At our weekly Editorial meeting last Thursday a lot of separate—but perhaps related—news items came up. Earth Day is April 22, Hampton Bays Middle School, the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified school in the state, has just been nominated to participate in the Federal Green Ribbon schools program and Provisions, the natural foods store in Sag Harbor, is going to expand into the storefront next door, the former site of the Style Bar. Dan asked for more related examples of good, earthy news. I pointed out that, in addition to Provisions, just down the street, next to Donna Karan’s Urban Zen store, Tutto Il Giorno sells fresh local veggies in season, right next to a grape arbor in front of the liquor store on Bay Street. (They grow a very small annual crop of merlot.) Further down Bay Street is the popular Sag Harbor Farmers Market set to re-open next month.
Dan said someone should bring all of these stories together as he looked steadily at me over his glasses. Quite apparently I’m viewed as the resident Earth Mother. And I live in Sag Harbor Village.
All of this good stuff is of a piece. Sag Harbor is about fecundity. Sag Harbor’s first known inhabitants were “summer people”—Algonquian tribes passed through annually to stock up on fish, groundnuts and sagg (wild onions). Sag Harbor was called Wegwagonock, which means place of the springs, referring to the fresh water springs found near Long Beach.
The area of Sag Harbor Village was then a swamp, rich with wildlife. The colonials named it “Great Meadows,” because it was there that they harvested tons of grasses for their livestock. Sag Harbor probably didn’t see any permanent homes until the 1740s. The first site of colonial habitation, apart from seasonal beach shacks, was probably along Turkey Hill, now leveled. I don’t know if it was named “Turkey Hill” for our native bird or for the Turkey Fig—but the figs that grow there, behind the Romany Kramoris Gallery, might be a clue. Drained over the 18th and 19th centuries, you can still see remnants of the postglacial great swamp along Garden and Spring Streets in the village. And my basement sure enough leaks.
Last summer a village law was passed to allow small chicken flocks in the village and at least three organic farms call Sag Harbor home—Dale and Bette’s on the turnpike, Sunset Beach Farm near North Haven and Serene Green on Noyac Road.
The local Episcopal church is setting up a raised bed next week. This wouldn’t be news except that the plan is to invite Sunday schoolers to plant it as a first step toward developing a larger community garden.
The Sag Harbor restaurant scene is well established and thriving. Legend has it that in the 19th century, James Fenimore Cooper wrote some of the first American novels while staying at Duke Fordham’s inn on Main Street. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville refers to Sag Harbor as “Sin City.” Back in its whaling days, Harbor hospitality was more about drinking than eating. It still was in the early 1960s when John Steinbeck made Sag Harbor his home and the Black Buoy his home-away-from-home. Superica, Murf’s Pub and Bay Burger all re-opened for the season last week. The new kid on the block, Muse in the Harbor, is packin’ ‘em in every night of the week.
Taming fecundity, the nature of Sag Harbor’s beast—the whale, the swamp, the land.
Last Sunday three garden coordinators were named by the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation. They will go into schools on both forks to teach children how to grow food. But this night they all dined on local fare at the American Hotel. Every community effort starts or ends with a good meal. On the East End we are very blessed to have so many good ingredients, good meals, to choose from.
And to tie this all up neatly—I hope Hampton Bays Middle School wins that competition. The winners will be announced on April 23, the day after Earth Day.