January 19, 2013

Remember when the Port Jefferson Village Center was just an old building on the edge of town? When it was an industrial lot rather than parklike grounds overlooking the harbor?

This bird’s eye view of the village shows the Mobil Oil facility before the village purchased it in 1997. But the area has a long history of industry that stretches back to the 1800s.

“The maritime industry was an economic engine for Port Jefferson,” said Charlie Kenny, a retired attorney who is a lifelong boater and volunteer at Bayles Boat Shop. Kenny was interviewed by Patch for a story on the Bayles wooden boat shop and has is knowledgeable on local wooden boat building history.

According to Kenny, Port Jefferson’s Bayles Boat Yard was one of the largest boat building sites in New York east of Brooklyn. Shipbuilding evolved and boats began to be made of metal. During World War I the U.S. government created the Emergency Fleet Corporation to construct ships for the war effort. One of the shipyards they purchased in 1917 was Bayles.

“By the time they finished the barges and tugs, the war was over,” Kenny told Patch.

Mobile Oil purchased the shipbuilding site in 1932 and then in the 1997 the village bought the property.

It may be hard to believe but up until then, the Village of Port Jefferson never owned waterfront property.

The 5.1-acre park now is host to a playground for children, a water-spray splash area and a place to take in the sights of Long Island Sound with beach access and a pier.

The centerpiece of the park is the Landmark Sculpture showing four ship builders as they carry the framework of a ship toward the harbor. In an honor to the past, the sculpture honors the property’s shipbuilding history.