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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Preserve America Community:
Oyster Bay Hamlet, New York

The hamlet of Oyster Bay, New York, (population 6,826) located on Long Island in Nassau County, is one of 18 hamlets and 18 villages within the town of Oyster Bay. The hamlet’s area was considerably larger before several of its parts incorporated as separate villages.

Dutch explorers named Oyster Bay in 1615 for its abundance of shellfish. The well-protected bay provided food for the Matinecock Indians and then became a magnet for traders, fishermen, shipbuilders, and sailors. The bay was the boundary between the Dutch New Amsterdam colony and the English New England colonies. English colonists Peter Wright, Samuel Mayo, and Rev. William Leverich came from Cape Cod and settled near Oyster Bay Harbor in 1653, purchasing land from the Indians.

Loyalist sentiment prevailed during the American Revolution. British troops occupied the hamlet and fortified a hill overlooking it. The Redcoats’ headquarters were Raynham Hall, home of Patriot Samuel Townsend, whose son Robert was a spy for Gen. George Washington. According to local legend, this is where Benedict Arnold’s plot to surrender the fort at West Point was discovered when Sally Townsend overheard a conversation between British officers.

Oyster Bay’s long tradition of shipbuilding started before the Revolution. Jakobson Shipyard was the last to be built, in 1938. During World War II Jakobson’s produced minesweepers, tugboats, and even mini-submarines. The shipyard ceased operations in 1993, and the town has acquired the property to establish a maritime history center.

Travel to Oyster Bay became easier with the launching of steamboat service to New York City in 1840, and the Long Island Rail Road began local service in 1889. The Oyster Bay Long Island Railroad Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is undergoing restoration to serve as the home of the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum. 

Just outside of town is the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. Theodore Roosevelt built this home in 1886, and soon began commuting by rail to New York City. He lived here until his death in 1919. While he was President, his home and Oyster Bay became famous as the “Summer White House.”

Other tourist attractions in Oyster Bay include the Raynham Hall Museum and the colonial-era Earle-Wightman House, home of the Oyster Bay Historical Society. The Christeen, a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest operating oyster sloop in the North America.

For more information

Town of Oyster Bay: www.oysterbaytown.com

Oyster Bay Main Street Association: www.oysterbaymainstreet.org

Posted May 27, 2009

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