Montauk Library Historic Archives

The Montauk Library archive collection, spanning from the 1880s – present, includes photographs and slides, artifacts, film, maps, scrapbooks, albums, journals, reports, postcards, programs, guide books, yearbooks, microfilm, telegrams, certificates, minutes, East Hampton Town trustee records, out of print books, Montauk Beach Development Corporation ephemera, a collection of 1898 weeklies covering Camp Wikoff and large selection of audio and video tapes containing interviews with members of Montauk’s early families.

Historical material is available to researchers, educators, teachers and students. Anyone who is interested in the history of Montauk can visit the Archive Room at the Montauk Library and make use of the materials kept there.

The Archive Room is climate controlled with heating, air conditioning and humidifiers designed to provide optimum preservation conditions for valuable and historical records thereby safeguarding the distinctive historical traditions of our community and caring for Montauk’s unique history.

We have been collecting written material, photographs, artifacts, film, maps, scrapbooks, journals, reports, slides, postcards, programs, guide books, microfilm, telegrams, certificates, anything related to the history of Montauk, most of which is donated by members of the community. The Montauk Library’s Archive Room has the following materials available to the public: historical books on Montauk, East Hampton and Long Island, comprehensive plans, environmental impact studies, local cookbooks, East Hampton Trustee records, history and archaeology of the Montauk Indians, information on Camp Hero and Shadmoor, back issues of the Montauk Light and Long Island Forum, historical preservation reports and zoning studies. We also have been interviewing Montauk’s longtime residents and recording their memories of times past. These interviews along with other materials such as historical Montauk film from the 1920s – 1960s will be available to many generations to come.

Guide to Montauk Library Archive collection:

Photograph and slide collection

Includes photographs, film negatives and postcards of people, places and events relating to Montauk. Units of the collection include: 

  • Carleton Kelsey collection
  • Richard T. Gilmartin collection
  • Dave Edwardes collection
  • Ray Smith collection
  • Al Holden collection
  • Various Montauk family collections

Map collection

Consists largely of maps of Montauk and East Hampton town. Also includes reproduction of field map of Camp Wikoff, Hither Hills Mirror Development, Montauk Beach Development, Fort Pond Bay fishing village map, Soundview Estates and Oceanside-at-Montauk. Units of the collection include:

  • William Walsh collection
  • Linda B. Hicks collection
  • Richard T. Gilmartin collection

Vertical File

Organized by subject contains newspaper clippings, documents and other materials relating to Montauk.

Books

Various subjects include Montauk, East Hampton, Long Island, cookbooks, fishing, marine sciences, natural sciences, celebrities & biographies and a collection of out-of-print books.

Documents, Journals, Minutes

Handwritten and typewritten materials relating to Montauk’s history includes civic groups, individuals and organizations.

Periodicals

  • Long Island Forum 1955-1987
  • Montauk Light 1984-1986

Audio and Video Tapes, CDs, DVDs

Includes a selection of Oral History interviews conducted with members of Montauk’s founding families, a collection of Montauk home movies 1920s-1960s , and Montauk Historical Society audiotape interviews conducted from 1968-1978.

HISTORIC CONTEXT

Starting around 1976, when our nation was celebrating its Bicentennial, a movement to record the voices of people who had witnessed events from the past began to take hold. Historical societies and museums across the United States started recording oral histories, and the Montauk Historical Society was no exception. Although the Society had been taping speakers and lecturers at their meetings since the Society’s inception in 1963, during the 1970s the members began to specifically seek out oral history interviewees, some of whom who had been living in the area as early as the late 19th century.

The Historical Society continued to record oral histories throughout the 1970s and 80s. In the 1990s, when an Archives was established, the Montauk Library recorded oral histories, as well, and continued until about 2004. A few have been done intermittently since then. Altogether, about 140 oral histories were completed between the Montauk Historical Society and the Montauk Library.

Montauk has a singular past, and at times, has been a significant player in the history of New York State. For many years the hamlet of Montauk, which is part of the town of East Hampton, was sparsely populated. Cattle and sheep grazing took place on its open grasslands, but native peoples were its only residents. French Canadians and Scandinavians fished in the area seasonally, but it was not easily accessed by land, visitors were few, and mostly, it was wealthy sportsmen who came to hunt or fish. Starting in 1898, with the arrival of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders after the Spanish-American War, there was a military presence for training and later for defense in World Wars I and II. When Roosevelt arrived, a small fishing village of French Canadians and Scandinavians had started to grow on the north side of Montauk, on Fort Pond Bay.

