Greenport was a major port for its area, having developed a strong fishing and whaling industry in the past, although currently there are only a handful of commercial fishing vessels operating out of Greenport. More recently the tourism industry has grown substantially too, especially in the warm summer months.
Greenport was first settled in 1682. The village was previously called Winter Harbor, Stirling, and Green Hill and was incorporated in 1838. Greenport was once a whaling and ship building village, and since 1844, has been the eastern terminal station on the north fork for the Long Island Rail Road. During Prohibition, rum running and speakeasies became a significant part of Greenport's economy. Greenport's residents knew the waters well and could outrun the coastguard. Restaurants on the east end, including Claudio's in Greenport, served the illegal booze. Many of the village's older structures are included in the Greenport Village Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Police department disbanded
Town residents voted 617–339 in November 1994 to disband their nine-member police department. The department, which was established in 1947, was shut down following a grand jury investigation into a series of scandals. Since the shutdown, police services have been provided by the Southold Town Police Department. In 2005, trustees established a local chapter parapolice organization of volunteer vigilantes, Guardian Angels, to patrol the village.