Living in Oyster Bay comes with a great deal of pride.Â And it should.
After all, it was home to the summer White House under President Theodore Roosevelt. That’s’ right. The Rough Rider President of the United States ran the country from his hilltop home named Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay every summer, because enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings of his beloved town was too important to give up.
Another local resident who rivals the good Col. Roosevelt in popularity is songwriter and performer Billy Joel. Oyster Bay and other Long Island towns are prominently featured in several of Joel’s biggest hits and he can still be seen cruising around town on one of his custom-built motorcycles from his shop in town, 20th Century Cycles. Having a â€œBillyâ€ encounter is a rite of passage for those of us who live on the North Shore. (One of my favorite Billy moments is featured in my introductory blog post.)
No matter who lives here, the real star of the town is the bay itself. It’s a haven on the North Shore of Long Island for boaters and bathers alike and is home to some of the best shellfishing in the world. The actual incorporated Town of Oyster Bay stretches from North to South touching both the Long Island Sound in the North and the Great South Bayâ€”the only town on Long Island to do so. But it’s the bay that gives the town its name and infamy. And it’s the oysters, of course, that gave the bay its name.
John E. Hammond of the Oyster Bay Historical Society writes that in 1611 two explorers name Adrian Block and Hendrick Christiansen followed famed English explorer Henry Hudson’s trip two years earlier into New York Harbor. Hammond writes that, â€œBlock built a new ship named the Onrust,â€ in 1614 and â€œexplored the East River and into the Long Island Sound. It was probably during this voyage in 1614 that Oyster Bay received its name.â€ Hammond continues, writing, â€œIn June 1639, David Pietersz DeVries wrote in his diary that he â€˜came to anchor in Oyster Bayâ€¦ There are fine oysters here, whence our nation has given it the name Oyster Bay.’â€
The Dutch and other intrepid explorers likely made it to the North Shore of Long Island prior to the excursions of Block and other now immortal historical figures, perhaps as early as the late 15th Century. Every one of these adventurers and later settlers would have found Long Island and the pristine waters surrounding it bursting with shellfish. They would also have found that clams and oysters from the harbor were enjoyed by the indigenous population known as the Matinecock tribe, part of the Algonquin people. Though the Matinecock tribe would be decimated shortly after the arrival of the settlers, the practice of shell fishing and protecting the harbor continues until this very day.