture, signage, and even some of the stores themselves date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Sag Harbor Cinema with its vintage Art Deco sign, features independent and foreign films. Further down is Sag Harbor Variety 5 & 10, a Ben Franklin Craft supplier, established in 1922. Owned by the Bucking family since 1970, it features the largest selection of crafts and notions on the East End. Across the street is The American Hotel, built in 1846, at the peak of the whaling era. A fine restaurant and hotel, its Gothic Revival style porch was added in 1871. Interspersed throughout the historic landmarks are chic clothing boutiques, art galleries, gift shops, jewelry stores, and many more delightful shops. LA MAISONETTE, owned by Lynn and Christopher Charveriat features French and Belgian antiques, European furniture, and scented candles, located in the historic Gingerbread House.

At the triangle where the Civil War Monument overlooks Madison and Main Streets, continue along Main Street and you will find several historical sites. One is the Annie Cooper Boyd House originally
an old Colonial house c. 1796, which was renovated by Annie Cooper Boyd in 1904 and subsequently willed by her daughter to The Sag Harbor Historical Society in 1998. The Hannibal French House is a private residence built c. 1860. The Custom House was built c.1790 and is listed in the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA). The John Jermain Memorial Library, built c. 1910 in a Beaux Arts Classical Revival style, sits across the street from the majestic Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum, built c. 1845 in the Greek Revival style. Originally the residence of Benjamin Huntting, it became the summer home of Mrs. Russell Sage and the Whaling Museum in 1936. The museum encompasses amazing artifacts from Sag Harbor’s whaling era. Currently on exhibit is “City Square/Piazza,” an Installation by Peter Solow.

Sag Harbor is also known as a writer’s colony. John Steinbeck lived in Sag Harbor in his last years from 1955 until he died in 1968. And Herman Melville mentioned Sag Harbor several times in his classic whaling novel, Moby Dick. The Sag Harbor Village District that includes the whaling port and writer’s colony was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Real estate is hot in Sag Harbor. Gioia DiPaolo of Douglas Elliman
Real Estate in Sag Harbor observes, “This was one of the most active
summers I can remember. We listed a lot of houses and we sold a
lot of houses. Renovation projects in the Village are in demand and
new construction is still a hot category.” She predicts, “We have every
reason to believe the market will remain strong in the fall.” Gioia
reflects, “Walking on Main Street directly to a gorgeous harbor filled
with little sailboats and world-class yachts alike is one of the things that
make Sag Harbor so special. Sag Harbor’s whaling history, architecture,
and diverse cast of characters weave a richness through this unique
Village that is very engaging.”

Sag Harbor is a year-round community with its wonderful theater,
cinema, art galleries, fine restaurants, great shopping, marinas,
museums, and historical sites for all to enjoy. Visit Sag Harbor this fall
and experience the charm of this quaint small town on the harbor.

Ruth Thomas, a freelance writer on the East End enjoys history, music, literature, art, nature, the beach, and her cute dachshund, Clancy. She can be contacted at

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