Montauk Point Lighthouse

The Montauk Point Lighthouse is the largest lighthouse on Long Island and one of the biggest mainland lights on the Atlantic coast. Designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of the property’s national significance in the history of the United States on March 2, 2012 by the Secretary of the Interior, the lighthouse is open daily in the summer months and on a varying schedule throughout the year.

The story of the lighthouse goes back to the beginnings of the United States. Because of the importance of maritime shipping, one of the acts of the first session of Congress was to create a Lighthouse Service to aid commerce. In 1792, Congress authorized the construction of the Montauk Lighthouse, and on August 18, 1795, President George Washington approved the proposal. President Washington is often quoted as predicting that the lighthouse would stand for 200 years.


Original Site Plans for the Montauk Lighthouse

Original Site Plans for the Montauk Lighthouse

On June 7, 1796, the first stone of the foundation was laid, 297 feet from shore on Turtle Hill. The site planner, Ezra L’Hommedieu, warned that the clay banks would gradually erode from the action of the sea, and sited the lighthouse far back from the cliffs. The lighthouse was completed on November 5, 1796. Erosion has been a problem ever since. By 1897, the distance had been reduced to a little over 200 feet. Today the lighthouse is situated 50 feet from the bank’s edge and efforts are underway to protect the bluffs.

The Montauk Point Lighthouse in the mid 1800's.

The Montauk Point Lighthouse in the mid 1800's.


The tower’s original lighting apparatus consisted of 13 whale oil lamps arranged on two levels shining a continuous beam of light. Whale oil was replaced by lard oil for a short time, then by kerosene, and in 1838, polished metal reflectors were placed behind the lamps to make the light more intense. In 1860, the lighthouse was refitted with a “first-order” Fresnel lens, a brass and crystal French lens that reflected the light in a round casement of glass prisms and magnifying lenses. At that time, Montauk’s immobile beam was altered by a bright flash that interrupted the beam every two minutes. This light was replaced in 1904 by a more modern and powerful bivalve lens which flashed a white light every fifteen seconds. Today the light is an automated 1,000 watt airport type beacon, and no longer needs the attention of a lighthouse keeper as it had for nearly 200 years.


Fresnel lens on display at the Montauk Point Lighthouse

Fresnel lens on display at the Montauk Point Lighthouse

From 1796 until 1987, lighthouse keepers maintained and tended to the light. Jacob Hand was the first keeper, and his son Jared the second. The keepers lived in a wood framed building adjacent to the lighthouse, with their wives and children, their assistants and the assistant’s families. Along with their duties tending to the light and maintaining the grounds and structures, the keepers were required to escort visitors up to the top of the tower, and explain its functions. It wasn’t until the late 1930’s that the family dwellings were modernized with electricity, inside plumbing, running water and a furnace. In the early 19th century and up to the beginnings of this century, visitors could obtain lodging at the point. Like the keepers of the original houses in Montauk, First, Second and Third House, the lighthouse keepers could and did entertain paying guests. Comments by guests to the lighthouse in a visitor’s log in the 1800’s were enthusiastic about the beauty of Montauk. Then, as now, guests came from all over the world to visit this historic structure.


In 1987, the bivalve lens was removed from the tower, the lighthouse was automated, and passed out of the hands of the government. The building was sold to the Montauk Historical Society, that now operates it as a visitor’s attraction and a museum. The museum, which is located in the 1860 Keepers’ house, displays an assortment of many historical documents, and photographs such as a display case containing the Congressional authorization, approved by President George Washington in 1792, to construct a lighthouse at Montauk Point..


The original 3 1/2 Order Bivalve Fresnel lens is also on display. The lens was placed into service in 1903 and removed on February 3, 1987 when the lighthouse was automated.

The Gilmartin Galleries is home to a four-room exhibit “Where Land Meets Sea & Sky.”

The lighthouse is also the home of the Montauk Oceans Institute and Surf Museum.

For more information, the Montauk Point Lighthouse is a great resource:

Horseback riding in Montauk

Deep Hollow Ranch is run by Patrick and Catherine Keogh, both with deep ties to ranching and to Montauk. Montauk born and bred and “horse crazy” as long as she can remember, Cate worked for years at the Ranch under Rusty and Diane Leaver, and the Leavers hired Patrick after he’d been working rodeos in Colorado. “Rusty and Diane were convinced Pat and I should meet,” Cate chuckles. “The rest is history.” When given the opportunity to take over the management of the Ranch, the Keoghs jumped at the chance to continue to provide Montauk with an authentic working ranch. Says Cate, “Deep Hollow is a place where someone who’s never been on a horse can feel comfortable riding through the same historic land where the Montauketts and early settlers lived and worked.”

