The Town of Brookhaven is the most populous and one 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. Its proximity to New York City facilitated a post-war population boom, leading to its 2010 census record of 486,040 people. It is home to the Stony Brook University and the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
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. Early English settlers farmed, fished, and hunted whales.
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 hamlet Setauket and township 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.
In 1666, Governor Richard Nicolls granted a patent for the town which confirmed title to the lands purchased, and permitted additional purchases. 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.
In 1976, The Brookhaven Town Bicentennial Commission proposed changing the date on the seal to 1655, recognizing the first deed of settlement of the Town of Brookhaven at Setauket on April 14, 1655.
Early 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.
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.
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, including numerous celebrities of the era, during the summer months. 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.
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 Railroad 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.
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.