A new era has engulfed Sag Harbor. Many old homes have been refurbished, including major expansions. Former “captains’” homes are prized possessions. Sag Harbor has not been either a “whaling town” or a so-called “factory town” since the last century.
I was born in Sag Harbor with a “stolen” spoon in my mouth. Most likely, it was a reject taken from the local Fahy’s Alvin Silver Company factory. Many “locals’” tableware sets consisted of odd pieces of tableware. In a home I once purchased in Sag Harbor, found in the back of a kitchen drawer were coin silver spoons (Payne), and serving pieces with various Howell initials (“A.H.,” whaling captains, etc.). You just never know.
At the decline of the whaling industry, a new steam cotton mill was built in Sag Harbor (1850). The new mill employed many Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine (1845-52). Work in this mill provided income for my great-great-grandfather and his family. Patrick Kelly worked as a cotton picker, migrating to America about 1852.
This mill closed, burned down, and the site lay vacant until Joseph Fahy built his watchcase factory. In 1881, he moved his business, including factory workers, from Carlstadt, New Jersey. My grandfather (Louis Browngardt) accompanied the factory move. Other newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe joined the workforce in Sag Harbor.
The port of Sag Harbor provided another gateway for new residents. My grandfather (Theodore Schwab) worked as steward on the Brooklyn-Long Island paddlewheeler, the Montauk. He met my grandmother, who was working at the Hotel Bayview, in early 1900. Later, he worked on E.W. Bliss’s torpedo observation ship, the Emblane, home-ported here in the early 1920s.
The local Bliss factory (later used by Agawam, Grumman, now the Bay Street Theater, etc.) again drew new residents. Sag Harbor Grain Company, Eaton Engravers, Edison Industries, Bulova, Sag Harbor Industries, and other factories supported local housing. Arthur Griffing ended up owning a brickyard located on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. My father (Arthur Browngardt) bought the Griffing house on Palmer Terrace, complete with a red brick sidewalk. The bricks are impressed with the Griffing name.
All my ancestors migrated to Sag Harbor for work. Today, Sag Harbor draws immigrants of a different type. Still a great place to live, raise a family, have a second home, etc.
Although I now live in Cleveland, Ohio, Sag Harbor is still my home!
What time is it? Of course, it’s “BULOVA WATCH TIME,” as anyone living in Sag Harbor in the 1950s would know!
Richard BrowngardtCleveland, Ohio
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One fine body…