A road trip to The End is a can’t-miss tradition of summertime on the East End. When you’ve driven through Montauk before, it’s likely you’ve wondered what the really tall building standing over the village green is, or where that tiki statue came from. Though the Montauk Lighthouse is certainly the most famous landmark in the hamlet, each monument of Montauk has a story of its own.
The tallest building in Montauk, which stands over the village green, is known as the Tower. Currently, the Tower houses residential condominiums, but it has previously been known as both the Carl Fisher Office Building and the Montauk Improvement Building. The Tower once served as headquarters for Carl Graham Fisher, who, in 1925, purchased the entirety of the Montauk peninsula.
Pursuing plans to turn Montauk into an expansive beach resort, Fisher developed a portion of this large tract of land—which amounted to more than 10,000 acres—between the years of 1926 and 1932. Having built a significant portion of the town’s roads, commercial buildings and homes, Fisher is responsible for a great deal of Montauk’s development. Though the Great Depression ultimately terminated Fisher’s massive construction project, Montauk has Fisher to thank for its unique character, and the Tower attests to his legacy.
Beneath the Tower is the Village Green, which holds one of Montauk’s smaller monuments, the gazebo. The gazebo serves as a locus for Montauk’s many community events,
as the weekly Farmers Market held on Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. and the free Monday night concerts at 6:30 p.m. So next time you visit the Tower and the village green, take a moment to stop and admire this cherished Montauk monument too.
As for that tiki statue—the large, copper-colored figure situated against the Montauk Beach House on Elmwood Avenue—he goes by the name of Ronjo. And while Montauk is not a huge bastion of Hawaiian culture, Ronjo is based on the tikis of traditional Hawaiian culture, which represent the first man and his creation from a mixture of red earth and saliva.
Ronjo gets his name from the Ronjo Motel, which is what the Elmwood Avenue building was prior to becoming the Montauk Beach House. The Ronjo Motel was named after its owner’s two children, Ron and Joanne. Even with the closing of the Ronjo Motel, Ronjo the tiki statue stayed, finding favor with the owners of what is now called the Montauk Beach House, Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick. They even gave Ronjo a new paint job. Now known for his iconic copper hue, it’s hard to imagine that Ronjo was once a brightly colored, red and white statue. Ronjo’s new look gives visitors the perfect opportunity for a memorable Montauk photo.
And, of course, let’s not forget the Lighthouse. The Montauk Point Lighthouse, constructed in 1796 under the authorization of President George Washington, was New York State’s first lighthouse. It remains an iconic landmark, currently counted the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the United States. It is designated a National Historic Landmark .
If it wasn’t in your summer plans already, make sure to take the family to the Montauk Point Lighthouse before Labor Day. Guests can roam the grounds of Turtle Hill or climb to the top of the light, and then visit the neighboring Lighthouse Grill for a meal.
Be sure to visit montaukchamber.com for more Montauk history and upcoming “monumental” events.