The Town of Brookhaven is the most populous of the ten towns of Suffolk County, New York, United States. Part of the New York metropolitan area, it is located approximately 50 miles from Manhattan. It is the only town in the county that stretches from the North Shore to the South Shore of Long Island. It is the largest of New York State's 932 towns (by area with water), and the second most populous, exceeded only by the Town of Hempstead.
Brookhaven is the anglicized name of its first settlement, Setauket. Founded as a group of agricultural hamlets in the mid-17th century, Brookhaven first expanded as a major center of shipbuilding in the 19th century. Its proximity to New York City facilitated the establishment of resort communities and then a post-war population boom. In the 2010 census record Brookhaven contained 486,040 people.
The township is home to two (2) renowned Research centers, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. Combined these two (2) research centers are approximately 50% of the Town's top ten (10) employer's employee count. Tourism is also a part of the local economy. The largest traditional downtowns are located in Port Jefferson, a regional transportation hub, and Patchogue. The area has long been serviced by the Long Island Railroad and Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry.
Origins and etymology
The first known inhabitants were Algonquian-speaking Native Americans, of the Setauket and Unkechaug tribes. The first English settlers arrived around 1640, and in 1655, several purchased Brookhaven's land from its tribal inhabitants. The latter founding year was recognized in 1976, when the Brookhaven Town Bicentennial Commission proposed setting the date on the seal to 1655 in line with this first deed of settlement of the Town of Brookhaven at Setauket on April 14, 1655. Considering this founding year of 1655, Brookhaven is the fifth English township on Long Island following Southampton, Southold, Huntington, and East Hampton.
The Caroline Church in Setauket, was built in 1729 and is the oldest extant church in Brookhaven The first English settlement was named Setauket after the Native American tribe. Brookhaven is the anglicized version of the Algonquin name Setauket. These terms were initially used interchangeably to describe the village or the town. The verbal division between the smaller hamlet of Setauket and township of Brookhaven was not set until well into the 19th century. A point of confusion is the existence of the hamlet named Brookhaven, which was in fact named for the township in 1879. Other names used in the settlement's first decades were Ashford, after Ashford, Kent in England, and Cromwell Bay, for English Protestant leader Oliver Cromwell.
The original land purchase from the native Setalcott tribe that took place in 1655 encompassed the land making up present-day Setauket, Stony Brook, and Port Jefferson. A second purchase in 1664 expanded this tract eastward along the North Shore to additionally include all lands from the Old Mans area (Mount Sinai and Miller Place) to Wading River. Another land purchase in the same year expanded Brookhaven to the South Shore of Long Island.
Brookhaven was integrated into the Province of New York following that colony's establishment in 1664, and in 1666 Governor Richard Nicolls granted a patent for the town which confirmed title to the lands purchased. Governor Thomas Dongan issued a patent in 1686 which granted powers to the town and established a representative form of government. The town seal was authorized at this time. The central element of the town seal, the letter “D”, was designated to the Town of Brookhaven as its official cattle earmark by the Duke’s Laws of 1665. Although no records exist dating to the town seal's original design plan, it is generally thought that the seal's olive branch signified peace and the whaling tools signified the most lucrative business in the Town of Brookhaven at the time. The current seal is a redesign, retaining the original elements, but adding the Town of Brookhaven and its 1655 date of settlement.
Early English settlers farmed, fished, and hunted whales. Brookhaven was largely agrarian, with each hamlet being limited to a handful of families yet containing miles of land. This economy was supplemented in coastal sections with fishing. A major commercial center did non exist in Brookhaven until the early 19th century.
Brookhaven was founded primarily by English colonists that partook in the settlement of Southold, New York, and was likewise under the jurisdiction of the theocratic New Haven Colony in the modern state of Connecticut. Brookhaven was transferred to the more secular Hartford-led Connecticut Colony in 1662. Following the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the new English colony of New York laid claim to Long Island and brought Brookhaven into its jurisdiction.
Revolutionary War Era
During the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, Brookhaven and the rest of Long Island were captured by British forces, and many residents sided with the British as loyalists to the English crown. Nevertheless, Brookhaven had multiple episodes of celebrated American activity during the war. This included the actions of the Culper Spy Ring, a spy network working for George Washington that largely consisted of Brookhaveners working in occupied territory. Another episode was Benjamin Tallmadge's successful raid from across Long Island to the British stronghold at the Manor St. George, wherein his raiding party rowed from Connecticut to Cedar Beach and marched across Long Island, culminating in the Battle of Fort St. George and burning of the defensive structure. A more minor skirmish occurred within the settlement of Setauket, where the British had repurposed the local Protestant church as a fortress. Gunshots were fired and some bullet holes remain within the walls of the adjacent Caroline Church.
In the mid-19th century, several communities in Brookhaven prospered as shipbuilding ports. The most successful of these are the villages of Port Jefferson and Patchogue, which remain the township's most bustling traditional downtowns. Whaling and cordwood industries also developed in Brookhaven.
Railroads reached Brookhaven in the mid-19th century, beginning in 1843 with trains reaching inland to Ronkonkoma. The earliest equivalent to the North Shore's present-day Port Jefferson Branch began operation in 1873. The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry has been operating between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Connecticut since 1888 and was partly founded by legendary circus-master P.T. Barnum.
From the end of the late 19th century until the middle of the 20th, many communities along the North Shore and South Shore became successful resort towns. These hosted many urban residents from nearby New York City, including numerous celebrities of the era, during the summer months. Meanwhile, many rural sections across Brookhaven served as campgrounds for youth clubs.
