Bay Houses, located just south of the mainland, are a reminder of days gone by. Beginning in the 1700’s, individuals leased plots of marshland in the bay from the Town of Hempstead. Lessees built small cottages that afforded them shelter during periods of activity on the bay. Early “shacks” were built with driftwood or mainland lumber out of necessity by baymen-fishers, hunters and the like. Later on, recreation-seekers became the majority of bay houses tenants.
No one knows exactly when the first bay house was constructed, but historical records indicate that marine and waterfowl hunters, as well as individuals collecting salt hay for sale to farmers, built simple, temporary lodging on the marshes in Hempstead Bay as early as 1680.
By the 1920’s there were about 300 bay houses in Hempstead Bay. Due to the poor state of many structures, storm damage, environmental concerns, and vandalism over the years, only 28 bay houses remain today.
The houses can only be reached only by boat, and can only be transferred within the family or to a designated caretaker who shares the lease with a current owner.