Since the 1870s out of town residents have built summer homes along the south shore, in order to escape the oppressive heat and high population density of New York City. The most popular communities for summer homes were Freeport, Point Lookout, Long Beach, Babylon, Oak Beach, Fire Island, Bay Shore, Patchogue, Blue Point, Bellport, Brookhaven hamlet, Bayport, Oakdale and Sayville. Generally the homes lined the streets closest to the waterfront. Unlike today’s modern families, most summer residents lived at the house continuously during the summer, with husbands and fathers joining their families on the weekends. They also joined clubs, taking sailing trips to Fire Island and High Hill and later Jones Beach on one of the local ferries, going swimming at one of the nearby beaches, sometimes renting a cabana.
Most of these homes were later converted to year-round use, but there are well-preserved examples of these structures that include bungalows with exposed roof rafters, Spanish colonial homes with clay roof tiles, Victorian houses with wrap-around porches and turrets, Colonial Revival waterfront residences with wood shingle sheathing and expansive verandas and other traditional variations on popular architectural styles.
There are numerous summer homes in the Village historic district and other parts of town. Examples include bungalows located at 19 & 21 N. Howells Road, named after Captain Josiah Howell who lived in Bellport in the early 1800s; 2 Circuit Road which was part of a bungalow community built c. 1933; and 14 Brewster Lane built c. 1910. In addition there is a small group of cabanas at the foot of Snedecor Avenue that date from the 1920s.
- Blue Point
Many of the historic summer homes date from the late 1800s, when members of the Baptist church used 14 Atlantic Avenue, built c. 1880, as a changing room for baptisms at the local beach. Eventually more people used the bay for swimming and other recreational purposes. The house was owned by the Davis family and rented out for summer use. The summer community continued to grow, especially with the extension of the railroad and the development of the automobile. According to local historian Gene Horton, Blue Point reached its peak during 1910-15, as did neighboring communities. Painter William Glackens who summered at Blue Point between 1911 and 1916 captured the spirit in his works “Beach at Blue Point” and “Beach Umbrellas at Blue Point.” Various hotels lined the shoreline including “Avery’s 5 Mile Look Summer Hotel” and “Stillman’s Hotel.” While some houses were built on the shoreline, most were located near the main commercial fare Blue Point Avenue. However there are several 19th century summer homes on Atlantic Avenue including 14 and 26 Atlantic Avenue, which was originally located in West Sayville and moved to its present site in 1946.
- Brookhaven Hamlet
Brookhaven Hamlet was originally the home of farmers and baymen, boat builders and other residents. There are several examples of summer homes, mostly built in the 1920s and later. 27 Astor Place is an excellent example of a traditional bungalow with wood clapboard siding, modest 1½ story height, eave front façade with an integrated screen porch and matching garage. Similar examples can be seen at 5 & 6 Library Lane, 4 Marydale Lane, 17 Ocean Place and 13 Locust Road. A larger summer residence can be seen at 260 Beaver Dam Road, a c. 1930 home which sports front and rear porches, a wood shingled outbuilding and landscaped property. A similar structure is located at 178 Old Stump Road. A classic residential bungalow is located at 269 Beaver Dam Road featuring an integrated open porch with wood pilasters, shingled apron, gable roof dormer windows with exposed roof rafters and historic casement windows, framed by ornamental landscaping and a streetscape of historic trees. Another excellent example can be seen at 25 Locust Road.
- Patchogue & East Patchogue
With the arrival of the railroad numerous families began building summer homes, due to the increasing ease that the families could travel to Patchogue from New York City. The first group of homes was very large and substantial. In the period after World War I, in the 1920s primarily, more modest summer homes were built by various developers. These included the houses along Gilbert and Cedar Street that were part of the “Brall Villa” development of 1918, as well as the homes at 15 & 17 Maiden Lane. These homes were typical of the bungalow movement that swept the country. The homes architectural styles are modest in size, with open porches, dormer windows, and brick fireplaces, fronted by decorative picket fences. These particular examples are well preserved with few changes, as are others throughout the community. Although they were built as summer homes, they were converted to year round use in the 1950s. Other well-preserved bungalows include 23 Maiden Lane, 195 Cedar Avenue, 2 Gilbert Street, 2 Rider Avenue, 306 Conklin Avenue and 15 Pitt Street.
Generally the historic homes south of Montauk Highway were built as summer homes, on what was once the Frank Jones Estate. Buildings from the estate include 7 Benson Avenue, 211 Handsome Avenue (the Capel House), 221 Handsome Avenue (Robert Nunns’ house) 254 and 299 Handsome Avenue. In addition there were numerous summer houses built on Foster, Candee and Erwin Avenues. They include 88, 111, 125 & 175 Candee Lane; 107,120, 179, 214 & 381 Foster Avenue; 13, 32, 46, 47 and 50 Erwin Avenue. However there is a traditional bungalow at 52 Brown River Road facing Great South Bay.
As these brief summaries show, there are a wide variety of styles in historic summer homes that continue to reveal the complex decisions made by local builders in designing waterfront community residences. It is important to note that none of these villages have a local waterfront historic district listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places with the exception of Bellport Village. As result these homes and thousands of others are at risk for alteration, demolition and replacement.