Sag Harbor Rain
Sag Harbor Rain

On May 21, Sag Harbor will celebrate itself with day filled with events designed to celebrate the village’s history, culture, music and community.

With events ranging from a walking tour of Eastville to StoryCorps-style oral histories at the library to a Walt Whitman reading marathon at Canio’s Books to musical performances at Bay Street Theatre and the Christ Episcopal Church, the day promises to be steeped in all the things that have long made Sag Harbor a cultural destination.

The event is organized by the Sag Harbor Cultural District, a consortium of museums, bookstores, performing arts venues and the John Jermain Library formed to highlight the culture of the village.

Sag Harbor Cultural Heritage Day actually kicks off Friday night, May 20, when Canio’s Books at 290 Main Street hosts a pre-Whitman marathon talk by Walt Whitman Scholar Karen Karbiener at 6 p.m. The marathon reading of “Leaves of Grass” will be held all day Saturday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., in honor of Whitman’s birthday May 31. There will also be a post-marathon afterparty at the shop from 6 to 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to come and listen. Visitors can also have their photograph taken with Walt Whitman outside the shop. To register to read or sponsor a poem, call: 631.725.4926 or email

Sag Harbor in Springtime
Sag Harbor in Springtime

The historic Christ Episcopal Church at 5 Hampton Street, built in 1894, will open its doors at 12:30 p.m. for a tour of its beautiful architecture and historic Tiffany windows. At 12:45 p.m., Dr. Daniel Koontz will give a brief demonstration of the church’s Mӧller pipe organ.

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA), which owns and manages the Sag Harbor Custom House at 912 Main Street, will sponsor two events.

The first is a series of readings from the Letters of Henry Packer Dering, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Custom House.  Mr. Dering was the first Customs Collector for the Port of Sag Harbor, and his letters offer a candid view into his life during the early 1800s. Ranging from debt and money problems to health issues, education, the effects of weather, and accounting for supplies, we see Dering and his family come alive in familiar ways, as in advising his daughter in 1812 “not to purchase a house for $600 and $800 more in furnishings as the situation of our affairs is not good and there is so great a prospect of war.”

SPLIA will also host a presentation on “Sag Harbor’s Historic House Styles for Homeowners and Realtors” at Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street, from 11 a.m. to noon. Jason Crowley, Preservation Director at SPLIA, will explore the village’s three centuries of architectural history, identifying decorative motifs that can help homeowners and realtors better understand when a building was first constructed, when alterations may have occurred, and what cultural factors may have influenced the building’s style.

The Eastville Community Historical Society will host a folklore walking tour through the section of Eastville that is believed to have been a part of the Underground Railroad. The tour will include the St.David AME Zion Church, built in 1840, the St. David AME Zion Cemetery, founded in 1857, and the Heritage House, which was a 1920 Sears and Roebuck catalog order house. The tour begins at the Heritage House, located at 139 Hampton Street, where participants can also view the “Black Memorabilia, Images and Icons” exhibition.

John Jermain Memorial Library will host three events for Cultural Heritage Day.

The first is Sag Harbor Stories, inspired by StoryCorps and using similar technology to the StoryCorps app. The library will host a recording booth where visitors can record interviews in which they discuss their lives in Sag Harbor, events in the town’s history that they witnessed or took part in, and any other stories they want preserved. These “oral histories” will become a part of the library’s permanent local history collection and will be made available for streaming on the library’s website.

The library will also host Sag Harbor 2016: A Photographic Record of photographs taken in the six weeks leading up to Cultural Heritage Day. In this time, the library will collect photographs of Sag Harbor taken in 2016 by members of the community. Anyone may contribute. These photographs will be displayed digitally at the library on Cultural Heritage Day.

Also between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Cultural Heritage Day, the library will accept donations of photographs, yearbooks, sketchbooks, deed, genealogies, menus, Sag Harbor phone and business directories, placemats, maps, house and garden plans, nautical memorabilia, ephemera, and artifacts of all kinds. These donations will become a part of the library’s newly expanded local history collection. All donations of primary documents to the library are tax deductible and will be acknowledged with a form for the IRS. Call 631.725.0049 for more information.

The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum’s first exhibit of the 2016 season will be “Places,” curated by Elise Goodheart, which officially opens May 30, but will be open for previews on Cultural Heritage Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Places” documents the working-class roots of Sag Harbor Village, with an emphasis on buildings, architecture, and locales through paintings and photographs.

The Sag Harbor Historical Society, which is housed in the Annie Cooper Boyd House & Museum at 174 Main Street, will be presenting the exhibition “Plants, Pills, & Poultices,” opening at 2 p.m. on May 21. The exhibit and will feature an array of artifacts from the career of Dr. Edgar Miles, an eclectic Sag Harbor Physician and 19th Century Medical Rebel, and artifacts belonging to his son E.L. Miles, a druggist. The exhibit will feature medical tools, books, prescriptions, advertisements, original bottles, labels, and more. A history of Eclectic medicine will elaborate on the “new” methods that Dr. Miles and others were using at this time. For more information, call 631.725.5092. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

The Sag Harbor American Music Festival presents a free solo show by local musician Alfredo Merat at Christ Episcopal Church at 5 Hampton Street from 4 to 5 p.m. Mr. Merat will perform his original arrangements of the most favorite songs of Jacques Brel with a flamenco guitar twist. The songs will be sung in the original French, and Mr. Merat will provide short introductions in English that will include interesting anecdotes from the life, songs, interviews with and other works by the composer.

Bay Street Theater will also host world renowned jazz pianist and longtime Sag Harbor resident Judy Carmichael, who will be performing in the theater at 8 p.m. along with Billy Stritch, a Grammy Award-winning musician and legendary accompanying pianist for Liza Minelli. Tickets range from $50 to $75 and are available online at or by calling the Bay Street Theater Box Office at 631.725.9500.

For more information on the Sag Harbor Cultural District and their events, like their Facebook page here.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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