Fourteen Things: When You’ve Been Here Awhile, You Know Stuff

Fourteen things you might not know about the Hamptons.

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Kathleen’s Cookies were as good in the 1980s and 1990s as Tate’s Cookies are today. Whatever happened to Kathleen’s Cookies? They are one and the same, sort of. Kathleen King, the local girl who founded Kathleen’s Cookies, went through a hard time in the 1990s. In 1998, Kathleen entered into a partnership with brothers Kevin and Robert Weber. Tensions ensued, and as the Webers sought to sell the cookies nationwide, they ousted Kathleen from the very business she had started and founded a bakery in Virginia.

The brothers failed, however. Many people said the nationwide Kathleen’s Cookie didn’t taste as good. They produced an inferior product to the one everyone had come to love.

In 2000, though Kathleen couldn’t use her own name, she re-started her bakery making the cookies as she used to, but with a new name. Tate’s Cookies are named after Kathleen’s dad Tate King, the owner of North Sea Farms. Kathleen now oversees her own wholesale bake plant in Moriches and using her same recipe, competes nationwide while still selling her cookies in Southampton. Last November, Consumer Reports named Tate’s Cookies the best tasting cookie in America.

There’s a moral here. I think it’s Kathleen King.

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When fast food joints began showing up all over America 30 years ago, the Town of East Hampton passed a law saying there shall be no McDonald’s, no Burger King, no Taco Bell and no other drive-thru or fast food restaurants within its borders.

During the years that followed, fast food joints came to Riverhead Town and Southampton Town. The Dan’s Papers office on County Road 39 in Southampton is, in fact, just a cheeseburger throw from Burger King and McDonald’s and a donut throw from Dunkin’ Donuts. In East Hampton, however, the citizenry stood fast. There isn’t a bucket o’ chicken from Montauk to Wainscott nor is there a drive-thru Taco Bell. I might add, however, that the chains have tried. But they’ve been turned away.

Last year, a 7-Eleven franchise was proposed for Main Street in Montauk, which is part of East Hampton. And guess what? There is no law against fast food joints. Never was. It was just part of the Town’s legends.

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As you enter downtown Southampton, you see signs by the side of the roadsides that read PLEASE OBSERVE OUR DRESS CODE LAWS. Turns out this is for real. Southampton Village (which is a separate entity from Southampton Township,) passed this law many years ago when people, particularly women, dressed in a more modest fashion.

There are oil paintings made during that time that show wooden “bathing” wagons down at the beaches in Southampton inside which women could change from their bustle dresses and big floppy hats into modest bathing gear to take a quick dip in the sea.

The rules—I have read the rules—say that you must keep covered the parts of your body between the top of your nipples to halfway between the hip and the thigh at all times while in the village. The only exception to this is for the first 100 feet of and coming ashore from the ocean, which would include the beach and your wagon.

This law has never been repealed.

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All the towns and villages out here hold weekly council meetings to go over what’s up. A member of the board in the Town is called a Councilman. A member of a board in a village is called a Trustee. Villages, which are small municipalities carved out of the towns and which generally lie within the borders of the town, consider the job of Trustee to be part time and holders of the job are paid accordingly ($15,000 a year in Southampton Village.) On the other hand, Councilmen (and women) work full time at their jobs and are paid accordingly. Towns are generally 10 times the size of the Villages in population. There’s more to do. Mayors run villages (and are paid very little.) Supervisors run towns (and are paid for full time.)

But if village boards are populated with Trustees who consult with a Mayor, the Towns also have Trustees. And they have no relationship with the Village Trustees (who ARE related by job with the Town Councilmen.)

The Town Trustees are a group of local men and women who are elected every two years to oversee the care and maintenance of the town’s wetlands, marshes, bay bottoms, harbors, ponds and lakes, the creatures that live in them and the wetlands that surround them.

The job of Town Trustee was created by Governor Thomas Dongan in 1686.

You have now completed your crash course on how this part of the world is administered.

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The eastern half of Sag Harbor Village has been carved out of East Hampton Town. The western half of Sag Harbor Village has been carved out of Southampton Town. The line inside the Village of Sag Harbor demarking the place where the two town jurisdictions meet is a road named Division Street. There is a three inch wide white line down the center of it. The very center of this white line, where it’s one and a half inches on either side, marks the boundary.

There should be quite a story about how this came to happen, but apparently whatever it was, back in 1707, it was never written down.

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The 11 historic old English windmills still standing are the largest collection of these mills in America. These particular ones, and many more, were built between 1790 and 1820 to grind grain into flour. All are protected historic properties. This year, 2012, the Montauk Lighthouse, built by order of President George Washington in 1792, was declared a National Historic Landmark.

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The youngest and second youngest women to become First Ladies to American Presidents were both from East Hampton.

Julia Gardiner was 24 when she married President John Tyler in 1844. She was married while John Tyler was in the White House, and so when Tyler slipped a ring on her finger, she became a first lady.

Jackie Bouvier was 24 when she married Jack Kennedy in 1953. She became first lady seven years later when he was elected President in 1960.

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There is a road in the Northwest Woods section of East Hampton called Northwest Road that runs straight as an arrow for one mile, then veers off to the right for about 100 feet as if it is going around something and then comes back to continue on once again straight as an arrow for another mile.

I have no idea why it does that. If you know why email me at [email protected].

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After the Hurricane of 1938 hit the Village of Westhampton Beach, downtown was flooded, almost all the mansions out on Dune Road were destroyed, all the glass showroom windows on Main Street were shattered and the Village records were nowhere to be found.

A day later, they were found floating down over a village in New Hampshire where they were gathered up and returned.

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The village of Montauk holds more salt water fishing records than any other village in the world.

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Hildreth’s Department Store in Southampton is the oldest department store in America, founded in 1842.

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In the War of 1812, the British tried to land soldiers in waterfront towns along the eastern seaboard of America for the purpose of setting them on fire. They were successful in many cities, including most of New York City, Savannah and Charleston. Here in the Hamptons, the redcoats rowed longboats to Long Wharf in Sag Harbor one dark night, but were confronted by militiamen who had been alerted by lookouts, and in a brisk one hour battle, were driven off.

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Albert Einstein summered in Southold in 1939. Marilyn Monroe summered in Amagansett in 1958.

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Two enormous granite sculptures of seated women flank the entry doors of Home Sweet Home Moving and Storage in Wainscott. They were put into storage there about 30 years ago by someone who never came back for them. Years later, the woman who sculpted these objects, now elderly and living in Maine, tried to get the storage facility to return them to her, but Home Sweet Home said come get them if you want them, but you have to pay the storage bill. They remain there today.


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