Back in the 1800s, the easiest way to get from New York City to vacation in the Hamptons was to take the Long Island Rail Road.
The rail lines were dotted with stations that have long since disappeared, with names like Suffolk Downs, whose station building was purchased and moved by a railroad employee in 1923, and Canoe Place, a cement platform on the Shinnecock Canal where “Fishermen’s Special” trains ran through 1953.
But perhaps the most unique among these historic stops was the Shinnecock Hills railroad station, which at one time bustled more than the stop in Southampton. Built in 1887, the train station served as a real estate office, post office and telegraph office, said town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board historian Sally Spanburgh at last Tuesday’s Southampton Town Board meeting, where the station was designated a historic landmark by the town.
“It’s aesthetically unique, with a high level of integrity. It’s in its original location and was never added on to,” she said. “The original waiting room and teller bench remain intact.”
The LIRR’s vision of the stop as a thriving resort failed rather quickly, said Ms. Spanburgh, who added that it was reverted to a flag station where passengers had to flag down the train to board and travel. Train service stopped in 1923, and the seasonal post office at the stop ended in 1966. In 1973, the LIRR sold the building to Mr. and Mrs. Robert P. Kirwin for use as a private residence. Their daughter-in-law, Ellen Kirwin, now owns the station.
Ms. Kirwin said she’s seen a lot that can’t be repeated in public during her time living at the station.
“It’s been a wonderful, but difficult place to live. The train is 15 feet from the front porch, and there are 12 trains a day coming by,” she said, but added that she knows if a train is going by that she should be getting up and going to work.
“My husband died 16 years ago and I could use a little help to keep it maintained. I’m not doing a very good job of it,” she said.
Her son, Peter Kirwin, told a story of going down to the tracks during last winter’s blizzard to offer a cup of coffee to the engineer of a train idling in the snow waiting for the track to be cleared. He said the engineer was none-to-pleased to see someone approach him in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a blizzard.
“The train used to go so slow, we got to know the engineers and conductors,” said Ms. Kirwin. “We would hand out cookies and coffee as it would go by.”
Ms. Spanburgh said Theodore Roosevelt was rumored to have once caught the train at Shinnecock Hills.
The town board unanimously agreed to grant the building landmark status.
Ethics hearing will be held November 12
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming’s proposed Southampton ethics policy revisions will get a chance to be aired by the public after all, after several board members voted in early October against holding a public hearing on the changes.
The policy would prohibit officers in political parties from holding seats on the town’s land use boards.
The language in Ms. Fleming’s original proposal said the changes were being proposed “to reduce opportunities for corruption inherent in dual-office holding,” while the new language says they’re being considered “to reduce opportunities for conflict inherent in dual-office holding.”
Board members Christine Scalera, Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone had said they were concerned that Ms. Fleming was implying that members of the boards are corrupt.
The Nov. 12 public hearing will be held at 1 p.m.
Ms. Scalera said at the Oct. 22 meeting that she still believes Ms. Fleming’s proposal is “entirely disingenuous,” but added that she is happy that the public hearing will be held after Election Day and she is “happy the inflammatory language was changed.”
“I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” she said. “I look forward to a healthy discussion.”
“I never intended it to be inflammatory. It is intended to be real and have an impact,” said Ms. Fleming, who added that six of the Zoning Board of Appeals’ seven members are political party officers. “I’m sorry that, Christine, you feel you must question my motives.”
Canoe Place hearing adjourned
The ongoing public hearing on a planned townhouse development in Hampton Bays, on the site of Tide Runners restaurant, and the redevelopment of the Canoe Place Inn, has been adjourned until the town board’s Dec. 10 meeting.
The board had originally scheduled the hearing for Nov. 26, but many members of the public said they couldn’t attend on Thanksgiving week. The board has moved the Dec. 10 meeting from the afternoon to the evening in order to accommodate the droves of people who are concerned about the project.