Cherry Grove, New York
|Nickname(s): The Grove|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||946512|
Cherry Grove (often referred to locally as The Grove) is a hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York, United States. It is located on Fire Island, a barrier island separated from the southern side of Long Island by the Great South Bay. The hamlet has approximately 300 houses on 41 acres (170,000 m2), a summer seasonal population of 2,000 and a year-round population of 15.
Cherry Grove, along with nearby Fire Island Pines, is considered one of the most popular lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)-accepting resort communities in the United States. The New York Times quoted one homeowner at Cherry Grove that, "this [is a] wonderful environment where you could be gay and open and hold hands and enjoy life...."
The Grove is reputedly the nation's first and oldest LGBT community. While no longer entirely gay, it remains predominantly populated and visited by LGBT persons; one straight couple affirmed, "We like that the Grove is a gay community, and that it's a creative community...."
- 1 History
- 2 Neighborhoods
- 3 Recreation and sites of interest
- 4 Transportation
- 5 Emergency services
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Cherry Grove has been settled for almost 150 years. Cherry Grove dates its modern history to the 1868 purchase by Archer and Elizabeth Perkinson. They bought the land between Lone Hill (now Fire Island Pines) and the Cherry Grove Hotel from the ocean to the bay for 25 cents per acre and named the area for the black-cherry trees in the area. The Perkinsons opened a hotel in 1880. According to local legend Oscar Wilde stayed at the Perkinson Hotel.
In 1921 the Perkisons sold all the land east of Duryea Walk to Lone Hill, and then divided what was left, into 109 building lots. A lot 50 x 80 feet (24 m) could be bought for $250 or less, and ocean-front lots cost no more than a dollar a front foot. Buildings from the newly deactivated Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, were ported over to form the core of the new colony. A post office was established in 1922 at the site of where "Tides" (formerly “The Monster”) is today; The first boardwalks were built in 1929. In 1930 Duffy’s Hotel replaced the original hotel and was the only place with electricity and a phone.
The Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed much of Cherry Grove and discouraged mainlanders from coming. In their stead a new generation started coming from Manhattan including Greta Garbo, Xavier Cugat, Paulette Goddard, Pola Negri, Arlene Francis, and Earl Blackwell (publisher of the International Celebrity Register).
According to legend, the gay aura of the town arose when Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden arrived dressed as Dionysus and Ganymede, carried aloft on a gilded litter by a group of singing followers. Duffy’s attempted to ban same-sex dancing until after midnight.
Duffy’s burned on September 27, 1956, and was replaced by the Ice Palace Hotel which has remained a popular destination. John Eberhardt, a developer who died in 2014, was credited for building the Belvedere Hotel and many other properties in the hamlet, from 1956 to the 1970s.
The Grove has become home to three massive homes: Cielo E Mar (an aria from the 1876 opera La Gioconda which translates to "Sky and Sea"), the Belvedere, and Bottom of the Garden. While the Grove has its charms, several residents in 2005 expressed concerns about the lack of any services and population in the winter, the high cost of food and beverages, some "disrespectful visitors who come to party ... 'Day trippers'" (especially on the 4th of July), over-regulation of zoning by Town of Brookhaven, and a large population of voracious deer who eat up both beach grass and private gardens. A new generation of entertainers and socialites call Cherry Grove their summer home, including Hedda Lettuce, Michael Musto, Empress XII Panzi, Yamaneika Saunders, and Wanda Sykes.
A "pop-up" urgent care clinic opened in 2014, which is part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System; a golf cart for emergency medical services was also purchased for the Grove, for the new 24/7 paramedic services. Local residents, "raised about $90,000 from donors to hire locally based paramedics, which have responded to more than 30 calls since May as of mid-August and will remain staffed through the end of September, when bustling crowds thin out at the beach."
On the night of March 26-27, 2015, an epic fire of historic proportions "destroyed" the Grove Hotel, Holly House, and nearby structures; 12 fire companies responded and two firefighters were injured. The fire "engulfed" the surrounding properties, but the fire departments were able to put out the blaze, in this, "one of the most popular LGBTI destinations." According to its social media accounts, the Ice Palace, a famous nightclub, "had negligible damage", but was not destroyed along with the hotel.
