Tucked away on a peninsula along Nassau County’s north shore is a little town called Port Washington. Just five square miles in area, this picturesque village features treelined streets, breathtaking views of Manhasset Bay, beautiful parks, an active community center, a theater, fantastic restaurants and unique shops.
Located just 17 miles from New York City, Port Washington is easily accessible by car, train or boat. Port’s population of about 33,000 represents a multitude of ethnic and religious backgrounds. All share a deep-rooted sense of community pride. It all began with the Matinecock Indians, who called the town “Sin Sink” or “place of many stones.” In 1643, they sold the land to 18 English families from Stamford, Connecticut for a mix of kettles, wampum, lead, gun¬powder, cloth and clothing. The new owners called the land “Cow Neck” after the common pasture they all used. Later, they changed the name to Cow Neck Village and established dairy farming and fishing ventures.
During the mid 1800s, shellfishing became an important industry, as did sand mining. A ferry began service to New Rochelle in 1753, a stagecoach began bringing residents into New York City in 1830, and in 1898 the Long Island Rail Road established a station in Port. Train service brought visitors to the area and helped to establish Port Washington as a bedroom community for NYC commuters.
Today, residents and visitors alike appreciate and enjoy the beautiful waterfront area with its beaches, parks, marinas, art galleries, antique shops, boutiques and free summer concerts – History buffs can visit historic homes and browse through the local historical material and nautical collections of the renowned Port Washington Public Library.
Village history includes some interesting highlights. In 1939, for example, Pan Am flying boats left from Manhasset Bay at Port Washington, the first-ever passenger transatlantic flights! In 1865, sand mining became a major industry, resulting in many of New York City’s skyscrapers being built with “Cow Bay Sand.”
Main Street, which Sinclair Lewis enjoyed during his Port Washington residency of 1914-1915, is the epitome of a small-town village. Trees, flowers, and benches line the thoroughfare. The wide variety of shops ranges from small boutiques to art galleries and antique shops to traditional hardware stores.
If you’re hungry, Port Washington is definitely the place to go. Sit-down restaurants cater to virtually every taste and budget, some overlook the sparkling Manhasset Bay and offer outdoor dining during warm weather months. In addition, there are many delicatessens, bagel shops, pizzerias and cafes.