Mount Sinai Harbor
The Norton House
Mount Sinai is a quiet residential
community nestled on the north shore of Long Island, New York. It is bounded
by the Village of Port Jefferson to the west, the Long Island Sound to
the north. Pipe Stave Hollow Road to the east, and the Mt. Sinai School
District boundary to the south (Crystal Brook Hollow Road, Hickory Street,
Canal Road and southeast to CR83). These boundaries roughly parallel postal
zip 11766 and U.S. Census Tracts 1582.05 and 1583.06. The hamlet is a CDP
(census design- place) that has enabled Suffolk County Planning Commission
to publish assorted data for the hamlet of Mt. Sinai. Boundaries of census
tracts have changed over the years. In 1960, the community had 1,239 persons
increasing to 2,157 in 1970, 6,591 in 1980 and 8,023 in 1990. The median
age is 32.7 and household and family incomes are 20 percent higher than
the Town of Brookhaven. It has almost twice as many homes valued over $250,000
and few valued under $100,000.
Geologic origin - The glaciers from the
north deposited sediments that now make up the foundation of Long Island.
As the global climate warmed, melting ice and flowing waters eroded the
dropped glacial sediments into the shape of a land called "Pamanouk" or
the island we call Long Island. The island's northern bluffs were interrupted
by several rivers and a number of harbors. One of these is now Mount Sinai
After the glaciers receded, a barren land was available
for habitation. Plants, animals and fungi invaded the landscape. A successional
parade of different ecological communities developed through time on Long
Island. New flora and fauna flourished. Human explorers noted these good
places on the island. Soon other humans started to establish permanent
communities. This pattern of settling at a good place continues to this
day in the hamlet of Mt. Sinai.
Native Americans - Nonowatuck, stream that
dries up, is the first name given to the area we now know as Mt. Sinai.
This native American name was used by the members of the Seatocots family
of native Americans who lived here. Numerous archeological sites document
that the harbor of Mt. Sinai was home for human residents for thousands
An investigation of an archeological site at Hopkin's
Landing, on Pipe Stave Hollow Road, yielded features that provided clues
to these first residents. Shallow oval basins were lined with fire-cracked
rock. The basins contained shell, bone fragments and debitage from stone
tool-making. Evidently these first residents enjoyed deer and bay scallops.
Charcoal fragments from this site dated back approximately 4,000 years.
Thus, native Americans, the first residents of MT Sinai, lived in a self-sustaining
community from about 2000 B.C. until the late 1600's. They were nourished
by the bounty of the land and the harbor.
Colonial Settling - Colonial settlers living in
what is now Setauket began negotiations with the local native Americans
to buy the lands east of Setauket. At that time the area was called Old
Mans (Ould Mans). Finally in 1664 the settlers were successful in obtaining
a deed to this land from the Indians. This deed which is in the records
of Brookhaven Township, reads as follows:
and the Sunke Squaw. native proprietors and owners
of all the lands belonging to
the tracte of land commonly cawled
the Ould Mans. doe freely and
absoleutilly sell and will defend
the title to the inhabitants
of Setawke and their successors for-
ever for and in consideration
of a certaine valey of goods here
under written to be delivered
within one month after the date
hereof as witness our hands this
10 of June, 1664.
Signed in the presence of us:
Massatewse X Mark
The Sunke Sqaw X Mark
foure cotes, foure payre of stockeing.
too chestes of powder, tenn
bares of led. sixe howse. tenn
hatchetts and tenn knives, mens
size cotes, foure sherts, 3 pekle
This is a trew coppey of the original
The above written record the contents
thereof, with all the severall
Rog Barton recorder
kinds of pay reed excepting kettle
howse and hatches by Mayho
After the initial purchase
of land, various parcels of the territory were divided and given to individuals.
