A Brief History of the
Village of East Hampton

The Mulford Farm on James Lane was built in the last quarter of the 1600's by Captain Josiah Hobart. A year after his death in 1711, it was sold to Samuel Mulford. The Mulford descendants continued to live in the house until World War II, thus its present name. The East Hampton Historical Society acquired the farmstead in 1948.


By Robert Hefner

The design of the Village of East Hampton today is directly related to the way the settlement was laid out in 1648.

The settlers laid out their plantations in typical Puritan New England fashion with a nucleus of houses and barns concentrated on either side of a wide common and outlying lands divided into lots for growing crops, pasturing livestock, and harvesting salt hay and timber.

East Hampton's broad common, which is now Main Street, was laid out on the plain north of Hook Pond. The common was flanked on either side by home lots of eight to twelve acres each. The home lots extended from the common east to Hook Pond and west to what is now Highway Behind the Lots.

The adjacent fertile plains were divided into lots for crops and pasture. The Eastern Plain extending from Egypt Lane east to Cross Highway was divided into large lots defined and accessed by Further, Middle, and Hither Lanes. Great Plain ran from Hook Pond to Lily Pond and Little Plain from Lily Pond to Georgica Pond.

Each of the proprietors lived at the farmhouse on his Main Street home lot and traveled to a number of scattered outlying lots to tend to his crops and livestock. This pattern continued in East Hampton into the twentieth century and even today farmers utilize some of the same scattered outlying fields. East Hampton is one of the few places where the original design of a seventeenth-century New England agricultural plantation is still so evident.

The discovery by artists of East Hampton's picturesque agrarian landscape in the last quarter of the nineteenth century led to establishment of the summer colony. The intact design of the original settlement provided ample open land adjacent to the Main Street core for new development. The heart of the summer colony extended from the south end of Main Street into the open fields of the Great Plain along Ocean Avenue and Lily Pond Lane.

Main Street home lots were also divided and new roads built through them for new summer cottages on Huntting Lane and Dunemere Lane. During the twentieth century the continued division of the original home lots has resulted in the following residential streets: Fithian Lane, The Circle, David's Lane, Pondview Lane, Dayton Lane, Meadow Way, and Mill Hill Lane.

The Eastern Plain began to be developed early in the twentieth century. Here the large agricultural lots were suited to sizable estates in comparison to the more modest scale of the earlier summer colony on the Great Plains.

Today many landscapes, open spaces, and neighborhoods give the Village its historic character. The Main Street core and many outlying properties are reminders of East Hampton's first 250 years as an agrarian community. Certain landscapes recall the picturesque beauty of nineteenth century East Hampton which inspired the visiting artists who promoted the Village as a summer retreat. The summer colony of unpretentious shingled cottages which grew along Ocean Avenue into the Great Plain developed its own open and informal neighborhood character. The scale and openness of the larger summer estates on the Eastern Plain compliment the few remaining open agricultural parcels.

Although greatly simplified, this summary of the evolution of the Village demonstrates that many remaining open spaces and landscapes have a vital historic and cultural value.

Robert J. Hefner is the historic preservation advisor to the Village of East Hampton. He directed the meticulous, historically accurate restoration of Hook Mill, Gardiner Windmill, and Home Sweet Home, among the finest of the Village's and early America's historic structures. He edited "East Hampton's Heritage: An Illustrated Architectural Record" in association with the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society (LVIS). The book is available through the LVIS at www.lvis.org.

A detailed History of the Village of East Hampton is available as a downloadable PDF file.

For more on the history of East Hampton, call for an appointment to see the Long Island Collection at the East Hampton Library. Marcie Vail is the Head Librarian of the Collection. Also see The East Hampton Historical Collection consisting of lectures, books, photos, illustrations, posters, maps, and a documentary video - all for sale at the Library. You can contact the East Hampton Library at (631) 324-0222 fax: (631) 329-7184, and at www.easthamptonlibrary.org

Historic Preservation

Older than Hook Mill by a few years, Gardiner Windmill was built by Nathaniel Dominy V in 1804 on the East Hampton property of John Lyon Gardiner the seventh proprietor of Gardiner's Island (the first Gardiner spelled his name Lion). East Hampton is home to four historic windmills, more than any other municipality in the United States.

Historic Preservation and Historic Districts

It is the policy of the Village of East Hampton to protect, enhance, and perpetuate landmarks and historic districts in order to promote the economic, cultural, educational, and general welfare of its residents. The village has designated three historic districts with many significant historic, architectural, and cultural resources which constitute its heritage.

The purpose of the village's historic preservation policy is to:

protect and enhance landmarks and historic districts,
foster civic pride in the accomplishments of the past,
protect and enhance the village's attractiveness to visitors,
ensure the harmonious, orderly, and efficient growth and development of the village.

Residents with properties in the village's three historic districts cannot make any change, except normal maintenance, in the appearance of any of the significant exterior elements of their property without first obtaining a certificate of appropriateness from the Design Review Board. See chapter 176 "Preservation of Historic Areas" of the village code for information on the designation of historic landmarks and districts, the requirements for a certificate of appropriateness for construction in historic districts, and the application procedure for a certificate of appropriateness. For more information, call Village Hall.

Articles providing an overview of The Historic Preservation of the Village of East Hampton
are available in a downloadable PDF file.The following articles appear in this section:

"Preserving East Hampton's Heritage"

"Preserving Our Historic Open Spaces"

"Home Sweet Home"

"The Gardiner Home Lot"

"The Gardiner Mill"

"Nathaniel Dominy V: The Legacy of an East Hampton Craftsman"

"Main Street Historic District"

"The Hook Historic District"

"The Hunting Lane Historic District"

"Historic Distric Maps"

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