The entire community has a single seasonal post office, on Bayview Walk near the main dock, open from May 1 to October 31, which is a popular place to congregate. Full services, such as money orders, are available at the Sayville, New York post office, reachable from the ferry. The ZIP code is 11782.
Despite the small size of the hamlet, at about 41 acres, the community is further divided into three or four neighborhoods, from west to east:
- The quiet, residential West End, where the few year-round residents live in about 100 houses marked by stone chimneys, runs across the island from West Walk to Holly Walk. This was formerly the home of artist Paul Cadmus.
- The central business district, or Town, from Holly Walk to Doctor's Walk, and the beach to the bay, includes the Fire House, Community Center/Arts Project, Grove Hotel, a clinic, and the public ferry dock, as well as a few cooperatives, bars, grocery stores, art galleries, realtors, and restaurants. It is more densely settled than the rest of the hamlet. Several major structures in the center were "destroyed" by a large fire in March 2015, including the Grove Hotel and Holly House.
- The residential East End, from Doctor's Walk to Ivy Walk, and south of Bayside Walk, consists exclusively of about 100 private homes, almost all of which are seasonal. The northeastern section of the East End, north of Bayview Walk, has a few private homes and the Belvedere Guest House for Men; some properties also have their own private docks. Once connected to Fire Island Pines, erosion and rising waters caused a collapse of the northeastern extension of Bayview Walk. Most of Bay Walk was reconstructed in spring 2014.
Cherry Grove is accessible via two major walks (Bayview and Lewis), which are generally parallel to the beach, and sixteen minor walks (Ivy, Sumner, Maryland, Aeon, Gerard, Greene, Duryea, Doctors, Main, Ocean, Holly, Surf, Beach, Sea, East, and West), which are generally perpendicular to the beach. South Walk (not shown in the map at right) is parallel to the beach and extends between Surf and Beach Walks.
Recreation and sites of interest
The Community House, located near the intersection of Holly and Bayview Walks, provides a wide variety of public services to the Grove. Generally speaking, gay couples and activities are the norm. In 2013 the Cherry Grove Community House and Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places for "the enormous role it played in shaping what gradually evolved into America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town."
The main outdoor attraction is the beach and the surrounding protected portions of the Fire Island National Seashore. Clothing-optional sunbathing is common at the beach. The hamlet's easternmost dunes have been nicknamed the "Meat Rack".
Entertainment and dining
There are at least six restaurants that operate within Cherry Grove, varying from pizza and breakfast to seafood and fine-dining. Also, there are at least four entertainment venues hosting plays, art shows, dancing, underwear parties, drag shows, and various community events.
As of 2005, there were five bars, but one closed during the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
Civic activities in the Grove include charity events and an Awards Night, during which votes are taken and titles bestowed upon residents and local businesses. The Arts Project of Cherry Grove hosts a flea market, drag shows, and a gala dinner and dance in late September.
There is a sense of civic virtue in The Grove; people volunteer at CGFD, the Cherry Grove Community Association, on environmental projects, and even painting the edges of the boardwalks.
A big event on the Cherry Grove social calendar is the 4th-of-July weekend "Invasion of the Pines", which dates back to 1976, when a resident of the Grove showed up wearing drag in Fire Island Pines and was refused service. In the 1970s, the Pines was a more-conservative, more-heterosexual community than the Grove.
Fauna and flora
Deer are common and quite tame on Fire Island. As noted, some resident consider deer to be a nuisance, while others enjoy seeing wildlife close to their summer homes.
Racoons, foxes, and many species of birds can be seen throughout the summer.
Cherry Grove is named for the many wild cherry trees that bloom each June in the area.
Cherry Grove is only accessible by water with most residents and visitors using a passenger ferry or private water taxi. A small marina is also available. There are no private vehicles in this part of Fire Island, although police and service vehicles are seen on the beach from time to time. The Grove has no paved roads and the cottages and beach are only accessible using a series of wooden boardwalks.
Passengers connecting between the Sayville LIRR Station and the Sayville Ferry service can pay for a shuttle van or taxi cab ride, or may walk or ride their bicycle the mile and a half distance. People driving cars may park in large, gravel parking lots across the street from the ferry dock. A small marina is also available nearby.
