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Brush Up on Long Island’s Presidential History

February 10, 2021

From General George Washington to Barack Obama, Long Island has played host to U.S. President’s since the country’s origins. This President’s Day travel back in time with a few of Long Island’s most notable presidential moments and Culper Spy Ring which turned the tide of the American Revolution.

GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE

Did you know the popular AMC series TURN is based on actual events that took place on Long Island during the late 1700’s? Historic sites from Long Island’s Three Village area take you back to the days of 1778 when the region was a hotbed of intrigue under British military occupation.

Travel along Route 25A, the Long Island Heritage Trail which served as the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolution. President George Washington traveled this same route in a 1790 horse-drawn carriage tour on a mission to thank his Long Island supporters and spy ring for their help in winning the American Revolution. According to his own personal journal, President Washington spent the night at the Sagtikos Manor in Bay Shore during this trip, and it is also where British soldiers and top ranking officers stayed.

CULPER SPY RING

Raynham Hall: The 1738 structure was the home of Robert Townsend, who joined George Washington’s intelligence network in 1779 under the alias of Samuel Culper, Jr. Townsend formed the first link in a chain of agents who came to be known as the Culper Spy Ring. Using a special invisible ink formula as well as an elaborate numeric code, the spies supplied Washington with critical information via courier to Setauket, Long Island, whence the messages would be carried by whaleboat to the shores of Connecticut, and from there to wherever Washington was headquartered at that moment. Once received, the message would be revealed by Washington with the use of a re-agent solution that would make the message reappear. Robert Townsend kept his involvement in the Culper Spy Ring a total secret from his family and friends for the remainder of his life. Robert’s involvement in the Culper Spy Ring was not uncovered until the 1930s, when historian Morton Pennypacker hired a well-known handwriting analyst to prove the true identity of Culper Junior.

Brewster House: Built in 1665 and considered the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven, the Brewster House was home to six generations of Brewsters. The house has transformed over the centuries from the one-room cottage to its present saltbox structure. During the American Revolution, Joseph Brewster operated the house as a tavern and general store, entertaining British troops inside. American Patriot Caleb Brewster, cousin of the Joseph Brewster and presumably a frequent visitor to the house, was a member of George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring during the Revolutionary War. Today, the Brewster House is owned and operated by the The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and is open to visit. We wonder if Joseph Brewster was a spy for Washington as well, with British soldiers all around him, eating, sleeping and drinking – he was in the perfect position to gather intelligence.

Mirabelle Tavern at Three Village Inn: The Three Village area is full of hidden intrigue and stories of how America’s first spy ring secretly came together to provide General George Washington with the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution. Scheduled for September 18, 2021, Culper Spy Day, is a dedicated day in which you will have the chance to visit the places where history was made and visit with area groups to learn about the patriots who risked their lives. Culper Spy Day is a collaboration of local historical and cultural organizations that host diverse events to tell the amazing history behind the Culper Spy Ring. After your tour, stay overnight at the Three Village Inn with cottages named after the spies.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT LIVED HERE

Born and raised in Oyster Bay, President Theodore Roosevelt called Long Island home from 1885 until his passing in 1919. Visit Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, originally constructed by President Roosevelt in 1884 to serve as his “Summer White House.” The 23-room Victorian mansion is now home to interactive exhibits and programs that take you through Roosevelt’s life.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT WAS GOVERNOR HERE

Not only was Franklin Roosevelt the 32nd President, he started as governor of New York State. President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the opening of Jones Beach State Park, where he was a principle speaker at the opening day on August 4, 1929. You may spot the West Bath House at Jones Beach which Franklin Roosevelt helped construct in 1930.

In addition to its historical past, Jones Beach has much to offer, from iconic summer concerts at Northwell Health Theater, the famed holiday light show and of course, the actual beach itself.

BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE WAS HERE

In October 2012, those lucky enough to garner a desired seat watched 44th President, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney debate right here on Long Island at Hofstra University. Located in Hempstead, the university has been the proud host of three Presidential debates, including the most recent election in 2016, making it the first university to ever host three consecutive debates.

MORE PRESIDENTIAL SIGHTINGS

1659 – John F. Kennedy at The Garden City Hotel
1984 – Ronald Regan at Mitchel Park in Uniondale
1999 – Bill Clinton vacationing in East Hampton

Looking for more on Long Island History?

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