Montauk [ˈmɒntɒk] is a census-designated place (CDP) that roughly corresponds to the hamlet (unincorporated community) with the same name located in the town of East Hampton in Suffolk County, New York, United States, on the South Shore of Long Island. As of the 2010 United States Census, the CDP population was 3,326. Montauk contains the easternmost point in New York state.
Strategically located at the tip of the South Fork peninsula of Long Island, Montauk has been used as an Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force base. Located off the Connecticut coast, it is home to the largest commercial and recreational fishing fleet in New York state.
Montauk is a major tourist destination and has six state parks. It is particularly famous for its fishing (claiming to have more world saltwater fishing records than any other port in the world) and surfing.
The Deep Hollow Ranch is the oldest cattle ranch in the United States.
In 1637 the Montauketts sided for their own protection with the English in the Pequot War in Connecticut. In the aftermath the Montauketts were to sell Gardiners Island. In 1648 what would become the Town of Easthampton (first Maidstone) was sold to setters by the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven while retaining the lands to the east, from the hills rising above where the first fort stood (Napeague, New York) to Montauk Point. The western boundary of today's Hither Hills State Park is also known as the 1648 purchase line.
In 1653 Narragansetts under Ninigret attacked and burned the Montaukett village, killing 30 and capturing one of Chief Wyandanch's daughters. The daughter was recovered with the aid of Lion Gardiner (who in turn was given a large portion of Smithtown, New York in appreciation). The Montauketts, ravaged by smallpox and threatened by the Narragansetts, and were provided temporary refuge in East Hampton. The Narragansetts declared a war of genocide against the white settlers, and many short but famous battles ensued. The skirmishes ended in 1657. Fort Pond Bay derives its name from a Montaukett "fort" on its shore. A deed was issued in 1661 titled "Ye deed of Guift" which granted all of the lands east of Fort Pond to be for the common use of both the Indians and the townsmen.
Further purchase agreements were entered into in 1661, 1672 and 1686 which, among other things, allowed a group of Easthampton townsmen to graze cattle on the Montaukett lands. While some lands were protected in the agreements as forest land, for the most part all of Montauk was maintained by the townsmen as a private livestock and fisheries operation. As a result of Montauk being operated as a livestock operation it is considered to be the oldest cattle ranch in the United States.
In 1660 Wyandanch's widow sold all of Montauk from Napeague to the tip of the island for 100 pounds to be paid in 10 equal installments of "Indian corn or good wampum at six to a penny". However, the tribe was to be permitted to stay on the land, to hunt and fish at will on the land, and to harvest the tails and fins of whales that washed up dead on the East Hampton shores. Town officials who bought the land were to file for reimbursement for rum they had plied the tribe. The tribe was to continue residence until the 19th century in the area around Big Reed Pond in what was to be called "Indian Fields".
In 1686 English New York Governor Thomas Dongan issued a patent creating the governing system for East Hampton. The patent did not extend beyond Napeague to Montauk. This lack of authority has formed the basis for various control disputes ever since.
The pirate Captain Kidd was said to have buried treasure at the tip of Montauk in 1699 at what today is called Money Pond.
In 1775 during the Siege of Boston in the Revolutionary War, a British ship visited Fort Pond Bay in search of provisions—notably cattle. John Dayton, who had limited troops at his disposal on a hill above the bay, feigned that he had more by walking them back and forth across a hill turning their coats inside out to make it look like there were more of them (a tactic referred to as "Dayton's Ruse").
In 1781 the British while pursuing a French frigate ran aground near what today is called Culloden Point. The ship was scuttled. Remains of the ship were discovered in the 1970s. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only underwater park in the state of New York.
The first hamlet of Montauk was built on Fort Pond Bay near what is the train station for the Long Island Rail Road.
In 1839 slaves who had seized the schooner La Amistad came ashore in the hamlet looking for provisions after being told by the white crew that they had returned to Africa. American authorities were alerted, and the slaves were recaptured and ultimately freed in a historically significant trial.
In 1851 a judgment was entered against the Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of Easthampton, and on March 9, 1852, a deed to Montauk was entered at Riverhead in liber 63 of deeds p. 171 to plaintiffs Henry P. Hedges and others, the claimant equitable owners of Montauk (Proprietors), because their predecessors had contributed the money to purchase Montauk from the native Montaukett Indians in the 1600s. This deed caused the lands covered by the Dongan Patent/Charter to be split, leaving the still unsettled lands at Montauk without government. Less than one month later, on April 2, 1852, a law was passed in Albany incorporating the Proprietors Montauks, establishing the corporation of the trustees of Montauk and affirming its right to govern.
In 1879 Arthur W. Benson paid US$151,000 for for the east end (with Benson only fronting 10% down). The deed was entered on the Montauk Trustee Corporation that had been established at chapter 139 of the Laws of 1852. (The deed releasing claim to Montauk was entered on March 9, 1852.) Benson also got clear title to the Montaukett property at Big Reed Pond, buying it from tribesmen for $10 each, and in one case one of the tribesmen's houses was burned. The legitimacy of the transaction is still being contested in court by the tribe.
In 1882 construction began on seven Shingle-style "cottages" designed by Stanford White, which were the centerpiece of Benson's plans. The most prominent of the six Montauk Association houses is Tick Hall belonging to Dick Cavett.