Other lands were held in common for later subdivision. Once lots were distributed,
trading began, allowing individuals to accumulate larger pieces of property
in the area. Colonial families settled on these lands and established farms
and a few businesses. The purchase and division of the land into private
and public land in 1664 laid the foundation for the land ownership and
development now seen in the Hamlet of Mt. Sinai in 1995. The vast majority
of land is in private ownership, but the Town of Brookhaven owns and manages
the common lands of most of Mt. Sinai Harbor and Cedar Beach
Hamlet's First Name and Boundary - The origin of the name Old Mans is not known. Several legends
exist as to the source of the name. The most prominent concerns John Scott,
a notorious wheeler-dealer of the 1600's and Major John Gotherson, an elderly
Englishman looking to buy land in the new world. John Scott assured Major
Gotherson he could obtain property for him but never closed a deal even
though Gotherson had given him money to do so. "Old" Major Gotherson living
in England, thought he owned the land. He sent representatives to claim
the land he tbought he owned. The native Americans refused to turn over
the land since they hadn't closed a deal with Scott. Local peop1e reportedly
started to refer to the land as "the Old Mans" lands the news of the swindle
Although the exact boundary
of Old Mans is not known, it is said to have reached from what is now Port
Jefferson to Rocky Point. By 1770 the name came to mean the area bounded
by the Sound to the north, Pipe Stave Hollow to the east, approximately
"Rte 25A" to the south and Crystal Brook Hollow to the west.
During the American Revolution,
the area and Old's Harbor were under British control. However, because
of its remote location the British did not have troops stationed here.
Many citizens moved their families to Connecticut during British occupation.
During the course of the war, American agents visited local patriots and
received information, clothing, supplies and money to support the cause.
Pipe Stave Hollow is located
along the eastern border of the hamlet. The brook that "dries up" empties
into the harbor at Hopkin's landing. The name is said to be derived from
the many wooden staves which were cut in the area to be used to make large
"staves" that were used to construct wooden pipes. Pipe Stave Hollow Road
winds its way along the harbor and to the beach. During the revolutionary
war, Col. Benjamin Tallmadge used this beach as a landing and hiding place
for his eight whaling boats. He set off along Pipe Stave Hollow Road and
traveled south to attack the British atFort St. George in Mastic. The route
he and his men took is now marked as a historic trail.
Hamlet's Name Change and Development
In 1840 the people of
Old Mans applied for a post office. Evidently Old Mans was not considered
a proper name for the area. The name was changed to Mt. Vernon. This name
was used for only a year since it was discovered there already was a Mt
Vernon in New York State. Old Mans was used once again but for some unknown
reason another name change occurred. The name Mount Sinai was chosen by
the first postmaster, Charles Phillips. Legend says that he took his Bible
and a knitting needle, closing his eyes, he opened the Bible and pointed
the needle. The name closest to the needle would become the name of the
area served by the first post office. Mt Sinai replaced Old Mans and is
the name residents have used since 1841/1842.
Building of houses occurred
in spurts. Initially most building occurred within a mile of the harbor.
Few houses were built south of North Country Road until the late 19th century.
Much of the land south of North Country Road was owned and cultivated by
is no known 17th structure still standing. The 18th century is represented
by six buildings dating from 1705 to 1790. Certain of these homes have
structural elements which date from the early period. The 19th century
has the largest number of surviving historical structures. These can be
divided into two periods,1800-184O's and l880-1890's Again some of these
buildings incorporated structural elements of earlier periods.
The Ketchum House
In the first half of the
2Oth century the pace of building slowed. Although large tracts of farmland
persisted, there were small pockets of development around the hamlet. Examples
of these are the "colony" of homes built off of Pipe Stave Hollow Road,
both north and south of Rte. 25A and the scattered development on Mt. Sinai
and Chestnut Avenues. During this time a community was mapped but never
developed just south of Rte. 25A and east of Crystal Brook Hollow Road.
||It was not until the 1960's
that housing developments began to occur as suburbanization spread eastward.
Lands once farmed, now were used to "sprout" homes for new residents of
Mt. Sinai. New residents were attracted to the area for the same reasons
that the first native Americans settled in Nonowatuck.
