Huntington Harbor, East Shore, Sailboats at Anchor, 1900, by Hal B. Fullerton. (Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives [149.7.78]. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
Huntington was founded in 1653 by three men from Oyster Bay who purchased a parcel of land from the Matinecock tribe. This parcel, which has since become known as the “First Purchase,” included land bordered by Cold Spring Harbor on the west, Northport Harbor on the east, what is now known as Old Country Road to the south, and Long Island Sound to the north. The men immediately turned the land over to the white settlers who had already been living there. From this initial settlement, Huntington grew over subsequent years to include all of the land presently comprising the modern Towns of Huntington and Babylon. It wasn’t until 1872 that the southern part of the town was formally separated to create Babylon Town.
Because Huntington was populated largely by English settlers, unlike the rest of the New Amsterdam colony, the town voted in 1660 to become part of the Connecticut colony rather than remain under the authority of New Amsterdam. When the British gained control of New Amsterdam in 1664 (renaming it “New York”), Huntington was formally restored to the jurisdiction of New York. Following the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War, British troops used Huntington as their headquarters and remained encamped there until the end of the war.
When President George Washington visited Huntington in 1790, the town had 2,000 residents. Most lived in Huntington hamlet, with farmhouses scattered in the rest of the town. By the early 1800s, the town’s population had grown to over 4,000. The arrival of the Long Island Railroad in 1867 transformed the economy of Huntington from primarily agriculture and shipping (based on its well-protected harbor) to tourism and commuting. The end of World War II brought about an explosive growth of population in Huntington, where farms and resorts gave way to residential homes and businesses.