Port Jefferson, New York

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Port Jefferson, New York
Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson
Clockwise from top: a view of shops on Main Street, monument commemorating the village's maritime past, Port Jefferson Village Hall, A ferry passes a local power plant en route to Bridgeport, Connecticut, Port Jefferson Free Library
Clockwise from top: a view of shops on Main Street, monument commemorating the village's maritime past, Port Jefferson Village Hall, A ferry passes a local power plant en route to Bridgeport, Connecticut, Port Jefferson Free Library
Nickname(s): Port Jeff
U.S. Census Map
U.S. Census Map
Port Jefferson is located in New York
Port Jefferson
Port Jefferson
Location within the state of New York
Coordinates: 40°56′46″N 73°3′44″W / 40.94611°N 73.06222°W / 40.94611; -73.06222Coordinates: 40°56′46″N 73°3′44″W / 40.94611°N 73.06222°W / 40.94611; -73.06222
Country United States
State New York
County Suffolk
 • Mayor Margot Garant
 • Total 3.1 sq mi (7.9 km2)
 • Land 3.0 sq mi (7.8 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 12 ft (4 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 7,750
 • Density 2,500/sq mi (980/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 11777
Area code(s) 631
FIPS code 36-59355
GNIS feature ID 0960968
Website www.portjeff.com

Port Jefferson (informally known as Port Jeff[1]) is an incorporated village in the Town of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, New York on the North Shore of Long Island. Officially known as the Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson, the population was 7,750 as of the 2010 United States Census.[2] Originally a center of the shipbuilding industry, the village has since transitioned to a tourist-based economy. The port remains active as terminus of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry, one of two commercial ferry lines between Long Island and Connecticut, and is supplemented by the terminus of the Long Island Railroad's Port Jefferson Branch. It is also the center of the Greater Port Jefferson region of Northwestern Brookhaven, serving as the cultural, commercial and transportation hub of the neighboring Port Jefferson Station, Belle Terre, Mount Sinai, Miler Place, and the Setaukets.



Though the region of Northwestern Brookhaven was first settled in the mid-17th century, Port Jefferson did not mature into an active center until the mid-19th century. The original settlers, based in the neighboring hamlet of Setauket, bought a tract of land from the Setauket Indians in 1655.[3]

Aerial view of Port Jefferson Harbor

Originally named Sowasset, a Native American term for either "place of small pines" or "where water opens",[4][5] the hamlet was renamed to "Drowned Meadow" in 1682, following settlement by an Irish shoemaker from Queens named John Roe. It remained a small community of five homes through the 18th century.[3]

It is believed that the pirate Captain Kidd rendezvoused in the harbor on his way to bury treasure at Gardiner's Island.[6] During the Revolutionary War, John Paul Jones had a ship fitted here.[6] In another episode of that war, British frigates sailed into the harbor and stole several sloops.[6]

Development as a shipbuilding village[edit]

In 1797, when the town had but five houses, its first shipyard was built. By 1825, several shipbuilding firms existed, bringing in new residents and commerce.[6]

Hotel Square, corner of Main and East Main

It wasn't until 1836 that the local leadership truly initiated the community's transition from a swampish hamlet to a bustling port town. Twenty-two acres of the harborfront, which flooded with the tides, were brought to a stable elevation with the construction of a causeway. Concurrently, the village was rechristened from "Drowned Meadow" to "Port Jefferson"[7][8] The name choice was in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who provided significant funds for this project.

Numerous shipyards developed along Port Jefferson's harbor and the village's shipbuilding industry became the largest in Suffolk County. Soon these were complimented by the village's use as a major whaling port, a role that reached its apex in the 1880s. Many of Port Jefferson's remaining homes from this period were owned by shipbuilders and captains.

The Mather Shipyard in 1884

P. T. Barnum, the famous circus owner, owned a tract of land which ran through the village. His intention was to make Port Jefferson the home base for his circus. The residents put a stop to his plans, and he eventually sold his land. Barnum Avenue now runs though the area that was once his land, and one of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry boats is named the P.T. Barnum. A house he had constructed also still exists but is privately owned.

During this period, lower Port Jefferson's main section of commerce was located on what is now East Main Street. The current Main Street, located on what was initially a swamp, did not become as commercially viable until the 20th century. By the mid-20th century, Port Jefferson's industrial role dwindled as shipyards closed. This resulted in an economic downturn.

