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Montauk Moment – Finding a Little History at the Beach

July 6th, 2011 · No Brilliant Opinions · Hamptons

I’ve always been a big fan of the laid back feel of Montauk.  While Montauk is home to great beaches, shopping and food,  it is also full of history.  It was a bit overcast today in the Hamptons, so we decided to check out the Montauk Point Lighthouse and Museum.

Montauk Point Lighthouse and Museum

First, a little history.  The lighthouse was authorized by President George Washington in 1792  and was the first lighthouse built in New York State (1796).  It sits high on a site overlooking the ocean, which in colonial times was used by the Montaukett Tribe.  The tribe would light fires to guide their canoes home.

Montauk is also the site of some serious African-American history. The Museum has collectibles from the Native American tribe the Montauketts.  The Montauketts intermarried with Africans, some of whom settled parts of East Hampton.  You can see an exhibit on Native American life in Montauk while at the Museum.

Carved Native American Bowl

Frank Pharaoh - Member of Montaukett Tribe

In July, 1839, Joseph Cinque of the Mende tribe from Sierra Leone, led a rebellion onboard the slave ship La Amistad, off the Cuban coast.  The Amistad landed at Culloden Point in Montauk, Long Island.  The slaves were captured and tried in New Haven, Connecticut court.  They were later represented by John Quincy Adams before the U.S. Supreme Court and finally set free to return to their homeland in 1842.  I heard Big P sigh about climbing the 137 steps to the top of the lighthouse but I was a woman on a mission.  After seeing the movie “Amistad” years ago, all I could hear were those words uttered by the actor Djmon Hounsou – who played Cinque -“Me want free”.   We were going all the way to the top.

Lantern Room Inside the Montauk Lighthouse

View from the Montauk Lighthouse

Love my son's face. Tired of hearing about the Amistad. smh

If you plan on visiting the Montauk Point Lighthouse and Museum, here are a few tips.

  1. Wear flat, comfortable shoes.
  2. There is a minimum height to climb the Lighthouse. Have a plan B for toddlers and babies. There is a grassy area next to the lighthouse that can allow for some impromptu play.
  3.  If you get antsy in tight places, you may want to skip the climb and focus on the Museum.  It gets really narrow at the top and the stairwell is not “plus size” friendly.
Who knew you could learn so much at the beach!  I would love to hear about any “history lessons” you  found in unexpected places while on vacation.  Sharing is caring!



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