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Nov 23, 2010 10:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

A Brief History Of The Canoe Place Inn

Nov 23, 2010 10:31 AM

HAMPTON BAYS—If developers follow through on threats to demolish the Canoe Place Inn, they would be tearing down a structure with a rich and colorful history, despite the fact that the Montauk Highway building has never earned the distinction of being an official historic landmark.

The original Canoe Place Inn, which burned to the ground on July 5, 1921, predated the Revolutionary War, and both that building and its four-story replacement, constructed in 1922, were visited by scores of famous guests spending time in the Hamptons. And, according to some locals, ghostly apparitions still often appear from behind the inn’s weathered windows, just as they have done over the past three-plus centuries.

According to Brenda Berntson, president of the Hampton Bays Historical and Preservation Society, the current Canoe Place Inn, even at 88 years old, could very well be the “oldest hostelry” on Long Island, as well as the most historic structure in Hampton Bays and, possibly, all of Southampton Town. Her organization’s records show that the original building was constructed sometime between 1635 and 1640, and redesigned circa 1750. It was later used as a headquarters for British army officers during the Revolutionary War, which began in 1775.

The land the inn stands on was bought by Jeremiah Culver, the son of one of the earliest settlers of Hampton Bays, in 1739, according to the Historical Society’s records. Mr. Culver lived in a house on the property until after the Revolutionary War, which ended in 1783. The property was called the “Canoe Place” because it was a popular location for Native Americans to launch their canoes and access Shinnecock Bay. The area was also a popular spot for stagecoach drivers and Pony Express riders, according to records.

In 1902, the Canoe Place Inn was owned by the Buchmuller family, owners of the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. According to the Historical Society, Ernest Buchmuller decided how much a person would pay to stay at the inn based on the model of car that they drove.

The inn was under the ownership of Julius Keller in 1917 when it became a popular destination for celebrities, such as actresses Helen Hayes and Lucille Ball, and politicians including former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At that time, the inn also boasted its own Long Island Rail Road train stop so guests traveling from the west could walk to the building. Canoe Place Inn was also a popular destination during Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, as its shelves were steadily stocked by bootleggers, according to Historical Society records.

On July 5, 1921, the original Canoe Place Inn burned to the ground and the source of the fire was traced back to the kitchen, according to Ms. Berntson. A New York Times article from the day after the fire stated that two employees—Florence Whittington, a maid, and Richard Heineman, a cashier—died in the blaze and three guests, as well as a maid, jumped out of windows to escape their deaths. According an article in Connecticut’s Naugatuck Daily News, dated July 5, 1921: “The bodies were found in the ruins. Ms. Whittington appeared at a third floor window but onlookers were powerless to save her. The fire caused $50,000 loss.”

The room where Ms. Whittington met her demise is one at the center of speculation regarding a ghostly light and figure that supposedly haunts the building to this day. Hampton Bays Historical Society Trustee Joe Giaquinto, a paranormal investigator who lives in the hamlet, said that while he has never seen spirits there himself, he is familiar with the building’s reputation for paranormal activity.

“I don’t have any specific personal knowledge of the spirits of the Canoe Place Inn,” Mr. Giaquinto said. “I have heard that it’s haunted, I would love an opportunity to investigate. “[I’ve heard of] strange things going on—slamming doors, apparitions.”

A year after the fire, the inn was rebuilt as it appears today, on the foundation of the original structure, according to Ms. Berntson. Still, some believe that the spirit of Ms. Whittington continues to haunt the inn; according to folklore, strange light is often seen coming from windows on the now vacant second and third floors, including near the window where she was standing during the last minutes of her life.

The rebuilt inn opened its doors sometime in 1922 and, since then, has hosted a variety of entertainers including Duke Ellington, Jefferson Starship, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and The Ramones, according to the society.

For many longtime Hampton Bays residents, the Canoe Place Inn was a place to attend school proms, weddings and reunions. For Ms. Berntson, a former Girl Scout, the structure still holds special significance. “My fellow Scouts and I were awed to be able to use the ballroom for our event,” she said. “Memories, to me, are why the Canoe Place Inn matters.”

