In the mid-19th century, whaling, not Wall Street, fueled the conspicuous construction of Southampton mansions. “The whaling industry flourished here as it did in a lot of East End towns and it really left its mark on Southampton,” Emma Ballou, Southampton Historical Museum Curator, told us as we picked up our tickets for their 7th annual Southampton House Tour “Insider’s View.” Yes, it was time for a little nose up against the glass, as we walked through some of these renovated, decorated and celebrated homes, reclaimed by 21st Century financial titans.
“The whaling captains of the community were very prosperous and they wanted their houses to reflect that,” Ballou explained. “So they built these beautiful, fashionable houses during that period. The mid 1800s was the height of it. The Shinnecocks and Native Americans had been hunting whales forever, but that’s when the need for whale oil was really in demand. There were 18 whaling captains mansions’ at that time on Southampton’s Main Street, more than the non-whaling homes.”
The tour encompassed five private residences whose owners opened their homes for the fundraiser and the four historic properties the Museum manages: the Conscience Point nature walk and historic site; the 1660s Thomas Halsey Homestead; the Rogers Mansion, an 1843 white Greek revival whaling captains mansion; and the Pelletreau Silver Shop, built in 1686. The St Andrew’s Dune Church was also part of the tour.
Did you know that Hildreth’s Department Store, built in 1842, is America’s oldest department store, still owned by the Hildreth family, and Herrick Hardware was founded in 1869 and is also owned by its founding family? Has anyone ever noticed the cockatoo? Its name is Bungee and it’s been greeting hard hatted Hamptonites for decades.
Southampton Historical Museum is located at 17 Meeting House Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-283-2494 visit www.southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org.