The Keoghs’ mission is simple: provide an environment where friends and families can put down their electronic devices, laugh, and spend quality time with each other in Montauk’s pristine natural settings. Join a trail ride guided by a real cowboy or cowgirl up to Squaw Hill and overlook an incredible vista of Oyster Pond.  Finish up on the beach with a glorious view of the Block Island Sound. If you are lucky, you might spot the great horned owl “the size of a small child,” which has taken up residence near the barn. Groups are small and all levels of riders are welcome. For children six and older, half-hour trail rides are available. For those who prefer to do their touring off the saddle, the Ranch also offers wagon tours of the pasturelands. 631-668-2744

The Evolution of Long Island Wines

By Gwendolen Groocock

It’s an exciting time for Long Island wine. Our region is now on many “destination” travel lists, from TripAdvisor and Condé Nast to top industry publications like the Wine Spectator. We’re right up there in popularity with Sonoma, CA, and the Finger Lakes, NY, thanks to our 60-plus producers and the more than 1.3 million visitors a year that enjoy their wine. And coming off the 2014 harvest, which was an historic vintage for both quality and quantity, 2015 is shaping up to be the biggest and best wine tourism season yet.

So what’s new out there? I watch the wine industry closely, and perhaps the most exciting trend is a rise in small, independent labels.  Like the region’s new farm-to-table food producers and craft beer makers, artisans with their own unique visions are turning their hands to wine. These individuals buy grapes, then make the wine or have it made at a custom facility like Premium Wine Group in Mattituck. They choose the style, design the labels, and market the product themselves via websites, social media and good old-fashioned pavement-pounding and personal pitching to wine shops and restaurants. Some band together at communal tasting rooms on the wine trail, like The Winemaker Studio in Peconic.

These independent labels are part of the continued evolution and diversification of the wine industry. Fifteen years ago, after founding wineries like Hargrave/Castello di Borghese, Pindar, Duck Walk, Bedell, Wölffer, Raphael, and others were already well established, it still wasn’t clear what direction the industry would take. But like a grape vine, once LI wine found its roots, it began to branch out. Smaller enterprises sprung up, like The Old Field, a charming vineyard right on the Peconic Bay, Clovis Point, Sparkling Pointe, Mattebella and Croteaux Vineyards. The region grew more popular and more productive, able to withstand storms like the economic recession of recent years. Happily, Long Island wine found market niches in high-quality, restrained, complex reds like merlot and cabernet franc, and fun summer wines like dry rosés and sauvignon blancs that pair perfectly with our local farm produce and seafood. Agritainment appeared; now there is music, beautiful outdoor spaces like at the new Kontokosta Winery which is right on the LI Sound, sales of wine by the glass, and most recently, nibbles such as cheese, oysters, brick oven pizza and food truck fare. It turns out that people are more than willing to pay for quality and the experience of being out here on the beautiful North Fork.

In the farming and production side of the industry, parallels to the négociant system have emerged. That’s a French term for buying grapes and/or wine from small producers, blending it all together and selling the end product under the buyer’s label. This is common in large wine regions, and it ensures a market for small growers/producers; conversely, it can also depress crop prices and encourage a quantity over quality approach. This system is why you can buy inexpensive wines from large regions, but it is biased against small, independent labels.

Here in the Long Island wine region, our “négociant” system works a little differently. The established vineyards/ wineries buy and sell amongst themselves now; at harvest time, truckloads of grapes can be seen on the roads, traveling to places here, in Connecticut and upstate New York. This means that, these days, a would-be artisanal winemaker who knows a few people can also buy grapes. 

That’s how Robin Epperson-McCarthy, who has made her career in the wine industry all over the world, launched her new label, Saltbird Cellars. It’s named for the shorebirds that she loves to spot when sailing on the Peconic Bay. She was inspired to get creative by the great 2014 harvest: “All this amazing fruit was around,” she said.  “I just had to have some of it!” 

With encouragement from friends, and “plenty of unsolicited, but much appreciated advice,” she took the plunge. She made the wine exactly how she wanted to, as opposed to winemaking for a client or as an employee of a winery. She used a long, cool fermentation, aromatic yeast strains and neutral oak. Saltbird Cellars is a small collection with an excellent sauvignon blanc as its signature wine. She sells online at 

Race Wines is a new, independent label by Greg Gove. A veteran winemaker for several major wineries, Gove has decided to strike out on his own. His new label started when he “rescued” wine he had made for a producer that went out of business, which gave him the opportunity to finish it the way he wanted to. Now, he uses his experience to make wines that he feels are the natural expression of the best Long Island grapes. You can find Race Wines at Greenport Wines and Spirits, a shop on Front Street that has a strong focus on Long Island wines, and at Race Wines on Facebook.