The inn is a relic and, recently, one that is showing its age. A recent walk-through of the building, whose first floor has served as a nightclub, revealed abandoned rooms, mattresses ripped apart by raccoons and a crumbling interior, including a collapsing floor. Dirty clothes, broken suitcases and human feces—left behind by squatters who often seek shelter inside the inn’s 28 guest rooms—were strewn about the building’s second and third floors, which lack electricity. The inn’s old suite are the only rooms that occupy the fourth floor. Also, vines have made their way through windows, doors sag off their hinges and decades-old dust fills the air, making it hard to breathe.

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yeah it's a great old building and it would be nice to see it restore . but who has the money to put into it. and then to have a business that will last one year and can make someone money
By ranger (54), westhampton beach on Nov 24, 10 7:30 PM
Why would it last one year? The owners are willing and able to restore the Inn completely. What is the down side to that?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 25, 10 8:58 AM
works for me . i was just saying can a business make money there. i worked doing alot of restoration job's out on the eastend on bar's & restaurants . and most of the places come and go .
By ranger (54), westhampton beach on Nov 25, 10 9:29 AM
I understand your concern. The developers are smart. I know that they have researched and decided they think this can work. Given the $$$ they are investing and the $$$ they have as support, I am willing to believe they've done their homework.

Unfortunately, many go into bars & restaurants and don't know what they are getting into. It ain't easy!

Of course, the fact that there isn't a catering facility like this in the immediate area, and only a few outside of that, should ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 25, 10 10:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
It only works if they get their 40 condos... without them they can't make $$. They threaten to "build on both sides of the canal" as zoning allows - but zoning only allows of resturaunts (for all intents and purposes) without getting a special exemption from the Town Board. They're not going to knock down 2 restauraunts and Altinkirchs (spelling?) to build more restauraunts....

Additionally, they have said if they can't get someone to run a catering hall, the town would buy it with ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 11:46 AM
Sorry but that whole area over there is a fire trap. the cpi the boarded up house next door and across the street. Hampton Bays has to be cleaned up
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Dec 1, 10 1:32 PM
Is there any sign that an agreement between the Rechlers and the Town that would preserve the Inn is still possible? The eviction, boarding and cutting of utilities sure seems like a decision by the Rechlers to me.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Nov 26, 10 9:41 AM
Yes there is. Recently there was a meeting with the Rechlers, some local community members and Jim Malone from the Town regarding the Rechlers hopes of restoring the Inn. They have written an open letter to the community, which is being circulated, at their request, but is too long to be posted here.

You can read the letter at:


Or by going to the Hampton Bays Historical Society's website, click on the Canoe Place ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 26, 10 5:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
I just read the Rechler's letter, and am delighted with what they have proposed. Anyone who values the history of the Inn would be crazy not to support this proposal! It is a Win - Win deal for Hampton Bays.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Nov 26, 10 11:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
I also believe it is a Win-Win.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 27, 10 8:45 AM
Can you explain who "wins" when they construct 40 "luxury town homes" on 4.5 acres on the Shinnecock Canal under the guise of a PDD with the public benefit (which is required) being a walkway along the canal "open to the public"? The walkway would be quite inconvenient as the site is bordered by Montauk hwy., North Hwy. and a train tressle - and the public already has all the entire West side of the canal to walk along and fish from.

Because approximately .5 acres of the site is under ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 11:43 AM
2 members liked this comment
"the public benefit (which is required) being a walkway along the canal "open to the public"? The walkway would be quite inconvenient as the site is bordered by Montauk hwy., North Hwy. and a train tressle - and the public already has all the entire West side of the canal to walk along and fish from. "

I agree 100% with this statement. But, if you had attended the various meetings you would have heard the community demanding that they have a public walk way, they don't want to lose access ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 1:11 PM
My point is that who is going to access it - and from where? There won't be any public parking available (the site would require at minimum 80 parking spaces and with need for an STP and restrictions due to wetlands, there won't be a place for extra parking - my guess is they'll need a significant parking variance) so how will the public access it? It's not too safe to walk along Montauk Hwy, North Hwy or the Train Tressel to get there so I don't see it getting any real use.

