Dear Friend,

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on an exciting conversation about the history Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. With support from the Gardiner Foundation, the Children’s Museum had convened an amazing group of historians to discuss the history of immigration and the Great Migration to the East End. The project grew out of our conversations with elementary school teachers who enjoyed organizing trips to Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum in New York but voiced concern that children left those museums with the notion that migration was exclusively an urban phenomenon. In fact, there is an incredibly rich immigration and migration story right here in our own backyard.

Beginning in the 19th century, Bridgehampton became home to waves of immigrants – like the country as a whole – first from northern and western Europe and then from the southern and eastern parts of the continent. The hamlet also witnessed the Great Migration with large numbers of African American migrants especially from Virginia making their way to the area. In contrast to New York and other cities where ethnic and racial groups clustered together into segregated areas, the East End experienced a surprising degree of residential cultural pluralism. Census records for the Turnpike during the early 20th century show that families who originally hailed from Ireland lived next door to Polish immigrants who lived next to African American migrants, who lived next door to a family from Italy.

We’ll be using this research to plan new school programs, a series of children’s books, a walking tour and an exhibition at the Bridgehampton Museum. If you have artifacts, papers or photographs documenting the East End’s migrant or immigrant experience in the early 20th century, please contact me at the Museum. We’re eager for your help developing important educational programming so that children can learn about our community’s rich cultural history.



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