The hamlet was peaceful, quiet
and rural. The harbor and Sound were nearby and provided a place to enjoy
diverse forms of marine recreation.
New Home Construction
in Mt. Sinai
Farming was the main occupation
for residents from the 1660's to the 1960's. The lands bought from native
Americans and divided up by colonialists shifted from a hunting, fishing,
farming habitat that sustained the native population to a transplanted
European population that farmed to sustain themselves and ship farm and
forest products to cities to the north and west. Vegetable and dairy faring
continued to be important into the l96Os. In 1995 approximately 400 acres
are still farmed, producing sod, pumpkins, vegetables and fruits.
Work, Trades and Commerce.
Occupations relating to
the harbor and shipping also kept varying numbers of residents busy. Many
young men preferred to pursue careers at sea than stay on the farm. Some
families of Mt. Sinai had sons engaged in world wide shipping while others
were engaged in shipping throughout Long Island Sound and along the east
As shipping trade increased,
new ships had to be built The local forests provided the wood to ship builders
in Port Jefferson. There was a shipbuilding yard in Old Mans also. However,
the unstable mouth and the shallow depth of the harbor limited the size
of the ships that could be built at Old Mans. Eventually the yard was moved
to the naturally deeper harbor of Port Jefferson. Riggers, sail-makers,
ship carpenters and others lived in Mt Sinai and commuted to Port Jefferson.
Blacksmiths, shoemakers, schoolteachers, salesmen, carpenters and storekeepers
worked in the hamlet of Mt. Sinai. Grist mills were located somewhere along
Pipe Stave Hollow and Crystal Brook Hollow Roads. Records indicate that
a number of windmills were located on the hills overlooking the harbor.
These no doubt ground grain. General stores were a part of the community
since the early 1800’s. John Hutchinson had a store near the harbor that
conducted business until the early 1900's. Vincent R Davis had a store
near the school on North Country Road from 1890's to 1917. Floyd Davis
took over V.R. Davis' store and eventually moved it to the northeast corner
of North Country Road and the New Road (Mt. Sinai Coram Road). This building
has housed a variety of businesses through time and a business continues
in it to this day.
The post office,
established in 1840, was kept in Charles Phillip's house on North Country
Road. In 1908, V.R. Davis replaced Eliza C. Randall as postmaster and moved
the post office to his store. When Floyd Davis became postmaster, he moved
the post office to his store on the corner of North Country Road and Mt.
Sinai-Coram Road. The post office and a general store served the community
until the late 1960's. At that time, a new post office
was built on Route 25A. Thus the union of general store and post office
that lasted for about 6Oyears came to an end.
As the population in the
hamlet grew, new businesses were established to serve the community and
surrounding communities.. Many of these located on Route 25A. The once
simple demands of the colonial community evolved into more complex demands
of a modern community. Like many other suburban communities on Long Island,
a commercial center did not develop in Mt. Sinai. At one point a school,
the post office and a few stores served as the commercial center of Mt.
Sinai along North Country Road. No such nuclear development has occurred
in the hamlet. Citizens must drive to different parts of the community
and other communities to work and to buy the things they need.
Education has been important
to the community since the early 1820's and probably earlier. The location
of the original school building is Unknown. However, tradition places it
on North Country Road east of Mt Sinai Coram Road. The second one-room
school was built in 1869 on a half acre of land on the southeast corner
of North Country and Mt Sinai Coram Road In 1908 a second classroom was
added. This building served the community until 1960. At that time the
community decided to send their children to be educated in Port Jefferson.
In 1960, the school was moved and a firehouse was built on the property.
Religion has also been an important
part of community life. Before 1740 people had to travel to Setauket for
services. In the 174O's a Presbyterian Church was built. There is no other
information known about this church. In 1789, nine worshipers established
the Congregational Church using the old church building as a place to worship.
In 1807 a new building was
erected and continues to be used as the Mt. Sinai Congregational Church. In the early 1800’s, a congregation built a Methodist-Episcopal Church
on Shore Road.
