It was a most pleasant 50+ degrees this last Sunday. You don’t get many days like that in February, in the Hamptons. The ocean wind was noticeable, but in a soothing way as opposed to the face biting cold it can be in winter. I needed a touch of adventure, so at sixty-something I went to explore somewhere where I really had never been before – even through it is only 30 miles from my front door and just up the shore. On today’s adventure, the destination was Speonk, a hamlet in the Town of Southampton.
If you Google Speonk it says: “As early as 1712, meadows in Speonk were leased to cattle owners from Southampton.” The Wikipedia post claims: “Most of the early residents came west from Southampton and Bridgehampton in the 1740s, building farms and clearing the forests of wood. In the 1880s, duck farms thrived in Speonk, but few survived past the turn of the century. The name Speonk was inspired by a Native American word meaning high place.” Today’s full-time population is just north of 2,600 residents.
Being on Long Island, there is always a connection to the LIRR, a subject I once did a nice piece during my first year of East End Journalism in 2004. In fact, the LIRR enlarged it, framed it, and mounted it at the Montauk Train Station. It lasted a decade before it was removed in a renovation. It never was available as a link; it was just before that stuff started for East End publications. However, an 1897 Long Island Rail Road catalog of the past mentions Speonk, declaring that the word “certainly sounds like the call of a frog.”
These days’ railroad conductors frequently accentuate the name when calling it out as the next station. If you have taken the LIRR to NYC, I am sure you have heard the conductor say it! Years back folks changed the name to Remsenburg, after prominent resident Charles Remsen donated a new Presbyterian Church. These days, both names are used, however each covering different areas of the community.
So, I turned off Montauk Highway, the relic of a 1920’s highway, traffic lights and all, until I arrived in Speonk located between Eastport and Westhampton. Then I turned down Old Country Road, with my destination Speonk Point on the Moriches Bay. I arrived there not to find a park but a “cul de sac” of mansions with a straight-out view across the bay that features a lineup strip the beach homes of West Hampton Dunes. It was beautiful against Sunday’s morning sun. Yet, it’s obvious looking at that vista how vulnerable to hurricanes that place is being right there along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.
I explored the lanes of Speonk. My favorite names of local lanes now includes “Ring Neck Road” and “Duck Point Road.” The hamlet also has a “Halsey Road.” I had to wonder how many Halsey Roads/Lanes there are in the Hamptons? Years back, I used to often talk with John Halsey about his Peconic Land Trust at least once a month for articles, and he was very proud of everything and all things Halsey, including all those roads. Hearing John talk about the many off shoots of the original Southampton (1640) founder, Thomas Halsey, was fascinating and confusing.
I found Speonk very beautiful, with old homes, a few farms, and, of course, more than a few McMansions sprinkled along the bay. The bay beaches are beautiful, as are almost all the beaches on the East End of Long Island.
To end the adventure and sample some local color, I stopped into “Mary’s Olde Speonk Inn.” The place, located right on Montauk Highway, was packed and buzzing on a winter’s Sunday. I vowed to come back one day to experience the place and some more of Speonk. Yes, Speonk is very much part of the Hamptons. It is a very low key, quiet place tucked in there at the southwestern edge of the Town of Southampton.