I understand ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 1:15 PM
It may be pathetic, but that is what the community asked for. Every meeting the same point came up...we'll lose access to the canal. So, they got the access to the canal. I'd hazard a guess that the same amount of people who walk that part of the canal now will walk it then.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 6:58 PM
The old OBI it was a great place to work and a great place to party...Twisted Sister, Good Rats...tons of great New York bands.....years of fun and goodtimes...Hope they rebuild it Hampton Bays would be served well
By jekgbs (35), East Hampton on Nov 26, 10 8:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
I was born in Hampton Bays in the 80's and have lived here all my life. I am tired of not being able to afford a house, and look forward to the plan to put in affordable condos. I am happy that the Inn has a place in history, and I respect that, but I care about the future way more. I think it is absurd to tell the Rechlers what they should do with property they purchased and expect them to lay out all of the money to restore it and operate a business that you decide is a better fit for the community. ...more
By TearItDown (1), Southampton on Nov 27, 10 2:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
So you are planning on telling the Rechlers to build affordable condos? Never heard they planned on doing.

Which burned down building?

The Rechlers are not doing this because someone is making them. They are doing it because they believe it will be a success and good for the community.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 27, 10 3:10 PM
Dear BB
You must be related to the Rechlers? Reckson associates "a success for the community" These guys don't play around. If it's not profitable
for them...This has nothing to do with the community. This is about profit. Plain and simple.
By Soundview (89), Hampton bays on Dec 1, 10 5:42 PM
If a business investment fails to be profitable in HB, is that good for the community? I hope the Rechlers are successful with both the Inn and Town Houses. Yes, their success will be good for the community! I hope they get disgustingly rich and the Canoe Place Inn never closes. Why not!
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 7:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well yeah, I didn't think they were doing it to lose money. Most people don't. Successful businesses are wanted in a community.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 8:27 PM
I have never really seen a condo that was affordable as a first home. Usually they are only affordable to someone who sells a home and then has the money to buy into a condo. You pay for the convienence of condo life.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Nov 28, 10 10:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
call ghostbusters
By jose1 (28), southampton on Nov 28, 10 1:36 PM
Anyone who trusts/believes developers is a fool. What the Rechler's are proposing is absurd and is another example of the continued abuse of Hampton Bays. Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes by making promises of restoring CPI. Previous discussions with the Town have said that if the Rechler's can't find a company to run the catering hall, the Town would be obliged to buy the property with CPF properties (which would be illegal, btw). It sure would be convenient for the Rechler's to ...more
Nov 29, 10 9:50 AM appended by Nature
*CPF monies - not CPF properties.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 9:50 AM
I believe the Rechlers are sincere in their need to move forward, and don't believe they are bluffing. The deal described by the Rechlers makes sense, and should provide them with the financial incentive to make the sizable investment needed to restore the Inn and make it a success.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 8:28 PM
But my point about bluffing is - if the Town doesn't give them a PDD and doesn't allow them to build housing, what is their end game? They already have 2 restaurants on the other side... and all they could build at CPI is a restaurant. They couldn't even re-do the cottages on site without special exemption from the Town Board who has no obligation to grant such.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 8:39 PM
The Rechlers will be razing the buildings on the east side of the property, with or without the PDD. I am not sure why you believe they can't build anything other than a restaurant there. According to Planning, again, this was discussed at the meetings, they are allowed to build a lot more than that and yes that includes condos.

The same goes for the Inn, why wouldn't they be allowed to build what is there already? That makes no sense. The site was used as an Inn, there are existing ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 6:15 AM
1 member liked this comment

Educate yourself please. Here is the link to the zoning table: http://www.ecode360.com/documents/SO0286/SO0286-330d%20Business%20Dis%20Table%20of%20Use%20Regs.pdf#search=%20rwb

Note that all uses with an X are not allowed and all uses with a SE require a Special Exception from the Town Board - including Resort/Motel. The only viable commercial use of the property, that is as-of-rightis a Restaraunt - if they demo CPI they would need a special exception to get another bar.

The ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 9:42 AM
I wouldn't bet their end game would include restoring the Canoe Place Inn if they couldn't build the Town Houses on the East side of the canal.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 9:12 PM
...that's my point
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 10 10:11 PM
They have stated that they can't/won't restore the Inn if they can't build the Town Houses. So I am not sure what the point is. The town can say yes to the Town Houses and have the Inn. Or they can say no to the Town Houses and have condos on both sides.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 6:16 AM
Why are you under the continued belief that the Rechler's have the right ot build Condos / Town Houses on either side of the canal? They need a PDD which would need ot be issued by the Town Board to construct condos on either side as it's not an as-of-right use in RWB zoning.

