Cherry Grove History
Photo’s supplied from Cherry Grove Archives.
History by John Bogack Fire Island Star.
In 1880 Archer and Elizabeth Perkinson open a hotel the Perkinson hotel. It’s a two story, 10,000 square foot structure. The hotel is known for its food, bathing in the bay and particularly the ocean is draw for visitors. It has a few rooms for transient guests to rent on its second floor.1882 author Oscar Wilde is said to have visited the hotel. His visit establishing the existence of the hotel at that period of time and its worthiness for a visit.
Archer Perkinson oversees dune clearing, board walk installation, temporary dock construction, the building of a “sky parlor” wooden structure directly on the beach, swim suit changing rooms on the lower floor, and an overlook atop the changing rooms with an ocean and beach view.
Archer Perkinson is often identified as the owner of the hotel and property and its landlord. Elizabeth for roughly a two year period of time is identified as the proprietor of the Atlantic Hotel (a name the hotel has for a brief period in time) but more often than not she is the implied unnamed “hostess” of the hotel.
All these steps create the core infrastructure of the early Cherry Grove easing access from the Bay for visitors and also easing access to the beach by guests too.
Slowly their business encourages the development of a community surrounding the hotel as a small group of people begin to build private cottages that begins a slow decades long expansion into a much larger community as the hotel becomes a tourist attraction.
It draws visitors from NYC and nearby communities particularly Sayville and Patchogue who reach it by limited ferry service, chartered and private boats.
THE GOOD LIFE 1880’S STYLE
People come to fish in the bay and ocean, partake of food, and drink, picnic and hold clam bakes, bathe in the Bay and Ocean, and hunt nearby for birds their meat put on the menu as meat pies. And much like today they also come to dance and hang out at the bar.
All these actions and consequences establish the Perkinsons as the founders of the Cherry Grove community.
The founding of Cherry Grove begins with the arrival of Elizabeth and Archer Perkinson in 1868-9 on FI at which time they find a standing structure a small home. Some say It is the abandoned home of alleged land pirate Jeremiah Smith built circa 1795. They also find a grove of cherry trees and name the area Cherry Grove. They either lease or buy the house and some portion of surrounding land. They repair and renovate the small house and open a sea shore restaurant that serves sea food to bay men, and visitors from nearby communities such as Sayville and Patchogue. The building is expanded to include a pavilion area and the restaurant is often identified as the Pavilion at Cherry Grove.
Archer is viewed as the manager of the eatery and his wife as its cook.
By 1878 they have solidified their foothold in Cherry Grove by buying a large tract of land stretching from the Bay to the Ocean including a large tract of beach possibly reaching as far as Lone Point in present day FI Pines. If this land had not already been purchased earlier by this time they complete their land holding. But its exact dimension is not completely known. From whom they bought their land also not completely known but often the owners of the Manor of St. George in Mastic are identified as the probably grantors of their land purchase for whatever period of time applies.
In 1894 it is claimed that Archer Perkinson, now slowed by age and his wife sell to their son Stewart the Perkinson Hotel and related land interests and begin their exit from Cherry Grove after being present for nearly two and a half decades.
Stewart is viewed as assuming the role of hotel manager and owner seamlessly. His wife is not mentioned as having a major role in the hotel after its change of hands.
Archer Perkinson will die six years later in 1900 at his home in Patchogue.
After 1885 little is known about Elizabeth Perkinson’s life until her death at her son’s Stewart’s home in Patchogue in 1916.
The first boardwalks were built in 1929. In 1930 Duffy’s Hotel replaced the original hotel and was the only place with electricity and a phone. “Many people had tried their hands at running the hotel after the Perkinson Family gave it up. The Fred Steins (parents of the present owner of our ferries), the Joseph Levys (parents of Ira Levy, Sayville attorney), the Alfred Sykes family, who later operated the Kensington Hotel in Sayville, which was on the site of the old Bohack store, and, just before the hurricane, by the Duffy’s, who had also taken over the Kensington in Sayville. After the hurricane, Mr. Duffy sold the hotel to Arnold Stevens.
The Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed much of Cherry Grove and discouraged main landers from coming. In their stead a new generation started coming from Manhattan including Greta Garbo, Xavier Cugat, Paulette Goddard, Pola Negri, Arlene Francis, and Earl Blackwell (publisher of the International Celebrity Register).
After the hurricane…
Included in that new generation were the growing gay population.
More and more men were finding Cherry Grove. People from the theater, film, and design were drawn to this haven. From the many from the arts came the theater culture that remains today.
Pat’s Ocean View Restaurant. Below owner Patricia Stephani.
Buildings are brought over by boat.
The theater became the center of Cherry Grove culture. Notice Pines Yacht club owner and former Ziegfeld girl Peggy Fears in the cast.
The 1950’s brought the theme parties as many had to entertain in homes to feel freedom.
Duffy’s burned on September 27, 1956. In 1957 construction begins on the Cherry Grove hotel in November and completed in July.
With it’s inspiration coming from Florida architecture, and designed by Carl Stoyle the 64 room hotel begins to take shape at a cost of $250,000. Now owned by a corporation and managed by Arnold Stevens it offers guests the use of its bar/restaurant, dance hall, free docking facilities, music and writing rooms, coffee shop, and a swimming pool which is built the following year at a cost of $20,000.
1959. Postcard greetings from Cherry Grove…
The hotel pool is the centerpiece of the resort.
Beginning his career at the Sea Shack bartender Johnny Pool moves onto the Ice Palace as it is now named with a Fashion show at the pool.
And the parties continued…