Mar 5, 2019

Visiting Oyster Bay Long Island, NY

Every town has something interesting to see and do.  Oyster Bay, Long Island is no exception yet it is one of those places that is easy to pass by on the way to Long Island’s wine country or to one of the beaches.

The name obviously comes from the oysters that can be harvested from the bay. When the settlers arrived in the area the oysters were
already being enjoyed by the Native Americans. The settlers took
such a fancy to them that it wasn’t long before they were over harvested so protective laws were passed in 1784.  Careful conservation has brought back the industry somewhat, and each year, in October, Oyster Bay hosts an Oyster Festival which is attended by 200,000.   In an effort to protect both the public and the oysters (and clams) the DEC has established certain guide lines for harvesting them.

Oyster Bay was first settled in 1653 and it seems that buccaneer
Captain William Kidd came to Long Island and supposedly buried treasure; there was a bounty for his capture. In June of 1699, Kidd anchored his ship, the Antonio, in Oyster Bay Harbor thinking that he could negotiate a pardon from the colonial governor. Kidd thought a deal had been made and set sail but when he arrived in Boston he was arrested, sent to London for trail, and executed in 1701. 

Oyster Bay’s biggest draw is Sagamore Hill, home of Teddy Roosevelt. The 26th president lived at Sagamore from 1884 to 1919. It is a national historic site; there are daily tours but tickets are necessary. The tour relates many interesting stories about Roosevelt and his family. The path to the house goes by a windmill and according to legend, one day the blades were stuck and instead calling for one of the staff to take care of it, Teddy
climbed up to the top with a can of oil. While at the top he solved the problem but the wind shifted and the blades swung around slicing his scalp. Bleeding profusely he managed to climb down and make his way into the house where his wife is purported to have said, “Theodore, I wish you would do your bleeding in the bathroom. You are ruining all the rugs in the house.” Bumps, bruises, and cuts were a common happening with Teddy and the Roosevelt children. 

Exploring the grounds and barns are free as is the nature trail. The Carriage Path loops by the Pet Cemetery to the home of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  now a museum with exhibits and an interpretive film. Next to the museum is the trailhead for the nature trail which is part of the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  

During the Revolutionary War Oyster Bay was a hub of spy activity. Sally Townsend, a local resident, was an informant for George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, passing information to her brother, Robert Townsend, a key member of the ring. Raynham Hall, home of the Sally and the Townsend family, is open to tours. Sally Townsend is
thought to have received the first ever recorded Valentine’s Day card in America from her admirer, Col. John Simcoe. The poem in part read, “To my heart I must resign, O choose me for your Valentine!” She never married and lived to be 82 and; it is said, that her apparition still appears, on occasion, in Raynham Hall. Visitors can download a walking tour map of Oyster Bay village.