Then & Now – The Story of Hay Beach

HayBeachBookcoverPurchase the book $20
• Directly via HBPOA. Mailing address: PO Box 791 Shelter Island, NY 11964
• Also available at the Shelter Island Historical Society

Introduction from "THEN & NOW - THE STORY OF HAY BEACH

According to Ralph Duvall, author of The History of Shelter Island, “Hay Beach is about the only remote beauty spot on the island that remains unthreatened by the hand of the developer.” (Literary Essay #24 c.1930)

In her recollections, “A Goodly Heritage,” Dorothy Payne Fountain wrote:
I am glad that the Town Fathers of Shelter Island have kept a public access to Hay Beach so that we and our children’s children can continue to lie on the sand and listen to the sea gulls, and sit on the rocks and wait for the tide ... and remember!

Wouldn’t Ralph and Dorothy be surprised to see Hay Beach today? History is all around us on Shelter Island. Most of the communities have long histories associated with well known past residents of the island like Sylvester, Havens or Nicoll. Some have different historic significance like Dering Harbor or The Heights. For years, Hay Beach was simply known as “the woods” or “Down North.” If you ask locals, they remember camping in the area, sometimes they mention orchards or berry picking. Some worked on the roads when the development started. Some remember older relatives discussing the fisheries. Many remember the 24-year debate over Section 9.

Many of the residents of Hay Beach are new to the Island and have come here to share its beauty and solitude on a part time basis. Others have decided to retire in the community and develop local roots. Only a few of the “original” residents of Hay Beach remain. Others of us have been here for over 30 years and still have little, if any, knowledge of the place on the island we choose to call home, other than the fact that we love the remoteness of the area and the trees.

Having put this information together in a matter of months, we are not presenting it as a “be all and tell all” of the history of Hay Beach. We know there is a lot we don’t know and we are sure after our presentation on June 7, 2014 to the Shelter Island community, we will have people telling additional stories and offering more or different information. At that point, we can update our story, if needed. But for now, what we found in our research is that Hay Beach has a very interesting story to tell. We hope you enjoy our tale.

Kathleen Gooding, Ph.D.