Midway Point Became a Vanderbilt Home Centerport, New York


Beginnings: Matinecocks resided on the Little Neck Peninsula before the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s. The first of these was an English Quaker, Thomas Fleet, who in 1660 built a home by a small cove that still bears his name. White residents gave the community a succession of names: Stony Brook, then Little Cow Harbor about 1700, Centreport in 1836 and Centerport after 1895. The name Centerport reflected the community's position midway between the boundaries of the Town of Huntington. It soon had more mills along the waterfront than any other Long Island community. The hamlet was strongly anti-British during the Revolution, in part because farmers' crops and animals were often plundered. After the war, it was a quiet place with baymen working the waters and sailing vessels carrying grain to mills and leaving with barrels of flour.

Turning Point: The economic pace quickened in the beginning of the 19th Century when Centreport became a summer resort. After the Civil War, the Long Island Rail Road was extended to the area in 1868, and the number of summer visitors mushroomed. In 1888, the Order of Franciscan Brothers set up a summer retreat along the eastern shore of Centreport Harbor north of the mill dam. Mount Alvernia, later Camp Alvernia, was the first Catholic summer camp in the nation. The first major year-round housing development did not come until 1927, when Huntington Beach was constructed with 750 lots along streets named for presidents.

Claim to Fame: Centerport's most famous resident, William K. Vanderbilt II, arrived in 1907 and built his Eagle's Nest estate near the northern tip of the peninsula. After his death, the property with its 24-room Spanish-Moroccan house was donated to the county and was opened as a museum in 1950.

Brush With Fame: Russian-born composer Sergei Rachmaninoff spent the summers of 1940 and 1941 at the former Honeyman estate on Little Neck Road and worked on his final composition, ``Symphonic Dances.''

Where to Find More: The book ``Centerport'' by Harvey Weber.

Copyright 2007, Newsday, Inc.

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