Historical Hamptons: A Brief History of Amagansett
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
January 20, 2021
With Martin Luther King Jr. Day this week, it’s an opportune time for our nation to commemorate the civil rights leader and reflect on what he fought for. It’s also a chance for us to pause and appreciate the history all around us. We thought we’d do that in this post with The Roundtree’s home of Amagansett.
Longtime Hamptons resident and licensed tour guide, Bruce Michael, who is the former creative director for the Radio City Rockettes, tells us that, as with all the villages and hamlets of the town of East and Southampton, Amagansett was an Agrarian society, originally founded and owned by families who were descendants of the founding families of East Hampton.
Bruce Michael leading a group to Conscience Point, the location where 8 men, 1 woman and a young boy from Lynn, MA landed June, 1640, making Southampton the oldest English settlement in New York State.
“The Baker, Conklin and Barnes families founded East Hampton in 1648 and eventually moved East to establish the hamlet of Amagansett within the town of East Hampton,” he says.
Amagansett’s oldest house, built in 1725, is Ms. Amelia’s cottage- a short walk from the 250 year-old Roundtree. This property was preserved by the Amagansett Historical Society and is noted for its original colonial furnishings, a Nathaniel Dominy clock as well as the Roy K Carriage Museum in the rear of the cottage.
In addition to farming, whaling and fishing were prime sources of income in the 18th century for Hamptons residents, and the hamlet’s Marine Museum overlooking the ocean on beautiful Bluff Road depicts this history.
After one conversation with Michael, it’s clear that the fascinating facts about Amagansett are endless: near the Marine Museum, for one, is Indian Wells Beach. The Montaukett Indians were the original inhabitants of the area, which they called Amagansett, meaning “place of good water,” and a marker at the beach commemorates this historical fact.
During the 1970’s, Indian Wells Beach was also known as "Asparagus Beach," where throngs of single men and women would congregate on weekends and stand like bunches of asparagus on the lookout for their next date.
East of Indian Wells Beach is Atlantic Avenue Beach. It’s a haven for sunbathers today, but Michael says that it’s in this very spot where four German spies were dropped off by a German submarine in 1942. They ultimately escaped on a Long Island Railroad for New York and were later apprehended. The original Coast Guard station that housed the guardsman who blew the whistle on the “invaders” has been restored and returned to the site.
The Montaukett Indian, Stephen Talkhouse, is among Amangansett’s most colorful locals: a descendant of Chief Wyandanch, he became famous for his roundtrip walks from Montauk to East Hampton and Sag Harbor. He was such a curiosity that in 1867, P.T. Barnum put him on display as “the last King of the Montauketts.”
Today, Stephen Talkhouse is continually honored with his name on the legendary intimate cafe known as one of the great music venues in the Hamptons. A short walk from The Roundtree, the cafe has hosted local musicians since 1987 including Chris Martin, Jimmy Buffet and Sir Paul McCartney. It’s a destination spot and one of the many attractions Amagansett has to offer.
For more of a deep dive into Amagansett’s history as well as the Hamptons overall, Michael is available for private and group tours which can be booked through The Roundtree.