In 1895 the first train from the Austin Corbin extension of the Long Island Rail Road pulled into Montauk (the land having been bought in 1882). Corbin planned to turn Montauk into a "shortcut" saving a day each way for voyages between New York City and London (ships would dock at the Fort Pond Bay terminal and then passengers would travel by rail to New York City at ). Corbin built the dock on Fort Pond Bay, but the plans never materialized when, among other things, Fort Pond Bay was found to be too shallow and rocky to handle oceangoing ships.
In 1898, after the Benson/Corbin plan did not work out as planned, the United States Army bought the Benson property to establish a base called Camp Wikoff to quarantine Army personnel returning from the Spanish–American War. The most prominent of the returning quarantined soldiers were Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. Several soldiers died during the quarantine, prompting a visit from President William McKinley.
In 1924 Robert Moses began condemning Benson land to establish state parks on either end of Montauk—Hither Hills State Park in the west and Montauk Point State Park in the east. The two parks were to be connected via the Montauk Point State Parkway.
In 1926 Carl G. Fisher bought most of the east end, planning to turn Montauk into the "Miami Beach of the North". His projects included blasting a hole through the freshwater Lake Montauk to access Block Island Sound to replace the shallow Fort Pond Bay as the hamlet's port, establishing the Montauk Yacht Club on Star Island in Lake Montauk, building the Montauk Manor, a luxury resort (pictured to the right), Montauk Playhouse and the six-story Montauk Improvement Building, which today remains East Hampton's tallest occupied building (as zoning ordinances restrict heights of buildings), and established the Montauk Downs Golf Course. Other hotels opening then included Gurney's Inn, built by W. J. and Maude Gurney, who had managed a Fisher hotel in Miami Beach. Fisher lost his fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and most of his enterprises were shuttered.
In the Great Hurricane of 1938 water flooded across Napeague, turning Montauk into an island. Flood waters from the hurricane inundated the main downtown, and it was moved to the south, immediately next to the Atlantic Ocean.
During World War II the United States Navy bought most of the east end, including Montauk Manor, to turn it into a military base. Fort Pond Bay became a seaplane base. The U.S. Army established Camp Hero with guns to protect New York shipping lanes. Several concrete bunker observation posts were built along the coast, including one immediately to the east of the Montauk Lighthouse. Base buildings were disguised so they would appear from above as a New England fishing village.
In 1951 sport fisherman Frank Mundus began to lead charter fishing trips out of Lake Montauk, initially looking for bluefish but soon finding that fishing for sharks was more lucrative. The sport of "monster fishing" became Montauk's signature draw.
On September 1, 1951, the Pelican, captained by Eddie Carroll, capsized in the shoals off Montauk Point, resulting in the deaths of 45 passengers and crew. The Pelican was carrying 64 people, most of whom had taken the Fisherman's Special trains to the Montauk LIRR station from New York City. The boat left the Fishangrila Dock at Fort Pond Bay at 7:30 a.m., severely overloaded. After fishing in the Atlantic Ocean on the south side of Montauk for several hours, it returned home, encountering engine trouble on the way. The weather turned stormy, and a northeast wind developed against an outgoing tide, resulting in standing waves of several feet at Endeavor Shoals, just off the Point. The vessel, wallowing in the heavy seas, became unstable in its overloaded state, capsized and then foundered at 2:10 p.m. Nearby vessels were only able to rescue 19 passengers. The wreck was secured by fabled sport fisherman Frank Mundus and towed into Lake Montauk by the Coast Guard. As a result of the disaster, strict new regulations regarding overloading of fishing vessels were adopted nationwide.
In 1957 the Army closed Camp Hero, and it was taken over by the United States Air Force, which in 1958 built a AN/FPS-35 radar to detect incoming Soviet bombers. A massive building was erected to house its computers. The radar quickly became obsolete.
In 1959, following the Kitchen Debate between United States Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the designers of the kitchen, including Raymond Loewy, announced plans to sell affordable prefabricated houses, called Leisurama, to be used for second homes. One of the houses was exhibited on the 9th floor of Macy's. Two hundred of the houses, the largest installation, were assembled at Culloden Point.
In 1967 the United States Coast Guard announced plans to tear down the Montauk Lighthouse and replace it with a taller steel tower. Erosion had reduced its buffer from the edge of a cliff from when it was built to less than . The Coast Guard backed down after protests.
In 1982 the Air Force base formally closed, and the military began selling its surplus property.
In 1992, Long Island residents Preston B. Nichols and Peter Moon wrote a science fiction novel, The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time (ISBN 0-9631889-0-9), in which it was claimed the radar was used by the government to conduct time travel experiments. Among the claims is that it drove the residents of Montauk mad and that their children were kidnapped. The book and its follow-up books were to expand on many Montaukett tales and other East End stories. The book has been perceived by some to be true, and the base has assumed something of a cult status among conspiracy buffs. It was also featured in a segment of the X-Files television series.
Montauk Friends of Olmsted Parks corporation was established in 1994 to protect an extensive system of beaches and waterfront properties and roadways.
On July 12, 2008, a reported "Montauk Monster" washed up on the shore and was not identified.
Bernard Madoff owned a beach house in Montauk.