Fire Island Water Taxi
Visitors arriving by car may park at the Robert Moses State Park “Field Five” parking lot. After reaching the Fire Island Lighthouse, the Fire Island Water Taxi will ferry paying customers to the Grove. A water taxi provides short-distance transportation for those moving from place to place along the coast of Fire Island. The fare and schedule for the taxi service varies by season.
The Cherry Grove Fire Department (CGFD) is a low incident department. The CGFD also has pull stations located at every other street corner where unique hose houses contain vital equipment that would be needed by the members to suppress any fire; this is due to the unique nature of Cherry Grove. There are no roads, only boardwalks, hence no ability to respond with a fire engine. If a fire or emergency is spotted, one should call 911 or run to the nearest street corner and pull the lever down. A fire siren is activated, which alerts the members to respond. CGFD is one of the few fire departments in New York that still uses a manual pull station system.
CGFD is an all-volunteer force. It receives assistance from nearby fire departments (such as Sayville Fire Department) in case of large fires, as happened in March 2015 when a fire "destroyed" several commercial properties in the center.
Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, Southside Hospital, and Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center are located directly across the Great South Bay from Fire Island in the Long Island hamlets of West Islip, Bay Shore, and the village of Patchogue, respectively. A heliport for medevac helicopter use is adjacent to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center. Specially equipped boats provided by the Suffolk County Police Department Marine Bureau docked at the various communities on Fire Island provide emergency transportation to individuals in need of dire medical care. In many cases, Long Island based ambulances will meet the boats once they cross the Bay (roughly 4.5 miles) and then drive individuals the short distance to one of the three hospitals. Also, one emergency access road connects Long Island (West Islip) to Fire Island (Kismet). However, the road ends there and does not extend the full length of the island into the other communities.
- "Cherry Grove". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
- Greenfield, Beth (July 15, 2005). "Weekender: Cherry Grove, N.Y.". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- ""Cherry Grove: Before and After the Great Hurricane of 1938", Fireisalndqnews.com, Retrieved November 1, 2007". Fireislandqnews.com. 1918-07-10. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- ""History Cherry Grove", Fairharbor.com, Retrieved November 1, 2007".[dead link]
- Ester Newton, Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America's First Gay and Lesbian Town, 1995, Beacon Press, ISBN 0-8070-7927-8
- "Fire Island Chamber of Commerce Cherry Grove History". Fireislandcc.org. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- MacGowan, Carl (August 6, 2014). "Cherry Grove upgrades emergency medical services, an 'asset' to Fire Island hamlet". Newsday. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
- Bolger, Timothy (August 18, 2014). "Cherry Grove EMS Offers New Lifeline in Far-flung Area of Fire Island". Long Island Press. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
- Valente, John (March 27, 2015). "Officials: Blaze destroys club, hotel in Cherry Grove". Newsday. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Morgan, Joe (March 27, 2015). "Fire Island blaze engulfs and destroys buildings in gay area". Gay Star News. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "Ice Palace Facebook pagdate=March 27, 2015". Ice Palace. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Collins, Andrew. "U.S. Post Office, Cherry Grove". About.com. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- "Fire Island Community Theater Gains Historic Landmark Status / Queerty". Queerty.com. 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- "Cherry Grove Community House & Theater". Nps.gov. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- "Map of the Fire Island National Seashore". Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- Collins, Andrew (n.d.). "Gay Beach at Cherry Grove". About.com. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- 2011 Damron Men's Travel Guide. Damron. 2010. p. 320.
- Brett Beemyn (ed.), Creating a Place For Ourselves: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community Histories. Routledge, 2013. ISBN 9781135222406.
- Marc Lallanilla, Neil Edward Schlecht, and Brian Silverman, Frommer's New York State, Edition 5, unabridged, pp. 164–169. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. ISBN 9781118204290.
- Esther Newton, Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America's First Gay and Lesbian Town. Beacon Press, 1993. On Google Books. ISBN 9780807079270.
- Live Stream-Community Portal
- Cherry Grove, Fire Island Online Travel Guide
- Fire Island Website: News and Travel Guide
- Arts Project Cherry Grove (APCG)
- Cherry Grove Community Association (CGCAI)
- Cherry Grove Fire Department (CGFD)
- Fire Island Men: Gay Men of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines
- Fire Island Q News, Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove Monthly Gay Webzine
- Fairy Schedule, Fire Island transportation schedules
- , year-round information