Dan Rattiner's Stories

First: The Hamptons Is First in Many Things, but What Has It Gotten Us?

The Hamptons is first in the eyes of everybody.

The Hamptons is first in the eyes of everybody. We’re first for beaches, first for the oldest lighthouse, first for the most beautiful downtowns, first for the sunlight, celebrated by artists for its subtle colorings.

We’re first in the number of old English windmills, first in per-capita wealth and, first in the highest private home sale price in America. The first English settler in the state landed in East Hampton and Montauk holds more deep sea fishing records—39—than any other fishing village in the world.

Fred Thiele
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

We’re even first in government. In the State Assembly there are 150 assemblymen from 150 districts. Guess which is the 1st District? Us. Fred Thiele is our Assemblyman from the 1st District.

In the Suffolk County Legislature there are 18 districts. We not only have the County Legislator from the 1st District (Al Krupski) we also have the County Legislator from the 2nd District (Bridget Fleming).

Did you ever think about that? The state of New York stretches for 600 miles from one end to the other. We here in the Hamptons are just a little tail that sticks out from the East End. Wouldn’t you think the first district would be in Buffalo and then stretch out to the East?

Or it would have made more sense to make the First District in Manhattan, which is the biggest city in the state, and then stretch out to the north and east. But no.

Somebody, somewhere sat down and said, let’s start this at the Montauk Lighthouse. First District.

This might even have been in Colonial times. The Villages of the East End were founded beginning in 1640, long before 1776. Southampton and Southold argue about being either the first or second English towns in the New York State.

Montauk Point Lighthouse
Montauk Point Lighthouse, Photo: Oliver Peterson

One is first, the other is second—it comes down to whether you count somebody sitting down on a tree stump for a little while, probably the first tree stump and saying “we in Southold did this over here and not by you over in Southampton” while those in Southampton say “it was the other way around.”

We celebrate having the first English resident in the state—Lion Gardiner—and claim that honor for the East End. Gardiner settled on an island that a Dutch explorer, sailing by, called Isle of Wight. Its name was changed to Gardiner’s Island when Gardiner got here in 1639, and it has been passed down for 17 generations and is now owned by one of his descendants. It is today the first and largest privately-owned island handed down all in one family in America.

Towne Cellars Leaderboard

So what has it gotten us, being first like this? Well—stuff. When somebody from the East End speaks, the whole country listens. We’re number one, and proud of it. Don’t mess with success.

We’ve had presidents here. Richard Nixon wrote the acceptance speech for his second presidential nomination at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk. Everybody listened. President Chester Arthur is supposed to have spent some time out here. He didn’t speak much, but when he did, people listened.

RELATED: Washington to Trump: East End Presidential Visits Throughout History

Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are headed back to the Hamptons this summer.
Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are headed back to the Hamptons this summer. Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images/Thinkstock

President John Tyler married an East End girl when he was in the White House. He was the first and only President to get married in the White House. And he was in East Hampton several times. When he spoke, people listened. President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton have spent summer vacations out here for years, and when he spoke, people listened, but perhaps not enough.

So just remember, if you are from here, or if you live out here, or lived out here and moved away, that we’re first in all these things. And nobody can take that away from us.

Oh yeah, and we think that the first American flag was made out here, in Bridgehampton. No real proof just yet, but we’re working on it.

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