Behind the Gates

Written By: Carol  McNeill

Since I was a child, I remember the many Sunday drives my family would take out to the east end of Long Island. One time we took a ride in an attempt to go to Montauk Point and see the lighthouse but we only made it as far as the clock somewhere in the Hamptons. I remember it very clearly because I was soo excited about going somewhere new but we were yelling and fighting in the back of the non-air-conditioned car and my father said “that’s enough, we’re going home.” And we did.

Most of the time we went to visit my Grandparents who lived in Speonk. We certainly made a lot of jokes about that name. But today it is known as Remsenburg-Speonk. On our way to Montauk Point that day we drove along Montauk Highway through Remsenburg-Speonk, past Westhampton, and then to Quogue. That is where I first saw the beautiful gates with long driveways going to hidden places. I was taken with this magical sight. I wanted to know what was behind the gates.

You see I lived in Richmond Hill, Queens and the only gates I was familiar with were to my own backyard or the schoolyard but I imagined what life was like behind the gates. We took many drives on Long Island as my parents looked for a new home for our family of eight. We finally settled in Bayshore right behind Sagtikos Manor where George Washington slept in 1790 on his tour of Long Island. Sagtikos Manor is a museum today it has a white fence along the front with two big gates and tall brick wall that went around the whole estate. I could peer over this brick fence and imagine what life was like here along time ago.

We often visited my grandparents in the summer. As we drove to their favorite places along the Great South Bay to clam or fish I would see houses with these gates and I would get a glimpse of the beautiful homes behind them. Again, I wondered what it must be like living behind one of those gates.

It wasn’t until I returned to Long Island with my own family that I started to explore the East End. I would visit their Great Grandmother in Remsenburg-Speonk crisscrossing the back roads as we’d go to The Beach Bakery in Westhampton Beach. Everyone had a gate. Sometimes I could see the house. Others had great lawns with hidden pools. Always hedges surrounding the property but I never saw anyone out and about. I continued to wonder who lived there and what it would be like to live behind the gates.

Soon we discovered the Village of Southampton. We ‘d feed the ducks at Agawam Park, visit the Parrish Art Museum, stop by the Golden Pear for some lunch and shop at Hildreth’s to buy something. I decided to explore the streets of Southampton. Every house had a gate, big, small, slated wood, mahogany, wide, extra tall, metal, they were all different and beautiful.

I soon discovered that every town had gates. Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk. It was on my own family drive out to Montauk that I discovered that clock that I so vividly remember as a child where we ended our family journey to Montauk right there at the light in Bridgehampton.

Eventually my own children moved out to Southampton and Hampton Bays. My daughter has a beautiful home in Southampton and one day after a lot of renovation there it was, the big handmade mahogany wood gate! Now I know what it’s like to live behind the Gates! It’s beautiful!