The church continued until 1900 when the Mt. Sinai church
united with the Methodist Church in Port Jefferson The church building
was sold and used as a private home.
The Mt. Sinai Civic Association
was founded in 1917. Since that time the Association has been involved
in community affairs. The activities of the Association have waxed and
waned with the times. The sand dredging, the maintenance of the harbor's
mouth and the care of roads were a concern in the early 1900's. After WW
II another effort to mine sand and "develop" the harbor occurred. The Association,
along with other civic associations and the Mt Sinai Harbor Association,
prevented the early plans for development but could not convince the Town
of Brookhaven to stop the dredging of the northern part of the harbor.
Through the efforts of many different community groups (Civic and Conservation)
the dredging was stopped.
There have always been
many other community groups active within the hamlet. They are affiliated
with the fire department, the school, scouts and churches to name a few.
Mt. Sinai's Harbor
The quiet harbor with
a ready access to Long Island Sound provides a pleasant place to vacation.
Even in the 1800's people from New York City and Connecticut came to Mt.
Sinai to escape the congestion of city neighborhoods. In the early 1800’s
men came to hunt. The LIRR opened up lines to Yaphank, Port Jefferson and
Wading River. Ships also provided transport for people. The post roads,
the railroad and the sloops of the Sound provided the access to peaceful
places like Mt Sinai and Miller Place. Vacationers stayed at private homes
or small hotels. Some families who visited the area found the area to their
liking and bought land or houses here. Some stayed just for the summer,
just as families now summer on the east end of Long Island. Activities
included baseball, croquet, card games, dancing, theatrical productions,
social events, swimming, boating and fishing. All of these activities were
primarily enjoyed by the tourists. It was rare for the locals to participate
in the activities since they were involved in working on the farms or working
to take care of the vacationers.
The harbor was the prime
attraction for the lazy days of the summer. Vacationers enjoyed going to
Satterly's Landing boathouse. Boats were rented for an easy row about the
harbor or for fishing in the Sound. The harbor was also a point to set
sail for a few days sail across the Sound. People also enjoyed swimming
in the waters of the harbor or Sound.
Mt Sinai has always served
as a resource to the population living around it or visiting it. It provides
a variety of shell and finfish. Migrating waterfowl have been hunted during
their short stays in the harbor. Early settlers harvested salt hay from
the salt marshes and fed it to their livestock. The original mouth of the
harbor was on the east side. Winds and tides continually narrowed its opening.
Local residents toiled at widening the mouth. In the mid 1800’s a new mouth
was dredged on the west side of the harbor. Tides continue to dump sand,
narrowing the mouth of the harbor. It still must be dredged to keep it
open to allow for the boats moored in the harbor to reach the Sound. To
this day, people clam in the harbor, collect salt hay to mulch their gardens,
fish for flounder and snapper, and to a limited degree hunt ducks during
the winter. However, the clams aren't as big and the fish and fowl are
The harbor and surrounding
lands have also provided another resource. sand. At varying times sand
milling was done to satisfy the demands for sand for the rapidly growing
urban areas. This use of the harbor became a center of controversy. It
united locals with the summer residents, and residents from around the
Town to fend off plans that would damage or destroy the harbor. Three major
civic battles were waged in the 20th century when various plans
to dredge the harbor were proposed and pursued by the Town of Brookhaven.
Since the harbor was common land owned by Brookhaven, the elected trustees
could allow dredging and sand milling to occur. Two dredging projects were
approved and the present channels and deep basin south of Cedar Beach are
the result of that action. A united civic action finally got the dredges
out of the harbor in the late 1960s.
The northern part of Mt
Sinai Harbor and Cedar Beach is an active recreation area, with a fraction
of the original sand dune community preserved in a Marine Sanctuary. Commonly
owned lands set aside in 1664 are being used for public recreation or have
been rented for private use by a fishing station/boatyard, yacht club and
a marina/boatyard. Town and private enterprises provide space and services
for boating and fishing. A number of commercial fishermen work out of the
harbor and fish in Long Island Sound. Cedar Beach also provides facilities
for swimming, teen summer recreation programs, and a nature study center.