Modern history[edit]

The village of Port Jefferson was incorporated in 1963.[9] The revitalization of Lower Port Jefferson soon followed as local tourism brought increased revenues and the village adjusted itself to its new economic role. One such transformation was the 1976 redevelopment of the defunct Mather & Jones Shipyard into a shop-lined promenade known as Chandler Square.

Main Street at East Broadway
The Port Jefferson Village Center

A result of the transition is new public access to much of the waterfront, as several industrial lots had previously stood in the way. Danfords Hotel and Marina was one major waterfront project, which integrated several new and historical structures into a luxury hotel. Danfords includes a commercial marina and walkable pier, marking an aspect of the harbor's transformation from industrial to recreational use.

Harborfront Park, a project completed in 2004, similarly transitioned the site of a shipyard turned Mobil Oil terminal into a public park with picnic grounds, a seasonal ice skating rink and a promenade.[10] Concurrent to the park's construction was the rebuilding of a former shipyard warehouse into the Port Jefferson Village Center, a new public space for events and recreation.

Since the early 1990s, a section of Upper Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station has developed into a Latin American immigrant neighborhood with residents and business-owners from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and El Salvador.

A number of historic buildings were included in the Port Jefferson Village Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.[11] Separately listed are the Bayles Shipyard and First National Bank of Port Jefferson building.[11]


The Village of Port Jefferson is located on the North Shore of Long Island, 60 miles east of New York City.

Danfords Hotel & Marina

Port Jefferson Harbor[edit]

Port Jefferson Harbor is a natural deepwater harbor. Setauket Harbor branches off to the west from the harbor. One notable geographic feature is Pirate's Cove, a small cove dredged in the early 20th century by the Seaboard Dredging Company. The original name was Seaboard Hole, but it was changed for the sake of appealing to tourists. Several large sand dunes (artificially created by the dredging) are found here.

Village layout[edit]

The village's commerce is divided into two centers that lie one mile apart and at differing elevations. These are known as Lower Port Jefferson and Upper Port Jefferson, respectively the waterfront and the railroad station sections of town. The first is currently the center of tourism, while the latter is undergoing plans for revitalization to the economic viability of its historic self.


Port Jefferson has one of Long Island's most diverse transportation systems, featuring a major ferry route, a Long Island Railroad terminus, multiple bus lines, and an extensive network of roads.

Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry[edit]

The P.T. Barnum, one of the three ferries that run between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, was named after the renowned circus master

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry is one of two routes connecting Long Island to New England. The other route is the Cross Sound Ferry at Orient Point and no bridges or tunnels exist despite past proposals.

Port Jefferson's ferry company was established in 1883 and was championed by influential circus owner P.T. Barnum. Barnum, who owned lands in both Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, CT, became the new company's first president.[12]

Long Island Railroad - Port Jefferson Branch[edit]

Port Jefferson train station

The village additionally serves as the eastern terminus for the Long Island Railroad's Port Jefferson Branch. The branch consists of a diesel train that connects to the electrified Main Line at the village of Huntington, then continues toward the western terminus of Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. Train service to New York City first reached Port Jefferson in 1873.

The ferry terminal and train station are approximately one mile apart. In March 2014, mayor Margot Garant announced interest in establishing a future shuttle to link the two transportation networks as well as their respective sections of town, lower and upper Port Jefferson.[13]

Major vehicular routes[edit]

Port Jefferson's main street forms a section of New York State Route 25A, a scenic and historic route through Long Island's North Shore that is locally known as North Country Road and continues westward to New York City. Also near the village is New York State Route 347, a larger highway that connects to the Northern State Parkway

Arts and culture[edit]

Theatre Three

Annual cultural events[edit]

Old Home Week parade, 1911

Port Jefferson has been home to an annual Charles Dickens Festival every year since 1996, which takes place early in December. This typically includes many events and occurrences, such as the regular sighting of people who dress in 19th century clothing, house tours, the reading of winter-related poetry, caroling, and booths set up by local businesses. Students from the Port Jefferson Middle School and High School submit poetry and art that are used in the festival. Free concerts of seasonal music by various ensembles are presented at the Methodist church.

Many small festivals are held during the summer, showcasing music and crafts. Each Fourth of July sees a substantial parade on Main Street.