During the Gilded Age, Brookhaven underwent some of the same changes that affected Long Island's Gold Coast. Waterfront areas along the North Shore, including Belle Terre and Old Field, transformed from small fishing communities into fashionable and exclusive enclaves of the moneyed elite.
A variety of notable research occurred in Brookhaven around the turn of the 20th century. Inventor Nikola Tesla had a research center in Shoreham, which featured the large Wardenclyffe Tower. As of 2016 this site is being renovated as the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. Guglielmo Marconi opened one of the world's largest radio facilities, known as RCA's Radio Central, in Rocky Point.
In the post-war era, Brookhaven experienced a massive population boom. This was partly due to its proximity to New York City along the Long Island Rail Road and the highway system of Robert Moses. The township's most internationally renowned institutions, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Lab, both date to the years following World War II.
During the mid-century, a number of major transformations were conducted by philanthropist Ward Melville in the Three Village area (The Setaukets, Stony Brook, and Old Field). Melville, an Old Field resident and owner of what later became CVS Corporation, used his fortune to transform Northwestern Brookhaven to his vision of an idealized New England-style region. To this end, he ordered the construction in 1939 of the Stony Brook Village Center, a picturesque commercial center set on village green in Stony Brook, with clapboard buildings designed to look as if they had colonial origins. In 1962, Ward Melville donated 400 acres of land for the relocation of now-named Stony Brook University from Oyster Bay.
Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) sits on the site of Camp Upton, a United States army installation that was used as a training ground in World War I and World War II by thousands of soldiers including composer Irving Berlin. In 1946 ownership of the grounds was transferred for use by the new national laboratory, which began operating the following year. Brookhaven researchers have since made such diverse contributions as patenting Maglev, designing one of the first video games, detecting the first solar neutrinos, designing pollutant-eating bacteria, creating the first PET scan, and various contributions to particle physics. The laboratory contains the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and the National Synchrotron Light Source. Noted physicist and Nobel laureate I.I. Rabi was instrumental in the national laboratory's establishment.
Brookhaven is located centrally on the geographic Long Island and extends from the North Shore to the South Shore. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 531.5 square miles (1,376.6 km²), of which 259.3 square miles (671.6 km²) is land and 272.2 square miles (705.1 km² or 51.22%) is water. It is the largest town in New York in terms of total area. Excluding water, however, there are four towns in the state with more land area: Webb in Herkimer County, Long Lake in Hamilton County, Arietta in Hamilton County, and Ohio in Herkimer County.
Brookhaven is bounded to the north and south by the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Riverhead and Southampton lie to the east, and Smithtown and Islip lie to the west.
A large part of Fire Island (accessible by a bridge at Smith Point) and the Great South Bay are in the town.
Bald Hill, a large hill in the hamlet of Farmingville, marks where the glacier which formed Long Island stopped. At the top of Bald Hill is a Vietnam veterans memorial. Telescope Hill, to the west of Bald Hill Cultural Park, is slightly taller at 334 feet (102 m) above sea level and the highest point in the town.
Brookhaven is the home of Stony Brook University, which moved to Stony Brook from its original Oyster Bay campus in 1962; the university has since become the town's largest employer. The town is also home to the first and largest campus of Suffolk County Community College, located in Selden.
Communities and Locations
Mastic Beach (Being dissolved at the end of 2017)
|Calverton (mostly in Town of Riverhead)||Moriches|
|Canaan Lake||Mount Sinai|
|Center Moriches||North Bellport|
|Cherry Grove||Ocean Bay Park|
|Coram||Port Jefferson Station|
|Cupsogue Beach||Rocky Point|
|Davis Park||Ronkonkoma (mostly in Town of Islip)|
|East Shoreham||Sound Beach|
|Eastport (partially, with Town of Southampton)||South Haven|
|Fire Island Pines||Strongs Neck|
|Hagerman||Wading River (mostly in Town of Riverhead)|
|Holbrook (mostly in Town of Islip)||Water Island|
|Holtsville (small part in Town of Islip)||West Manor|
|Lake Ronkonkoma (small parts in Towns of Islip and Smithtown)||Yaphank|
|Manorville (small part in Town of Riverhead)|
Baseball Heaven in Yaphank
Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Baiting Hollow
Manor of St. George in Smith Point
Old Field Point LightHouse in Old FIeld
Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove
Smith Point County Park in Smith Point
Southaven County Park in Southaven
Splish Splash Waterpark in Calverton, New York
Stony Brook Village Center
Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley
William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach
Long Island Rail Road has three (3) lines running through the Town of Brookhaven. The Main Line includes Ronkonkoma, which not only serves as a major transportation hub, but is also located on the Islip-Brookhaven Town Line. It also contains stations in Medford, and Yaphank. The Montauk Branch includes stations in Patchogue, North Bellport, Mastic, and also had one in Center Moriches until 1998. On the opposite side of town, the Port Jefferson Branch contains two (2) stations as it enters from the Town of Smithtown; One (1) in Stony Brook along the northern edge of SUNY at Stony Brook and one (1) along Main Street in Port Jefferson where the line terminates.
The Town of Brookhaven is served primarily by Suffolk County Transit bus routes, although the Village of Patchogue has its own bus service.
|New York State Route 25A|
|New York State Route 25|
|New York State Route 24|
|New York State Route 27|
|County Route 16 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|Montauk Highway, including County Route 85 (Suffolk County, New York) and County Route 80 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|County Route 97 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|County Route 83 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|New York State Route 112|
|County Route 46 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|County Route 51 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|County Route 111 (Suffolk County, New York)|
|New York State Route 347|