Welcome to the Kids’ Walking Tour of Sag Harbor! On this tour your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take photos of certain things at each stop, and after you’ve collected them, you will get a free prize at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum! To win it, just show your photos — and you need at least 6 of the photos to win a prize — to the person who works there. You’ll be seeing a lot of amazing things along the way, and sampling a little bit of the history of this very old Village we call home.
Be sure to go to Sag Harbor Kids online for a very full list of the wonderful things you can do here all year round!
The Library Under Construction‡, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Online Games from the Library ^, The Library After the Hurricane of 1938 otherwise known as the Long Island Express*, Ceiling of the Dome of the Library Being Restored ^
The Library features a big crack in the terrazzo floor of the main entrance filled with real bronze. That crack happened in the Hurricane of 1938 on September 21st, when the hurricane (nicknamed the “Long Island Express”) wiped out 57,000 homes. Nobody even predicted it except for one weatherman, and no one believed him. It’s lucky that the Library is still standing!
Your mission here, should you choose to accept it, is to take a picture of a book called “Moby Dick”, by Herman Melville, which is a great story about a sea captain who is obsessed with killing a huge, pure white whale that bit off his leg when he first encountered it. It’s a very famous story and if all the copies of Moby Dick are checked out of the Library when you visit, take a photo of another book about the ocean.
The Library is open Mon - Wed: 10am - 7pm, Thurs: 10am - 9pm, Fri and Sat: 10am - 5pm, and Sun: 1pm - 5pm
Firemen’s Museum,Old Jailhouse Door, Silver Alarm Bell, Mural of the Great Fires of 1915 and 1925 Authentic Leather Fire Bucket
Firemen’s Museum at 46 Church Street
This authentic firehouse dates back to the year 1803, when the Sag Harbor Fire Department came into being. It is the oldest volunteer fire department in New York State!
When you come into the Firemen’s Museum, which is a treasure trove of objects old and new, be sure check out the amazing collection of fire truck toys, and look for the leather fire buckets, which were something every house in Sag Harbor had to have by law in case of fire. People who didn’t have a leather bucket to help the bucket brigade, in which townspeople were supposed to line up with water in their buckets to help put out a fire, were fined 50 cents.
One very special thing in this museum is that you can touch everything! You can even climb into the old fire truck and pull the rope for the fire bell at the top of the stairs. Be sure to take a look at the big mural on the back wall downstairs that depicts the great fires of 1915 and 1925, which could have destroyed the Village!
Your mission at this stop is to take a picture of one of the old leather fire buckets, but if the Museum is closed, instead go right around the corner to the left and take a picture of the heavy metal door and the barred window that was thevillage jail! It was closed because it was considered too cruel and a new Sag Harbor Jail House was built that's now a museum.
The Firemen's Museum is open July 4th till Labor Day 11am - 4pm, closed Wednesdays.
Annie Cooper Boyd’s House*, Annie Herself*, Her Painting of a Windmill, The Meneeley Bell in Front of the House
Annie Cooper Boyd was a painter who lived over 100 years ago who loved painting pictures of Sag Harbor and the landscapes around it. She would go out to paint on a boat, and sometimes on horseback!
The house is REALLY old (dating back to 1796, which is shortly after the Declaration of Independence made America the country it is today), and it’s now the home of the Sag Harbor Historical Society.
There's also a very cool new William Cooper Boat Shop in the back where you can see how whaleboats were built, with all the old tools they used. Annie's father had a whale boat building shop like this.
It’s open every Saturday and Sunday from May through October, and your task here is to take a picture of one of Annie Cooper Boyd’s paintings*, but if it’s closed when you’re there take a photo of the big silver bell right in front, which is made by the famous Meneeley Bell Company. The bell that replaced the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia after it was cracked is a Meneeley bell!
The Sag Harbor Historical Society is open Sat and Sun, May through Sept: 1 - 4pm and by appointment Memorial Day through Columbus day by calling 631-725-5092.
* If you take photos, please don't use flash photography anywhere in the house
The Custom House‡, The Fancy Dining Room, The Children’s Room with Rocking Horse and Squirrel Cage
Custom House at Main and Garden Streets
Sag Harbor was already a thriving harbor village when it became one of the first American seaports to be made an official Port of Entry by the young American government, in 1789. For the next thirty years after that, Henry Packer Dering, U.S. Custom Master, was in charge of meeting the trading vessels and whaling ships that sailed into local waters. In this cool old house, Mr. Dering not only conducted customs business but raised nine children.
Be sure to look at some of the seriously old things in the Custom House. It was quite a fancy house in its time. There’s an old checkers game board downstairs, and upstairs you'll find the children’s room (it’s hard to believe nine children lived here at once!). In that room there are several toys, including a cage for keeping a squirrel as a pet, which was very popular back then, a book for learning the alphabet on the table, and a very old rocking horse.
Your job at this stop is to take a picture of the old rocking horse. If the museum is closed, take a picture of the red front door.
