Islip, New York – Main Street

Main Streets 2017: New York

Primary credit Doug Kerr
Lily Flanagans Credit Doug Kerr
Primary credit Doug Kerr Lily Flanagans Credit Doug Kerr

Islip goes way back. Over the years, this saltwater town on the south shore of Long Island has been home to Native Americans, fishing and boating families, important clamming and oystering businesses, and wealthy summer people from New York City who built mansions and country clubs, some of which still stand today. The present-day Islip is an inviting suburb, with a highly walkable Main Street that offers excellent shopping and a wide variety of eateries.

There are actually two Islips — the town of Islip and Islip hamlet, one of nearly 20 villages and hamlets within this historic community. Running through the core of town is Main Street, also called Rte. 27A and Montauk Highway. A recent profile in Newsday, Long Island’s newspaper, called this “one of those main streets that make you just want to stroll.”

If you do explore Main Street, you’ll be strolling on layers of history. Centuries ago, this was a settlement of the Secatogues, a subdivision of the Algonguin tribal group. In 1683 a Secatogue sachem, or chief, sold a large plantation to an Englishman who named his property Islip Grange, in honor of his hometown across the Atlantic. The name stuck, and this grew into a town largely supported by fishing and shipping.

After the Long Island Railroad came to Islip in the mid-1800s, the town flourished even more. The Doxsee Clam Company and Blue Point Oyster Company, which by 1900 was shipping oysters all over the world, both started in Islip and became widely known — and wealthy summer people brought more prosperity to town.

Islip’s population quadrupled in the decades after World War II, as this became an attractive bedroom community for New York City commuters. It’s not hard to see why: Islip has beaches, bays, canals and ponds, and quite a bit of noteworthy architecture. An illustrated map, “The Historic Islip Trail”, identifies 31 places of interest, most along Main Street/Rte. 27A.

In Main Street’s central shopping district, you’ll find unique stores to explore. Among them are Balcony Arts and Antiques — “take a peek in the back to see the original stage of the Islip Star vaudeville theatre that was housed there in the early part of the 1900s,” suggested Newsday. When you get hungry, your options on Main range from a bakery and an ice cream parlor to Italian, Greek, Mexican and American diner food. How can you go wrong?

All photos taken by Doug Kerr