Westhampton Beach Has It All This Fall

Westhampton Fall Festival
Celebrate fall in Westhampton Beach! Photo: amoklv, vnlit/iStock/Thinkstock

The area now known as Westhampton Beach was originally “purchased” from the local Shinnecock tribe as part of the 1640 land deal known as the Quogue Purchase. Just shy of four centuries later, a new and modern Westhampton Beach is in the making! Plainview-based Rechler Equity Partners signed their first lease at The Hampton Business District at Gabreski—the East End’s first and only Class A Business Park—in 2014. This business and technology center sits on 50 acres and consists of 440,000 square feet, made up of nine buildings, to accommodate the needs of small and large businesses alike. From its illustrious past to its promising future, Westhampton Beach has it all.

The building which houses the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) first opened in 1932, when Governor Alfred Smith was on hand for the opening of a movie theater, Prudential’s Westhampton Theater. The building later became a single screen movie house owned by United Artists.  When that venture was deemed to be financially unviable, the theater was set to be demolished. “Nooooooo!,” screamed everyone in Westhampton Beach. In 1996, investor Len Conway, retailer Lon Sabella and a group of concerned village residents and business owners stepped up with the intention of purchasing the theater. In May of 1997, the theater was purchased for $300,000 and over the next year 60% of the $2.8M needed for renovations was raised, including a $250,000 gift from the Mollie Parnis Livingston Foundation. Almost unbelievably, Remsenburger Roger Stevens, part-owner of Island Compaines, completed the renovations in only seven months. On July 4, 1998, the WHBPAC opened to the public. “Yeah!,” screamed everyone on the East End.

But enough about the history. What’s going on at WHBPAC in the near future? WHBPAC Executive Director Clare Bisceglia is eagerly anticipating Saturday, October 28, when comedian Jim Jefferies brings his Unusual Punishment Tour to WHBPAC for two shows. Yes, Jefferies—highly offensive, politically incorrect, irreverent and, most importantly, hilarious—will be performing at 7 p.m. and again at 9:30 p.m. This affable Aussie, with his controversial and belief-challenging standup style, continues to surprise and entertain audiences across around the globe. Bisceglia says Jefferies is “my favorite comedian—simply hilarious.” Just remember, leave your sensitivity—and anyone under 21—at the door. These shows are for mature audiences only.

As for the 2018 programming, Bisceglia says it’s too early to know, “but 2018 will be our 20th Anniversary so we are planning to WOW!”

The Westhampton Beach Chamber presents the Westhampton Beach Farmer’s Market Saturdays from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. at 85 Mill Road through October 28. With more than 50 vendors, the market has something for everyone.

Pete Ludlow of Mecox Bay Dairy, who has been selling at the market since the very beginning, explains that “Westhampton Beach market is the largest of the local markets and offers the best mix of vendors from both east and west, North Fork and South Fork. That’s why it has such a dedicated local following, with many shoppers returning weekly and annually for their picks.” Ludlow will be offering his usual cheeses, plus heartier cuts of pork and beef now that the weather is cooling down. “Think beef short ribs and pork shoulder,” he says. We thought about it and we’ll be there.

While you’re there, check out another Dan’s favorite, Browder’s Birds, which has been active at the market since 2010. Owner Chris Browder says “There’s no question that this market is the largest and most successful on the East End. It’s enthusiastically supported by yearround locals as well as weekenders, allowing for the wide array of vendors to successfully sell their products.” His wife, Holly, says it’s Chris’s favorite market.

The Westhampton Free Library opened its doors on Main Street in 1897, with a charter granted by the University of the State of New York and signed by Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System. A new building opened on Library Street in 1951. Additions were built in 1953, ’59, ’66, ’86 and ’88. Further growth could not be supported by adding to the existing building, so, in 2008, the library moved into temporary quarters while a new building, which opened in June of 2010, was built. The new building, at 7 Library Avenue, has plenty of space for community events. Tweens and teens are invited to the library on Monday, October 2, at 4 p.m. to make kindness rocks for the library’s Kindness Rock Garden. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Library will host a Breast Cancer Awareness discussion on Friday, October 20, at noon. The discussion will be led by nurse practitioner Anna Silverberg, of the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. Silverberg will speak about the progress that has been made in early diagnosis and treatment, diagnostic tools, the importance of breast self-exams, screenings, mammograms and a healthy lifestyle. For a list of events and programs, visit westhamptonlibrary.net or call 631-288-3335.

The Hampton Synagogue, at 154 Sunset Avenue, was founded by Rabbi Marc Schneier—the 18th generation of a distinguished rabbinic dynasty—in 1990, in the spirit of ahavat yisrael, and has been a major institution in the village contributing the life, culture and identity of all its residents. Today, The Hampton Synagogue is one of the preeminent and most dynamic communities in the Jewish world.

Westhampton history buffs will want to check out the three buildings in town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The current Westhampton Beach Post Office, at 170 Main Street, was built in 1940-41 as part of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the largest and most ambitious of FDR’s New Deal agencies, which employed millions of people—many of them artists, Jackson Pollock included—and willed the country through the Great Depression (see, Socialism isn’t all bad). Much of the original interior woodwork and the mural, Outside Sports, painted by Sol Wilson in 1942, remain.

The Forest-Meeker House was added to the Register in 2009. It is the oldest house in Westhampton Beach, built circa 1735. It was saved from destruction in 2008 and moved to its current location on Mill Street, where the Westhampton Beach Historical Society is located. Added to the Register in 1985, the Crowther House is a private home on Beach Lane, somewhat visible from the street. Built in 1910, it is an excellent example of resort architecture of that era.

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