A World Within a World: The Bay Houses of Long Island

Everyone on Long Island is familiar with the bay houses, the question is, does anyone know the history of the pretty waterside houses?

On Tuesday, June 21, Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington showed the documentary “A World Within A World: The Bay Houses of Long Island.” This movie explores the historical as well as contemporary perspectives of the lives and experiences of bay house owners in the Town of North Hempstead.

This was an excellent and informative film that every Long Island resident should watch because it shows what life is like out on the bay. The film takes a look at the benefits and hardships that come with owning a bay house in a way that doesn’t come across as melancholy. Even though the owners in the movie are constantly fixing something – often repairing it soon again due to weather conditions – they keep a positive attitude, knowing what a treasure they have.

One thing the film mentioned is that these houses cannot be sold to just anyone. If you want to own a bay house, you must either be on a lease or have it passed down to you. No one can just buy one on the open market, which was an eye-opener to me.

After the movie there was a Q&A with Co-director Barbara Weber and Folklorist and Long Island Traditions Executive Director Nancy Solomon. It was an animated audience, and everyone had questions, not just about the bay houses, but also about the camera work and how they managed to obtain those impressive shots. Weber and Solomon were very knowledgeable about both topics. Solomon also gave out her 2011 book “On the Bay” after the screening and Q&A. I was lucky enough to get an autographed copy.

After the movie I got a chance to talk to Kim Gremlin, who has a bay house in Captree Island. Gremlin says that she married into the bay house community, because it is owned by her husband’s family, and she has loved it ever since.

“We consider ourselves bay people,” Gremlin said. “I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t working on something in the bay house because every year there are repairs.

”They have their own propane system that they use for electricity in the house and created their own water system as most people who live out there do.

Despite the summer being their favorite time of the year to go, Gremlin says there is not ever a bad season when you are out in the bay. In fact, she told me that when you are out there you can feel and see all the seasons.

The Gremlin’s bay house has some fascinating history surrounding it. Her husband’s grandfather acquired the house from a fishing company called Sunrise Fish, which went out of business in the 1970s. He left it to her husband and they plan to leave it to their son so their legacy as bay people is not going to be stripped away anytime soon.

Learning about the bay houses on Long Island was an extremely unique experience, and there is an endless sea of knowledge on Long Island to do so. Check out this documentary if you get a chance, as well as Solomon’s book. The Bay Shore Public Library has an entire section dedicated to this subject, so the opportunity is well within reach.