Mt. Sinai


With its hilltop views of Long Island Sound, miles of beach and dunes, a wide harbor and a historic district of more than 50 houses, the hamlet of Mount Sinai might be expected to have been fully settled long ago. But while its population grew from 1,200 in 1960 to more than 8,000 today, large parcels are still being farmed and developed.

The Renowned Mt Sinai School District has about 3000 children in a K-4 elementary school, a 5-8 middle-school and the high school, all of which are on one 65-acre parcel.

For almost 50 years Mount Sinai sent students to Port Jefferson High School. But in 1989 residents voted to build a high school, which cost $24 million and was completed in 1991. In 1993 it had its first graduating class, of 165 students.

The district had state-of-the art equipment including computers linking classrooms with the State University of New York at Stony Brook. This lets high school students work one-on-one with graduate students at the university. Computer keyboarding starts in kindergarten.

There are two condominium complexes. Woodridge Terrace, an adult community of attached town houses, has a clubhouse, swimming pool and mini-golf course. Mountain Ridge has 18 three-bedroom units whose large rooms and water views. The complex has a pool, clubhouse and tennis courts.

Mount Sinai also has a 32-home private community, Crystal Brook Park, on 100 wooded acres owned by the 100-year-old Crystal Brook Park Association. Residents lease the land and buy the houses and need association approval to sell a home or make extensive changes, like felling trees.

Residents are assessed by the association, which pays taxes to the town. In addition, they pay $1,500 to $2,000 a year for a caretaker, a community building and beach and road maintenance.

Many of the homes in the historic district, an area designated by the town, date to the 19th century and some to the 18th. But many have been modified and none of its structures, including the 1807 Mount Sinai Congregational Church, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Town of Brookhaven operates two beach areas and the harbor. Cedar Beach, a one-mile stretch of land bisected by a nature preserve, has playgrounds, a boardwalk, a concession stand, basketball and fishing. A free Brookhaven Town parking sticker gives residents the use of the beach.

Town residents pay $60 a year for one of 300 mooring sites in the harbor. The town also has 407 boat slips, which rent for $42 a foot for the May-to-October season. There is a two-year wait for slips. There are also two private boatyards and the Mount Sinai Yacht Club, with a total of 207 slips.

Visitors like to stop at the Little Portion Friary on Old Post Road, where they can buy bread baked by the brothers. The 20-acre friary, which has been at the site since 1928, belongs to the Order of St. Francis, an Episcopal religious order with only about 200 brothers worldwide.

Most shopping is on Route 25A, which has several small strip centers. The largest, a King Kullen center, has 32 stores.

An annual event the chamber sponsors, now in its fourth year, is the Harbor Day Festival, an arts and crafts fair held in September at Cedar Beach. A full day festival, which includes jazz, whaleboat races and kite-flying contests. Mount Sinai came into existence as Old Mans (the name’s true origin is unknown) with the signing of two treaties with the Indians in 1664. Many of the early settlers were Davises or Philippses, and by 1800 the two families owned almost all the land from the southeast corner of Old Mans harbor to Middle Country Road. In 1842 or 1843, it is believed, the first postmaster, Charles Philipps, was asked to choose a new name and did so by holding a needle over an open Bible and dropping it onto a page.

Although it was primarily a farming community, its young men were lured by seafaring and almost every family had at least one member who was a seaman.

Because the harbor could not accommodate large boats, shipping and other businesses moved to Port Jefferson, just to the west. With few job opportunities and poor transportation — the Long Island Rail Road was extended to Port Jefferson in 1873 — Mount Sinai remained static for many years.

In the early part of the 20th century some summer homes were built in Mount Sinai, but this small building boom died out by 1914. Slight booms after each World War did not bring about as much in the way of a population explosion as did development in the 1970’s, when suburban sprawl had inched its way past the L.I.R.R.’s terminus in Port Jefferson.

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