The Custom House is open Memorial Day through Columbus Day. May & June: Sat & Sun, 10am - 5pm July & Aug: 7 days a week, 10am - 5pm Sept & Oct: Sat & Sun, 10am - 5pm
The Museum‡, Celestial Globe, Painting by Cappy Amundsen #, Shark from the Shark! Show #, Tools, Brain Coral
Sag Harbor Whaling Museum at 200 Main Street
This is one of our favorite places in Sag Harbor! It is full of many wonderful and bizarre objects that relate not only to the whaling industry but also to the beauty of the waters that surround Sag Harbor and the sea creatures that live in the ocean. Don’t miss the gigantic whale jaw bone you have to walk under to enter!
In the 19th Century people killed whales in the hundreds of thousands, mostly for oil for lighting lamps, much like we use electricity today, and they greatly reduced the number of whales. It was an extremely dangerous job, and many boats and sailors were lost. The whalers would sail all the way to the other side of the world, and one of the objects you’ll see here is a big brain coral, which looks just like a brain, but when it was alive it was an animal (not a plant!) that lives in tropical waters and feeds on tiny plankton in the ocean.
Now the Whaling Museum is dedicated to protecting animals like whales, and they have frequent interesting shows about sea creatures as well as historical shows that tell you about how people lived at the time when the Whaling Museum was a residence for a famous whaling captain named Benjamin Huntting II (what’s in a name!), who made a fortune in this trade.
Your mission at this stop is to take a picture of thebrain coral.
The Whaling Museum is open Mon through Sun: 10am - 5pm
Old Whaler’s Church‡, The Steeple*, After the Long Island Express*, Trompe l”Oeil Mural §
The Old Whalers’ Church
The First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church from 1844 is one of the greatest buildings in Sag Harbor. It was made to look kind of like an Egyptian temple, and it’s a very unusual style of architecture, called “Egyptian Revival”.
The Church used to have an enormous steeple, 185 feet tall, that was the first thing that sailors out at sea would spot when they were coming back home to Sag Harbor. But when the great Hurricane of 1938 came along (remember the “Long Island Express” from before?), the wind was so powerful that it blew the steeple right off the top of the church and it was never reconstructed.
Take a look at the picture of how tall it used to be with it. There was a famous poet named George Sterling who lived nearby who, when he was a kid, got into big trouble by climbing the steeple with some friends and putting a pirate flag up there. He’s kind of lucky he lived to get punished for it.
When you go in the Church, check out the curved wall all the way at the back behind the altar. And guess what? It’s actually totally flat! It looks curved because of a clever painting trick called trompe l’oeil (which means “fool the eye” in French – you say it like "tromp lay") to make it look curved and to make the Church look bigger than it is.
Your job here is to take a photo of the top of the church where the steeple used to be.
Old Burying Ground‡, Lt Cl Return Jonathan Meigs, Two Old Revolutionary War Veterans’ Graves, Re-enactment of Meigs’ Raid*, Old Photo of the Old Burying Ground with Old Whalers’ Church Behind*
Men With Their Pants Down!
Old Burying Ground: Men With Their Pants Down! at 44 Union Street
Walk right next to the Church into one of the oldest graveyards of Sag Harbor—probably haunted—which used to be a campground for British soldiers at the time of the American Revolution. This is where a really clever battle, Meigs’ Raid, or the Battle of Sag Harbor, happened on May 23, 1777, which was a turning point in the Revolutionary War!
That night 234 American soldiers snuck here in the dead of night, led by Lt. Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs (his real name), coming all the way from Connecticut in whaleboats. A soldier who was there, Christopher Vail, wrote about it like this:
“We proceed down to their quarters where we completely succeeded in capturing the whole force except one man. We burnt all the coasting vessels, which were all loaded and laid alongside the wharf, and a store that was 60 feet long that stood on the wharf.
“The British soldiers had just gotten their pay and many had been eating and drinking heavily. They remained, went drinking etc., and all got pretty well boozy. When we arrived we took 99 Tories. Some had nothing but his shirt on, some a pair of trowsers, others perhaps 1 stocking and one shoe and in fact they were carried off in their situation to New Haven."
So the British were literally caught with their pants down! No one was killed, but the explosion and fire wiped out the whole British encampment.
Your task here is to take a photo of one of the graves of someone who has a flag and a little metal sign that says “1776” on it, meaning that they are veterans of the American Revolution. If you feel ambitious, see if you can find the engraved metal plaque that commemorates Meigs Raid, too, that's right on Union Street.
Goat on a Boat, Bay Street Kids’ Camps, Breakwater Yacht Club, Mashashimuet Park †, Otter Pond †
And other great things to do!
While you are in Sag Harbor, don’t miss some of the great things you can do and see besides what’s on this tour. We recommend the Goat on a Boat Puppet Theater, where they have great puppet plays all year round; Bay Street Theater, which has great kids' summer theater camps; Breakwater Yacht Club, which has junior sailing programs; Mashashimuet Park, a really fun and big park that has swings and tennis courts and baseball games in the summer, and Otter Pond, which is right across from the park on Jermain Street. Otter Pond is a really pretty spot where you can usually see ducks with their ducklings and look for frogs.
Be sure to go to Sag Harbor Kids online for a very full list of the wonderful things you can do here all year round!
Photo Credits: * Sag Harbor Historical Society, # Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum,† Ann Folger, ‡ Michael Heller, § Jeff Heatley ^ John Jermain Memorial Library