The arrival of Carl Fisher, in 1926, threatened to turn the sleepy fishing village into an ocean resort. One of the key entrepreneurs to transform the swamps of Miami into a playground for the well to do, Fisher saw the same potential in Montauk. He blasted roads out of cattle-grazing areas, enhanced train service from New York City, built a luxury hotel, bathing club, golf course, housing developments, and a high-rise. Residential construction started to alter Montauk’s landscape and lifestyle, but stopped with the Stock Market crash. The boom ended abruptly and Fisher went bankrupt.

Fisher’s concept of a Montauk resort regained a foothold after World War II, during the post-war boom. In the 1950s and 1960s hotels and motels were built near the Atlantic dunes where tourists enjoyed bathing, swimming, and recreational sports. Montauk waters set records for the size and weight of swordfish, tuna, marlin, and other fish that were caught here. The Golden Age of Sportfishing had begun. The promise of Montauk as a resort was realized, and the Village has flourished ever since.

SCOPE OF CONTENT
There are four subject areas of concentration found in these oral histories:

Carl Fisher: Many of Montauk’s current residents are descendants of the workers who moved north from Miami to help Carl Fisher develop Montauk. The oral history interviewees describe the dynamic energy of this man while he was in his prime. They also describe the terrible affects of the Depression on those workers who no longer had employment, and how the townspeople pulled together to survive this terrible economic crisis. Reminiscences of rum-running surface periodically.

The Fishing Industry. Fishing is vital to understanding the history of Montauk. Early oral histories include descriptions of trap-fishing and the menhaden processing plant at nearby Promised Land. Several Duryea interviews detail the growth of the lobster business. Interviews with multiple fishermen provide detailed information about the commercial and sport fishing industries in Montauk.

Hurricane of 1938: The greatest single shared experience among those who gave oral histories is this “once-in-a-century” hurricane, when Montauk was cut off from the rest of the mainland. Fort Pond Bay Village, which is where most Montauk residents lived, disappeared under a tidal surge that left only chimneys in view. A reunion of survivors at the Montauk Manor in 1988 was also recorded.

World War II: The war had a very real presence in Montauk. The Navy literally removed the fishing village that fronted Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay because its deep reaches made it possible to test torpedoes before shipping them overseas for the war in the Pacific. This forced abandonment of people’s homes is described in the oral histories. Yet, at the same time, Montaukers embraced the war effort. The women of the village were active in the American Women’s Volunteer Service, establishing an ambulance service and running blood drives to help our soldiers overseas.

Researchers, Montauk family members, genealogists, and generalists will find a rich resource in this audio material.

1983

1995

  • Fred “Gus” Pitts
  • Clara Palma
  • Vinnie Grimes
  • Margot MacDonald Bachman
  • Elizabeth Job
  • Emma Webb
  • Emma Webb, Richard Webb, Ellen Johns
  • Stanley Miller, Hazel Miller McGuirk
  • Ed Pospisil
  • Frank Tuma
  • Mary Smith Fullerton
  • Edna Biase
  • Eugene Beckwith
  • Lena Greenwald, Mary Stannard
  • Perry B. Duryea, Jr.

2002-2005

Oral History Interviews conducted by Peg Winski

Interviews conducted by the Montauk Historical Society, 1968-1977

  • Mrs. Hilda Tuma, daughter Vivian & her husband Carl Darenberg 10/25/1976
  • Jeannette Edwards Rattray 9/21/1968
  • Leonard Mcdonald 11/13/1976 (Bay trap fishing)
  • Edgar Grimes 11/6/1976
  • Edna Steck 4/11/1978
  • Harry A. Bruno 8/13/1973
  • Eugene Beckwith Sr. 1969
  • Vivian Darenberg 12/7/1977

Artifacts/Realia

Objects relating to Carl Fisher and the Montauk Beach Development Corporation, Deep Hollow Ranch and World War One Red Cross uniforms.

Non-circulating Local Interest Videos In The Archive Room

  • 1938 hurricane 50 years later
  • Montauk Library – old and new 11/24/1991
  • 1985 AARP forum on incorporation of Montauk
  • Willie Biase home movies, 1960s
  • American Dream Show with Suzanne Gosman
  • St. Patrick’s Day parade 3/18/1990
  • Deep Hollow Ranch promo video
  • Montauk Community Church 75th anniversary
  • Osborne family home movies, Montauk 1930s
  • Rights of Man show 1930s, 40s home movies, Montauk Vorpahl/Bengston family
  • Rights of Man show Shipwrecks of Montauk
  • John Kelsey home movies 1950s, 60s navy road footage
  • Suzanne Gosman on Bill Flemming show talking about the new library 10/17/1986
  • Prado family home movies, 1950s
  • Montauk Library dedication
  • Young Universe show #43 “Montauk fisherman”
  • Brian Rade with cousin Richard Rade
  • Montauk Library dedication of the meeting room 6/13/1999
  • Montauk Historical Society 1920s film
  • Oral history interviews conducted with longtime Montauk residents
  • Akin family home movies, 1950s