Main Street Food Tour of Historical Society of Islip Hamlet

Our South Shore towns are rich with history and tidbits of information that would shock us. Since the occupation of the Islip Hamlet in 1690, the town has ebbed and flowed into the place we proudly call home. We drive by and see the little blue signs, and maybe read them if we get the chance, but we can never truly understand the big picture of how our towns got to be. The Islip Hamlet Historical society looks to do just that.

On Friday May 19, Islip School District ran the Food Tour of Main Street in conjunction with Julia Johnson, the Gifted and Talented teacher; and Family and Consumer Sciences and Special Education departments of the high school and middle school. The tour visited Manhattan Sweets, the Pizzeria, and Coyle’s Ice Cream Shop on Main Street, and students got to learn tidbits of information from members of the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet and culinary student Leo. While enjoying the yummy treats, the group also learned about the maritime and lumber industries that used to support the Islip Hamlet economy.

“The school was interested in the food and the Historical Society helped with the historical facts,” said Cathy Romano, president of the Historical Society. “The kids loved the food. They were fascinated with the behind the scenes look of the baking area [of Manhattan Sweets].”

Development of the Islip Hamlet was slow until the construction of the South Shore Railroad in the 1860s. From there, wealthy summer tourists flooded into south shore towns to cool off from the relentless city heat. Hotels and summer estates quickly emerged along the waters of Islip Hamlet, and at the turn of the 20th century, it was well known for its beautiful churches and the finest school in Suffolk County.

“Two of the three original Islip schools were located on Main Street. Most people know about 401 because it was the old Islip Town Hall building, but there was also the Little Red School house and the Islip Public Library,” Romano said. “The students from 401 Main Street school walked with brown grocery bags up from 401 to the current campus when the district moved to its current campus.”

Students on the tour even got a chance to learn about the crushed shells from the Doxsee Clam Factory that added to the charm of the town. “Islip’s Main Street used to shine white from the Doxsee Clam industry,” Romano explained. “The street was covered in clam shells and oyster shells. When the sun hit Main Street, it glistened.”

Unfortunately, two fires in the early 1900s destroyed most of the north and south sides of Main Street, but Romano noted some of the original architecture still exists.

The Historical Society of Islip Hamlet has some great upcoming events to enjoy. There will be a Garden Walk, featuring five local gardens, on Saturday, July 8, with a rain date of Sunday; and Islip’s Bay Heritage, on Sept. 13, where Islip hosts a panel with lifelong baymen and women who have spent their lives living and working on the Great South Bay. For information, visit