Coffee Pot Cellars is a venture by Adam Suprenant. He’s the winemaker at Osprey’s Dominion, and has branched out to make his own line of wines named for the iconic lighthouse off Orient Point. Winemakers for large wineries often create their own labels because they wanted to have creative freedom and express their “voice,” but Suprenant has gone a step further. He runs a charming, down-to-earth tasting and sales shop on Route 25 in Cutchogue, which is also home to the Blossom Meadow honey company owned by his beekeeper wife, Laura Klahre. Find them at

Brooklyn Oenology is another independent label/retail space hybrid. Owner Alie Shaper purchases her fruit from Long Island and upstate every year, and crafts her wines herself at Premium Wine Group. The wines are sold primarily at her Brooklyn Oenology wine shop/café, a fun and popular spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Find her at

Other small labels are out there, and new ones are in the works. They are totally original, high quality, often quite different from what you might expect, and represent the best efforts of some very talented people. They’re like little gems hidden among the wines from the larger producers, and if you’re interested in a unique tasting experience, they’re worth seeking out. 

Shadmoor State Park

A half mile east of the village on Montauk Highway, lies a 99 acre state park with a 2,400 feet of ocean frontage. Tall clay cliffs plunge down to a pebble strewn beach. From the bluffs the rugged Atlantic Ocean stretches as far as the horizon from the bluffs, with lines of waves unfolding and rolling to the shore. 

Shadmoor only became a state park on October 13, 2000, through the combined efforts of the local population who wanted to preserve this piece of Montauk for all to enjoy.

Shadmoor gets its name from its geography, which is moorland, and the shadbush, which grows there. The shadbush, Montauk's horticultural star during May, softly transforms our hills for a few short weeks with its pink and white flowers and lovely delicate perfumes.

Shadmoor is crossed with trails, some of which were used for herding animals before 1879 by the East Hampton farmers, or proprietors, who drove the animals on Montauk in May, and off in November. After Montauk was sold in 1879, its days as pasture land for cows and sheep ended. For the remainder of that venture, and in to the 1940's, no one paid much attention to Shadmoor.

When the U.S. entered World War II, the Army erected two bunkers to use as coastal artillery fire control stations. The country was particularly concerned about German submarines off Long Island's east end, and equipped these bunkers with 15-inch guns trained on offshore waters.

After the Army left, Shadmoor was unused except by those in the know who enjoyed walks along its wind-swept cliffs and old trails, and local kids who played in the bunkers.

Shadmoor was purchased by two land developers in the 1980's with plans to subdivide and build houses on these bluffs. However, the Town of East Hampton, Suffolk County, New York State and the Nature Conservancy joined forces and purchased the property for $17.3 million in 2000. The Town operates and maintains the park, and the Nature Conservancy manages the conservation efforts.

If you are coming by car, park by the Shadmoor State Park sign, as vehicles are not allowed in the park. Dirt roads throughout make it an easy (though sometimes much) walk. Quickly into the park you will find a fork in in the road. Both forks lead to the bluffs. You will see shad trees and thickets and will pass by the old bunkers. 

About 30% is freshwater wetlands with several small ponds hidden in the thickets. Trails and  lead to the bluffs from the entrance on Montauk Highway. Once on the bluffs, the property becomes rolling landscapes, covered with shad, wild cherry trees, and other shrubs kept low by wind-driven salt spray that dries out foliage and stunts growth.

The rarest plant in New York State grows here, the Sandplain Gerardia, a member of the snapdragon family, and a low growing wild flower that bears delicate pink flowers in August and/or September. Shammer's wetlands and small ponds provide an important habitat for migratory and nesting birds.

As you walk out on the bluffs you will see the rocky beach below, and great vistas of sea and rolling waves to the south. The bluffs are particularly fluted with vertical, sharp parallel ridges dropping dramatically from a height of nearly 70 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

At some points on the bluffs, you will also see Ditch Plain Beah and the Association Houses to the east (the famous Stanford White houses built in the 1800's), and Long Island Sound and Connecticut to the north. 

Take care not to walk to the edges of the cliffs; the edges are narrow shelves that can collapse and send you falling to the beach below. For a trail map go here:

Setting The Affair

When television writer and producer Sarah Treem decided to set her taut psychological series The Affair in Montauk, her reasons were both professional and nostalgic. As a child, Treem had spent many summers here, and she had wonderful memories of the small town’s warm and intimate scale, and of the area’s forested rolling hills, its rugged, rocky cliffs and its sweeping white-sand beaches...