The east end of Long Island is my special place. Like so many before me, I came here and never left. The reasons I came out east are many, but the reason I stayed is simple. It wasn’t the beauty of the ocean beaches, the bays, the villages, the farmlands, and the outdoors with amazing wildlife. The reason I personally launched my future in East Hampton was simple; I was lost in life and within minutes on a visiting Hamptons day felt salvation, a new course for a better future. I cannot say at first I understood what makes the east end so special, but I can say I just knew for me it was.
After almost twenty years of interviews, articles, reviews and even an occasional breaking news story I now know so many things about the hearts and souls of the folks who live on the east end. While many have lived out east for generations, there’s a host of folks who came out east to get rich, while others came out east because they were rich. Then there are folks like me who landed here not as part of a long-term plan, but being here became one.
I know I am not alone in calling the east end my special space. Out of respect for the locals of generations born and raised on Hamptons lands, I just can’t call it my home. My hometown lies on the mainland and not on this island with a 100-mile ocean shore. However, within seconds of one fateful day, I knew my future would be on the east end.
My first week living in East Hampton I researched how the east end was settled. Who came in 1640 to Southampton and who came to East Hampton in 1648 and why. I learned the stories behind the names on so many of the roads and historical homesteads. Through journalism, I interviewed many with these historical names in their homes, or on their farms. Folks with names like Halsey, Hands, and Bennett. I learned about the past while living for a future.
I have witnessed many hardworking locals’ fortunes change through the ownership of east-end land. Families who became multi-millionaires after struggling to make ends meet most of their lives.
While doing research for an obituary for a famous chicken farmer, I met his sister. Well into her eighties, she talked about living in the village when her house, not a mile from the center of East Hampton Village, (the one we were talking in) did not have electricity. The small simple home now had electricity. She was proud of that!
I will forever remember the sound of Tate King’s voice. The man whose daughter Kathleen named her cookies after. At the end of a long interview in his home (North Sea Country Farm) Tate King said, “For most of my life, all I had was the change in my pocket. In fact, it was my wife Millicent whose job at the hospital paid our bills. Now, they tell me our land (as he pointed out his kitchen window) is worth millions of dollars. I can’t ever sell it; my mother and father are buried (again pointing) right over there and my brother over there.”
That was truly a powerful moment, as was talking to Roberta Gosman Donovan back in 2006 about her father Robert Gosman. She said in 1943 he purchased what is now called Gosman’s Dock from the Bonner Fuel Company. Sitting alone with her at a table near the sidebar at Gosman’s she recalled, “The Bonner Fuel Company was a dock where people bought fuel. Back then there were only two docks, Bonner’s and the Montauk Yacht Club.”
Roberta talked about the result of dredging Montauk Harbor. She said, “Before the dredging one could actually walk From Gosman’s dock out to Star Island over the mud in the harbor.” Adding, “It wasn’t until 1946 that the first Gosman’s Restaurant was built and it was just a bit more than a shack.”
She explained, “Back then people sat on old fish boxes to eat. We opened it (for food service) because it was miles from the nearest place to get coffee and chowder. The original restaurant was only open for breakfast and lunch. It was basically for the commercial fisherman who kept their boats at the dock.”
Today Gosman’s is an empire with three restaurants. They are Gosman’s Dock Restaurant, Top Side and Inlet Café, and Gosman’s Clam Bar (stand-up and take out). All this is located on 5 acres with well over 800 feet of waterfront.
Ms. Roberta Gosman Donovan, Tate King, and Ms. Iacono have passed on, but their voices live on in my head. These are just examples of the many Hamptons folks I wrote about over the last twenty years in articles about my special place.