NOTE: The Lighthouse Grounds, Museum and Gift Shop are now open 7 days a week, from 10:30 to 4:30 through May 23, weather permitting. Hours will lengthen as the summer progresses. (The Lighthouse Tower remains closed to the public because of Covid restrictions. Watch this space for any changes.)
MONTAUK HISTORICAL SOCIETY ORIGINS
The origins of the Montauk Historical Society go back to April 12, 1961, when a meeting was held at Gurney’s Inn for the purpose of forming such an organization. Plans for a charter, a general meeting and election of officers were planned for the near future.
The society received its provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents in January of 1962. At an organizational meeting in November, Richard T. Gilmartin was appointed chairman. Also appointed were Walter Preiss, vice president; Richard Glennon, secretary; and William J. Cooper, treasurer.
On May 18, 1963 the first annual meeting was held at the Montauk Public School. Officers were elected to one-year terms: Richard T. Gilmartin, president; Clifford Stanley, vice president; Peg Joyce, secretary; and William J. Cooper, treasurer. In addition, 15 directors were elected.
In November Mr. and Mrs. William Cooper donated a room for storage of the society’s archival materials.
Richard Gilmartin stepped down as society president in June 1964 and assumed the role of society historian. William Cooper was elected as president.
Over the years the Montauk Historical Society initiated a variety of activities in the village, many of which lasted for several years. In July 1965, it conducted a two-hour bus tour to historic and scenic points around the village. Included was a climb to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse.
On July 20, 1966 the Society’s first tour of Montauk homes was held. It featured seven houses, ranging from historic to contemporary, including Second House, Third House, the Robert Akin Jr. mansion, and Sidney Rheinstein’s famous Sandpiper Hill mansion on the ocean bluffs.
A three-day historical exhibit was sponsored by the Society for display at the Montauk School in October 1966. The event initiated the 8th grade Richard T. Gilmartin essay contest.
On December 3, 1966 the Society sponsored a scenic and historic tour which covered Montauk from Hither Hills to the Lighthouse. Some 50 people in a caravan of vehicles participated. Two weeks later it sponsored a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the post office. The post office itself was decorated by Society members.
In July 1967 a village historical festival was held, the theme of which was “Pride in Our Heritage.” Lasting two weeks, exhibits featuring Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, antique household articles and furniture, and historic writings were displayed at the Society’s new museum, which was located in a Leisurama model home on the Circle. Shop windows were decorated with antiques appropriate to each business.
In November 1967 tours of the Montauk Point Lighthouse and Montauk Air Force Station were sponsored by the Society, and in August 1968 a voyage to the Mystic Seaport.
On June 28, 1969 Second House Museum opened under the management of the Montauk Historical Society. Formerly the summer residence of the David Kennedy family, it was purchased in 1968 by the Town of East Hampton and the New York State Historical Trust.
In 1970 the first of many annual Samson Occum Days was held at Second House. A Mohegan who became a Presbyterian minister, Occum visited Montauk several times and did an ethnographic study of the Montauketts entitled “An Account of the Montauk Indians on Long Island.” Also in 1970 began the annual Craft Fair. Held on the grounds of Second House, the event continues to this day and is held twice each year.
Visit the Montauk Historical Society website.