It is quite a romantic thing – discovering the history of a town. The dilapidated buildings seem to come to life. In fact, you can almost visualize the town’s old inhabitants facing their battles and victories. Knowing a town’s historical events, monuments, and highlights certainly make a visit or move a wonderful experience! Smithtown is a town in Suffolk County within the state of New York, one of the most beautiful of the United States. Smithtown is on the north shore of Long Island, about 45 miles east of Manhattan’s east side.
The Founding of Smithtown, New York
Legend has it that Richard Smith (Smythe) settled Smithtown in 1665 when he won land from a Native American chief. After Smith rescued the chief’s kidnapped daughter, the chief told him he could have all the land Smith could encircle while riding a bull. Smith was given 24 hours to encircle the land he wanted. On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, Smith rode the land and acquired what we now call Smithtown, New York. To commemorate this feat, there is a statue of Smith’s bull, Whisper, at the fork of Jericho Turnpike and St. Johnland Road. Local historians beg to differ. The legend is quite incredible. The historians claim that Richard Smith acquired the land from his friend Lion Gardiner, not from a Native American chief. It is still a beloved story with a famous statue of a bull.
George Washington and the Revolutionary War
In 1776, the British fought to obtain Smithtown in what is presently known as the Battle of Long Island. During the time of the Revolutionary War, between 1776 and 1783, the British occupied Smithtown. Bradley Harris, a Smithtown historian, states that one-third of the people of Long Island were loyalists, one-third were patriots, and the final third were neutral in their stance. Those who were neutral were Quakers. Suffolk County contained the majority of the patriots. It is said that President George Washington visited Smithtown, New York in 1790 during one of his presidential visits. On his way back from Setauket, Washington made a stop at Widow Blydenburgh’s place to rest with his horses.
The Statue of Whisper the Bull
Coming back to Whisper the bull, you may find it interesting that a descendant of Richard Smith proposed the idea of a statue of the legendary bull! In 1903, Lawrence Smith Butler decided he would like a bronze statue of Whisper sculpted by his friend Charles Cary Rumsey. In 1923, the statue was complete, and awaiting shipment to Smithtown. However, it remained in front of the Brooklyn Museum and would later move into storage until 1941, due to a lack of funds for shipping. Butler finally raised enough money for the statue’s shipment, convinced the Town Board to build a pedestal for the bull, and had the statue donated to Smithtown. Mary Rumsey, daughter of Charles Cary Rumsey and wife of the state’s Governor Harriman, had the honor of presenting the statue to the people of Smithtown.
Sightseeing in Smithtown, New York
Besides stopping to see Whisper the Bull, there are a few other exciting sights you should see! Formerly the Smithtown Historical Society’s headquarters, the Caleb Smith House is an exhibition hall full of historical textiles, documents, and costumes. The house of this devout patriot is located in Caleb Smith State Park Preserve. According to Harris, the British chased Smith around Willow Pond because they wanted his buried silver. Despite the destruction of his furniture and abuse done to his family, Smith remained steadfast and loyal to his silver. Apparently, Caleb Smith used a door to shield himself from the men’s swords. You can see the infamous door displayed at the park’s museum. Make sure to take a peek at the mark left on the door by Caleb’s enemy’s sword!
A popular stop for stagecoach riders who traveled from Brooklyn to Sag Harbor was the Epenetus Smith Tavern. This Colonial structure was built before the Revolutionary War, about 1740, and is located on Middle Country Road. You will also find the Frank Brush Barn, built in 1900 by Clinton Darling, on Middle Country Road. The Smithtown Historical Society points out that the barn was employed in the past to house horses and wagons used for funerals and for the fire fighters. The Society holds many events there now, including concerts, dances, and movie nights.
Do you have an interest in Long Island’s agricultural past? Stop at the Franklin O. Arthur Farm where you can also catch a glimpse of the old barn and carriage house. The Obadiah Smith House is a must-see on your visit to Smithtown. It is a surviving example of the building of the Dutch and English in old Long Island structures. During your visit, check out the Old Smithtown Library, a one-room building containing old books, a desk and chair, and pot-bellied stove. The Roseneath Cottage will soon be the new headquarters for the Historical Society. This bungalow, built in 1918, is currently undergoing a complete renovation.
Smithtown, New York Eateries
The restaurants with the tastiest foods are Maureen’s Kitchen, Alpine Pastry Shop, and the Chop Shop. Maureen’s Kitchen, located on Terry Road, is the number one place to order your breakfast plate. Don’t let the cow adornments scare you away, and remember to bring cash. Find American classic cuisine at the Chop Shop Bar and Grill. They serve steaks, pork chops, salads and soups, along with some healthful options for the health-conscious folk. If you’re still hungry after that steak, stop by the Alpine Pastry Shop. This family-run pastry shop is famous for its Italian wedding cakes.
Living in Smithtown, New York
You’ll find some top-rated schools in Long Island – Smithtown High School West, Branch Brook Elementary School, Mount Pleasant Elementary School, and Smithtown Elementary School. For recreation, many of the town’s people enjoy the Harmony Vineyards for some wine-tasting. There are numerous parks on Long Island to explore, offering fresh water fishing, fire places, basketball courts, and baseball fields. Some favored parks located in, or near, Smithtown are Brady Park, Brooksite Park, Burr Winkle Park, Bill Richards Park, and Andreoli Park. You can also enjoy canoeing and kayaking on the Nissequogue River.
During the summer months, the Smithtown Historical Society loves to host movie nights on the lawn at their site on Middle Country Road. They have snacks for purchase. Remember to bring your blanket or lawn chair so you can relax and enjoy the film. If you enjoy jazz music, check out the Smithtown Community Band’s concerts. Every first Saturday of the month, there is ballroom, Latin, and swing dancing at the Frank Brush Barn.
As you can see, Smithtown has a lot to offer that many other cities don’t. This includes house cleaning services, like Saltaire House Cleaning, that use natural products. Many residents of Long Island agree that it is a wonderful place to raise a family. They love the schools and encourage anyone interested in moving to Smithtown or Long Island to visit a few times and fall in love with the area just as they have. Whether you are moving to Smithtown, New York, or just visiting, you will definitely come away with a respect for the town, and an admiration of its beauty and history