Throwback Thursday – Subscribe to Happiness

Advertisement for land at Montauk, July 15, 1940 | Donald and Jennie Balcuns Collection | Montauk Library Archives

It seems odd that a newspaper would give the farm away to persuade readers to take out subscriptions. The Daily Mirror even threw in a train ride to Montauk.

This is how Hither Hills was developed: The Mirror’s 100-by-25-foot parcels sold for a mere $100 apiece, although you had to buy at least two. In the 1920s Carl Fisher had promoted “Montauk Beach” as a vacation paradise for the wealthy, but the Depression knocked the wind out of that plan. The Mirror bought property on which Fisher had hoped to put a golf course. “Montauk Beach, until now the playground of the rich, is available to you,” this advertisement told working-class readers.

“Newspaper resorts” like Hither Hills were a thing in the 1920s and 1930s. The Daily Mirror established vacation colonies at Sound Beach and in Putnam County, among other places, as well as in Montauk. They often claimed to be attracting subscribers when they were in fact in the business of real estate, and it’s not clear that people who bought land really had to subscribe to the paper. The Mirror Holding Corporation was formally registered as a real estate business in 1931, around the time its development in Montauk got underway.

In the fall of 1940, a front-page story in the East Hampton Star reported that 14 houses were being built at the time on the Mirror Development lots, including a $3,500 structure for a director of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. “Among the other builders are four couples who used to camp at Montauk; according to local tradesmen, they are very attractive people and would make good neighbors.”

Those who purchased property at Hither Hills were entitled to use a park and community properties –oceanfront known at the time as Ocean View Beach– as well as what was advertised as a “$200,000 clubhouse” – what today we call the Montauk Playhouse. On July 15, 1942, the newly formed Montauk Beach Property Owners Association took title to it all.

When the clubhouse proved too expensive to maintain, ownership reverted back to the original deed holder. Meanwhile, however, for 80 years MBPOA members have still been able to enjoy more than 30 acres of oceanfront property, according to their website. And of course their homes are worth millions.

“Bring back ‘The Daily Mirror’ offer please,” says the website. Oh, if only!

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