In keeping with its seafaring heritage, Port Jefferson boasts two recent America's Cup winners. Scott Vogel won of the 1987 race, and Wally Henry won the race in 1992.


As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 7,837 people, 2,985 households, and 1,982 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,587.2 people per square mile (998.6/km2). There were 3,074 housing units at an average density of 1,014.8 per square mile (391.7/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 56.97% White, 18.67% African American, 0.04% Native American, 3.33% Asian, 1.70% from other races, and 1.29% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 32.21% of the population.

boats in Port Jefferson Harbor

There were 2,985 households out of which 26.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.2% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 26.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the village the population was spread out with 20.0% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 28.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.6 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $65,119, and the median income for a family was $83,981. Males had a median income of $57,125 versus $41,936 for females. The per capita income for the village was $33,852. About 3.9% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.3% of those under age 18 and 5.0% of those age 65 or over.

The latest population was reported at 7,750 as of the 2010 United States Census


The Port Jefferson Union Free School District covers Belle Terre and most of Port Jefferson. In 2008, the district had 1375 students. Considered to be one of the least dense districts in the neighbourhood.

There are three schools:

Port Jefferson Middle School and High School share the same building.

The Port Jefferson "Royals" compete in Section XI athletics.

In 2007, the district was named one of America's "Best 100 Communities for Music Education" by the NAMM foundation.

Port Jefferson UFSD is bordered on the west by Three Village CSD, on the south by Comsewogue UFSD, and on the east by Mount Sinai UFSD.

The Port Jefferson School District also has an agreement with Comsewogue School District to send its upper port students to Comsewogue Schools.


In Popular Culture[edit]

  • In Season Two of Netflix's House of Cards there are ongoing negotiations regarding the financing of a bridge from Port Jefferson to Milford, Connecticut.[16] It is referred to in the series as the "Port Jefferson Bridge." The idea is similar to many proposals that have been made over the years, collectively referred to as the The Long Island Sound Link, including one project proposed from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • Port Jefferson's Main Street and East Main Street were featured as part of National Public Radio's "Mapping Main Street" project in spring 2010.[17]

Notable people[edit]

Lecture night at the Baptist Church, Port Jefferson, 1912 painting by William Moore Davis


  1. ^ Glowatzwrite, Elana (2012-04-19). "Port Jeff Village board unanimously approves budget". Northshoreoflongisland.com. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  2. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Port Jefferson village, New York". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  3. ^ a b "PORT JEFFERSON, LI - The History of Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York". Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  4. ^ The Indian Place-Names on Long Island and Islands Adjacent, with Their Probable Significations, by Tooker William Wallace - Google Books. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  5. ^ Wallace, Tooker William. The Indian Place-Names on Long Island and Islands Adjacent, with Their Probable Significations. pp. 246–247. 
  6. ^ a b c d Pelletreau, William S. A History of Long Island: from its setllement to the present time, Volume II. pp. 273–275,year=1905. 
  7. ^ "Newsday, Port Jefferson: Ships Were King in 'Drowned Meadow'". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  8. ^ "Profile for Port Jefferson, New York, NY". ePodunk. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  9. ^ "Port Jefferson New York". City-Data.com. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  10. ^ "Harborfront Park". Retrieved 2014-05-06. 
  11. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  12. ^ "The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson ferry: History". Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  13. ^ "Port Jefferson Officials Mull Village Shuttle". Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  14. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  15. ^ "Port Times Record, North Shore of Long Island | News, Sports, Blogs, Events, Businesses & Coupon Deals". Northshoreoflongisland.com. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  16. ^ "Bishop Responds to L.I. Wine Criticism on House of Cards". The Suffolk Times. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  17. ^ "Documentary: Mapping Main Street Includes Port Jeff". Patch.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  18. ^ "Vic Carapazza". Baseball-Reference.Com. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  19. ^ "Vivien Cardone". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  20. ^ "Ted Chiang – Summary Bibliography". The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  21. ^ "Christopher James "Chris" Colmer". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  22. ^ "Tony DePhillips Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  23. ^ "Cathy Downs". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  24. ^ "Louis Edmonds". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  25. ^ "Peter Ferraro". Hockey-Reference.Com. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  26. ^ "Les Goodman". databaseFootball.com. Retrieved 2012-10-03. 
  27. ^ "Toby Knight". Basketball-Reference.Com. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  28. ^ "Alan North". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 

External links[edit]