Mount Sinai is a hamlet and census-designated place (CDP) located within the Town of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, New York, United States. The population was 12,118 at the 2010 census. The hamlet is located on the North Shore of Long Island, and is served by the Mount Sinai School District. Mount Sinai's ZIP code is 11766.
The glaciers from the north deposited sediments that now make up the foundation of Long Island. As the global climate warmed, melting ice and flowing waters eroded the dropped glacial sediments into the shape of a land called "Pamanouk", now called Long Island. The island's northern bluffs were interrupted by several rivers and a number of harbors. One of these is now Mount Sinai Harbor.
After the glaciers receded, a barren land became available for habitation. Plants, animals, and fungi settled the landscape. A succession of different ecological communities developed through time on Long Island. New flora and fauna flourished. Human explorers noted these bountiful places on the island. Soon other humans started to establish permanent communities.
Nonowatuck, or "stream that dries up", was the first name given to the area we now know as Mount Sinai. This name was used by the members of the Seatocots family of native Americans who lived here. Numerous archeological sites document that the harbor of Mount Sinai was home for human residents for thousands of years.
An investigation of an archeological site at Hopkin's Landing, on Pipe Stave Hollow Road, yielded features that provided clues to these first residents. Shallow oval basins were lined with fire-cracked rock. The basins contained shell, bone fragments and debitage from stone tool-making. Evidently these first residents enjoyed deer and bay scallops. Charcoal fragments from this site dated back approximately 4,000 years. Thus, native Americans, the first residents of Mount Sinai, lived in a self-sustaining community from about 2000 B.C. until the late 17th century. They were nourished by the bounty of the land and the harbor.
Colonial settlers living in what is now Setauket began negotiations with the local native Americans to buy the lands east of Setauket. At that time the area was called Old Mans (Ould Mans). Finally in 1664 the settlers were successful in obtaining a deed to this land from the Indians. The deed, which is in the records of the town of Brookhaven, reads as follows:
After the initial purchase of land, various parcels of the territory were divided and given to individuals. Other lands were held in common for later subdivision. Once lots were distributed, trading began, allowing individuals to accumulate larger pieces of property in the area. Colonial families settled on these lands and established farms and a few businesses. The purchase and division of the land into private and public land in 1664 laid the foundation for the land ownership and development now seen in the hamlet of Mount Sinai. The vast majority of land is in private ownership, but the town of Brookhaven owns and manages the common lands of most of Mount Sinai Harbor and Cedar Beach.
Hamlet's first name and boundary
The origin of the name "Old Mans" is not known. Several legends exist as to the source of the name. The most prominent concerns John Scott, a notorious wheeler-dealer of the 17th century, and Major John Gotherson, an elderly Englishman looking to buy land in the new world. John Scott assured Major Gotherson he could obtain property for him but never closed a deal even though Gotherson had given him money to do so. "Old" Major Gotherson, living in England, thought he owned the land. He sent representatives to claim the land he thought he owned. The native Americans refused to turn over the land since they hadn't closed a deal with Scott. Local people reportedly started to refer to the land as "the Old Mans" lands as the news of the swindle was discussed.
Although the exact boundary of Old Mans is not known, it is said to have reached from what is now Port Jefferson to Rocky Point. By 1770 the name came to mean the area bounded by the Sound to the north, Pipe Stave Hollow to the east, the area where present-day Route 25A is to the south, and Crystal Brook Hollow to the west.
During the American Revolution, the area and Old's Harbor were under British control. However, because of its remote location the British did not have troops stationed here. Many citizens moved their families to Connecticut during British occupation. During the course of the war, American agents visited local patriots and received information, clothing, supplies and money to support the cause.
Pipe Stave Hollow is located along the eastern border of the hamlet. The brook that "dries up" empties into the harbor at Hopkin's Landing. The name is said to be derived from the many wooden staves which were cut in the area to be used to construct wooden pipes. Pipe Stave Hollow Road winds its way along the harbor and to the beach. During the Revolutionary War, Col. Benjamin Tallmadge used this beach as a landing and hiding place for his eight whaling boats. He set off along Pipe Stave Hollow Road and traveled south to attack the British at Fort St. George in Mastic. The route he and his men took is now marked as a historic trail.
Hamlet's name change and development
In 1840 the people of Old Mans applied for a post office. Evidently Old Mans was not considered a proper name for the area. The name was changed to Mount Vernon. This name was used for only a year as there already was a Mount Vernon in New York. Old Mans was used once again, but for some unknown reason another name change occurred. The name "Mount Sinai" was chosen by the first postmaster, Charles Phillips. Legend says that he took his Bible and a knitting needle; closing his eyes, he opened the Bible and pointed the needle. The name closest to the needle would become the name of the area served by the first post office. Mount Sinai replaced Old Mans and is the name residents have used since 1841/1842.
Building of houses occurred in spurts. Initially most building occurred within a mile (2 km) of the harbor. Few houses were built south of North Country Road until the late 19th century. Much of the land south of North Country Road was owned and cultivated by farmers.
There is no known 17th-century structure still standing. The 18th century is represented by six buildings dating from 1705 to 1790. Certain of these homes have structural elements which date from the early period. The 19th century has the largest number of surviving historical structures. These can be divided into two periods, 1800-1840s and 1880-1890s. Again, some of these buildings incorporated structural elements of earlier periods.
In the first half of the 20th century the pace of building slowed. Although large tracts of farmland persisted, there were small pockets of development around the hamlet. Examples of these are the "colony" of homes built off Pipe Stave Hollow Road, both north and south of Route 25A, and the scattered development on Mt. Sinai and Chestnut avenues. During this time a community was mapped but never developed just south of Route 25A and east of Crystal Brook Hollow Road.
New home construction in Mount Sinai
It was not until the 1960s that housing developments began to occur as suburbanization spread eastward. Lands once farmed, now were used to "sprout" homes for new residents of Mount Sinai. New residents were attracted to the area for the same reasons that the first native Americans settled in Nonowatuck.
The hamlet was peaceful, quiet and rural. The harbor and Sound were nearby and provided a place to enjoy diverse forms of marine recreation.
In 1841 the south side of Mount Sinai harbor was developed into a special care facility for sick and disabled children. This consisted of housing and volunteer workers on a plot bordered by the harbor from Crystal Brook Hollow Road to Shore Road, and as far north as Old Post Road. This location was chosen due to its close proximity to St Charles hospital and care facility. On April 2, 1892, this prime parcel of land was sold to Dr. Jerome Walker, who established the Crystal Brook Park Association which is still owned and occupied today by Mount Sinai's original and oldest private community known as Crystal Brook Park.
Recently, many private communities have been built in Mount Sinai. These communities include Pulte Villages, Island Estates, The Hamlet at Willow Creek, and The Ranches at Mt. Sinai. This rapid growth has replaced much of the farmlands at an astounding rate for the past 5–10 years.