The southern part of it
is a passive, peaceful place. This area retains some of the same characteristics
of earlier times. The tides control the use by citizens. Low tides allow
clammers to clam; high tides attract a few fishermen and a few boaters.
Citizens come and sit to enjoy the natural habitat regardless of the tide.
The difference in the
two parts of the harbor can also speak for the hamlet in general. Part
of the hamlet was laid out and settled in the days of horses and wagons.
The hilly terrain, the curving roads, the backdrop of mature forests and
the scattering of historic houses are reminders of by-gone days and help
retain a sense of history. In the newly settled areas of the community,
developed during the auto age, roads are matched to the use of automobiles,
houses are built in modern developments, and the landscape is maturing
with the help of landscapers. together, we all make up a hamlet that is
a blend of old and new. All seem to agree with the first native American
residents that the hamlet provides us with a peaceful place to live.
The natural resources
of any community located on Long Island, NY are the result of the evolution
of the living organisms with the landscape of the island over geological
time in combination with the influence of humans - first the Native Americans
and then the colonizing Europeans. Human beings not only changed natural
communities through physical alteration of their habitats (burning, logging,
farming, dredging, filling) but also through alteration of their complex
food webs by eliminating native species (over harvesting, removing habitat)
and replacing them with others (introduced from other parts of the world).
The hamlet of Mt. Sinai
is typical of many places on the north shore of Long Island, N.Y. Natural
habitats in the area range from beaches and salt marshes adjacent to Long
Island Sound in the north to old field successional grasslands and secondary-growth
woodland in the central and southern portion. All of these habitats have
been and continue to be altered by natural forces and human activity.
Mt. Sinai Harbor
The most prominent natural feature of Mt. Sinai hamlet is an embayment
on the Long Island Sound. Mt. Sinai Harbor is one of very few large,
relatively undeveloped embayments remaining on the north shore of Long Island.
It is typical of embayments along the southern edge of Long
Island Sound in that it is the flooded remnant of a valley originally
cut by a stream but later modified by several stages of glacial erosion
and sediment deposition during the Ice Age.
Such valleys were cut by glaciers
into an elevated plateau consisting of Cretaceous rocks overlaid by the
gravels of the Manhasset formation. This action resulted in the formation
of peninsulas, or "necks" that are bordered by bluffs on the Sound. The
uplands take the form of ridges perpendicular to the Sound. The valleys
or hollows through which the streams ran remain, but the creeks have dried
up and roadways were built along these courses.
The Harbor is 455 acres
in area and consists almost exclusively of salt marsh, mudflats, and open
waters, except for the area along the southern part of Cedar Beach which
is heavily developed as a marina and boat mooring area. Most of the marshland
in the harbor is owned by the Town of Brookhaven for conservation purposes.
A small property in the southwest portion of the harbor is owned by the
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ((NYSDEC) for preservation
purposes. The Town also maintains a small park adjacent to the marsh on
the southwest side. The Harbor is accessible from the Sound via an inlet
stabilized by a rock jetty. The inlet is dredged to maintain its depth.
There are two sandy barrier bars of unequal length on either side of the
inlet which protect the embayment from the strong physical activity of
the Sound. The much longer, east-side spit is maintained as a Town park,
Cedar Beach, at the eastern end. Park facilities include a large parking
lot, restrooms, and a nature center. The western end contains the Mt. Sinai
Yacht Club. The back side of the spit is developed as a marina able to
dock a large number of boats. Between the marinas and the mooring areas,
this northern basin can hold more than 300 boats on a typical summer day.
The short western spit is undeveloped and connects to the Port Jefferoon
VillageBeach to the west. At various times it has provided nesting areas
for a number of shorebirds.
Most of the land around
the Harbor is zoned for residential use and has been developed accordingly.
Several upland parcels are zoned for one unit per acre residential use
but have not been developed.
Special thanks to the
Mt. Sinai Hamlet Study committee for all of the above information.