Stop using scare tactics and spreading misinformation.

If the Town does not give them a special exemption or a PDD, they can only construct a restaurant at the CPI site - no housing.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 9:11 AM
That is not what the Town Planning Board has stated. Perhaps you know something that they don't?

By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 9:21 AM
See my above post with the zoning table.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 9:45 AM
Sorry the link does not work. You are saying that the planners are either lying or don't know their job? Interesting.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 12:53 PM
Copy and paste the link into the URL bar at the top of you browser and hit enter.

I would be interested to know what "Planners" you spoke to as it would be highly unusual for actual civil servant planners to attend CAC meetings. If you are referring to Jefferson Murphree, who is in charge of said Planners, then yea he is lying and/or doesn't know what he is talking about.

There are all sorts of uses that can be permitted in RWB *if* the Town grants special exeptions, but true ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 1:23 PM
If the link still doesn't work, you can look it up manually in the Code: Section 330-33 Attachment 4 "Business Districts Table Use of Regulations"
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 1:25 PM
Yes, I know how to copy and paste, thanks. Didn't work.

The planners were at the meeting at the high school. It is interesting that you know Mr. Murphree is a complete liar. At that meeting he mentioned that it could be asked that they building townhouses vs condos because the tax rate is higher. There were those in the audience who said he was wrong, he didn't know what he was talking about, etc. etc. Turns out he is correct. Guess he isn't always wrong.

If the land currently ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 2:42 PM
Do you have the names of the planners that were there? I'm not saying you're making it up - I'd just be interested to know. My guess is it was people who work in Planning, but not the actual planners who would be working on the project.

I didn't say Mr. Murphree lies about everything, I'm saying if he told you that they have the right to build condos or anything else for that matter, that he is in fact lying and/or doesn't know what is allowed.

We seem to be arguing about different ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 2:55 PM
Link works fine...Nature's on the money...
By Soundview (89), Hampton bays on Dec 1, 10 5:46 PM
Congratulations - still didn't work for me!
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 8:27 PM
"Arguing on the internet is like winning a gold medal in the Special Olympics..."
By Paramarine (28), Raleigh, NC on Nov 30, 10 4:37 PM
3 members liked this comment
Ha! Very true. I actually had thought initially that I was discussing.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 8:03 PM
We are all winners here... don't be so negative!

I considered it an information exchange - not an argument. I just want my fellow Hampton Bays residents to be informed and not have the Town and Rechlers mis-inform you and take advantage of your lack of intimate knowledge of Town code.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 10 8:30 PM
By double-D (96), southampton on Nov 30, 10 5:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have lived in Hampton Bays for most of my life. The CPI has always been an eyesore. Now, i'm not going to pretend to know all of the facts, but if the CPI was worth saving why has no one from the Historical Society or some other group tried to purchase and restore it before. It is an amazing old building, but i drive past it everyday and it keeps getting worse. I'm just saying that they own it, and if they want it torn down, fire up the bulldozers.
By captnrose (6), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 9:16 AM
I believe that the Rechlers have proposed a fair compromise for those who truly want to see the Canoe Place Inn restored to its former glory. For those who really don't care about the Inn, it is probably a good idea to simply wait and accept what the Rechlers decide to do under current zoning with the properties on both sides of the canal.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 9:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
I wish people took a good look at Hampton Bays lately, worry about the town , The CPI has to be torn down and the area cleaned up.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Dec 1, 10 2:22 PM
You are right it is a mess. There is someone willing to spend millions of their own money to remove the mess. Isn't that what we want? Why does it have to be torn down to be "cleaned up"?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 4:27 PM
Tear it down, please.
By Talbot77 (53), southampton on Dec 1, 10 3:02 PM
When you read about the history of the Canoe Place Inn, it seems like the place was only enjoyed by the rich and famous. The truth is that the locals enjoyed it just as much. The Inn was the best spot for school proms, weddings, Fire Dept. Annual Dinners, and many other fancy events of the Eastern Long Island Community. I believe it still has the potential to regain it's luster and once again be the gem of the Hamptons!
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 10 7:22 PM
1 member liked this comment