The Sag Harbor History Room

Open by appointment only. Click here for details.

Sag Harbor, 1840, woodcut
Sag Harbor, 1840 - Woodcut

The Sag Harbor History Room is housed on the third floor of the John Jermain Memorial Library on Main Street in the Village of Sag Harbor. It holds an extensive collection of materials related to the history of the people and communities of the Sag Harbor area. The room and its holdings are available to researchers by appointment only. Click here to request an appointment. Staff is available to assist users during their visit.

Howell House
Howell House, Captain's Row

The Sag Harbor History Room is a multicultural treasure trove! The Village of Sag Harbor is on the National Register of Historic Places. Part of the Historic District is an early African-American community named Eastville, which is present on maps dating to 1838. Many of these residents were involved with the whaling trade as well as other mercantile and domestic trades. Theirs is a long history that continues in a vibrant community today, which may be researched in the historical collection of the John Jermain Memorial Library. The Native American presence on eastern Long Island has great time depth. Before the English and Dutch settlers arrived, there were Native American settlements here. Wegwagonock was the Algonquian name for the village near what is now Sag Harbor. William Wallace Tooker studied the Algonquian language and culture at the turn of the 20th century. His research library is housed in the Sag Harbor History Room. There are books on Native American languages, customs and material culture. Files are kept on many aspects of Sag Harbor's history, including local Native Americans.

Page from a Whaling-era Account Book
Page from a Whaling-era
account book.

The Village of Sag Harbor grew up on the wealth of the whaling trade, which was taught to the first colonists by the Native Americans. The Sag Harbor History Room has a number of documents related to the whaling trade, and information about the ship owners, captains, crews and places they voyaged to. Many people from foreign ports of call came to Sag Harbor on these ships, from as far away as Hawaii! Sag Harbor was one of the first ports of entry in the United States, commissioned by George Washington. The Village has a long and interesting history!

There were early English settlers in the village. They came here from the villages of Southampton and East Hampton where they had settled first. There were also Dutch, French, Irish, Polish and Italian settlers; to name just a few of the countries represented in the region. Sag Harbor became the port for shipping out farm produce and light industrial merchandise for the nearby farming communities. With the growth of manufacturing in the last quarter of the 19th century, and the building of a fine watchcase factory here, many silversmiths and engravers of Jewish descent immigrated here as skilled labor.

Orlando Beers, b. 1815 d. 1854; miniature self portrait on Ivory
Orlando Beers, b. 1815 d. 1854;
Miniature Self Portrait on Ivory

There are photographs of people and buildings in the History Room that give insight to village life from the late 1800's on. Genealogies of these early families (as well as families that arrived later) may be researched in the Sag Harbor History Room. Local history books and books of Town Records can be checked for family names. Newspapers dating continuously back to 1822 are available here, as well as a few dating to the 1790's and early 1800's. Informative obituaries can be accessed. Lists of births, deaths and marriages are available for the Village. Maps from the middle of the 19th century with homeowner's names can be consulted, along with census data.