Greenport’s Rich History is Alive!

Greenport is one of the most beautiful and historic spots Long Island has to offer, and it’s right in our own backyard – it’s also easily accessible by land, sea and rail.

Most locals have visited Greenport and its fabulous antique shops and delectable restaurants, and may have even attended the Tall Ships Festival. However, few know the rich history of this North Fork village.

Greenport was originally named Winter Harbor. The name then changed to Stirling, in honor of Lord Stirling. It changed again to Greenhill, physically describing the land. When the town leveled the hill, the name appropriately changed once more, resulting in its present name, Greenport.

The village formed around fishing and whaling because of its deep harbor and many whales. Then, around 1860, the village switched from whaling to shipbuilding – over 550 ships were built and launched through World War II.

The construction of the railroad to New York in 1844 really put the village on the map. Steam ferries also helped transport passengers there. Hotels were popping up and tourism was in full swing Scandal in Greenport? I’m sure you think that’s implausible…but yes, during the Prohibition Era Greenport was known for rum-running, causing the Coast Guard to set up shop there.

In the 1970s, the Hargrave family converted some local farmland into vineyards. This began to transform the North Fork into Long Island Wine Country, thus attracting even more people to Greenport.

Greenport’s proximity to the water, farms and vineyards, and the village’s quaint charm, has kept its economy going.

The North Fork’s only weekly farmers market is also located in the heart of Greenport. Strolling along on a Saturday morning, one can view cooking demos, nutrition activities and tables of fresh produce. There are options to keep the whole family happy.

Today, Greenport has several must-see historic attractions, including Mitchell Park, which was completed in 2007. The antique carousel located there is perfect for a fun date or an activity for the little ones, and it’s great for tourists. The fun continues as riders try to win a free ride by grabbing the brass ring. The 40-foot carousel was built in 1920 by the Herschell-Spillman Company, and the Northrop-Grumman Corporation donated it to the village in 1995, according to greenportvillage.com.

Greenport is also home to the Camera Obscura, something unique for everyone’s enjoyment. From the outside the structure does look rather “obscure,” but step inside for a mind-bending experience. A camera obscura is a darkened enclosure with an opening for a lens through which light from external objects enters to form an image of the objects on an opposite surface. The Greenport Camera Obscura is one of a very select few open to the public throughout the entire world.

Mitchell Park hosts a beautiful ice rink for skating during the winter, though it also provides a refreshing mist walk in the warmer seasons.
Greenport’s harbor offers tours on some of its oldest, most magnificent boats. The Mary E. is a 100-year-old, 75-foot schooner. Glory is the only electric passenger boat on Long Island, and the H.M.S Bounty is an 18th century-style tall ship that was used in the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean (loving-long-island.com).

One of the village’s biggest attractions is the annual Tall Ships Festival. Next year, Greenport will host the tall ships fleet on Memorial Day Weekend (May 26 – 28) as part of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series. Visitors will be permitted to board the ships and meet with crews.

Greenport is also home to several interesting and diverse museums: the East End Seaport Maritime Museum, the Railroad Museum of Long Island and The Greenport Jail and Police Museum, a brick jailhouse built in the early 20th century.

Whether you come by boat, train or car, be sure to visit historic Greenport and see what it has to offer in every season.

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