THE HISTORY OF PORT JEFF
The Shipyard connects to downtown Port Jefferson’s storied past while looking forward at how our community is evolving.

FACTS ON OUR HISTORY

  • Port Jefferson was originally home to The Setalcott Native Americans.
  • The Village was first named Sowasset, a Native American term that could mean either “place of small pines” or “where water opens.”
  • In 1682, Sowasset was renamed “Drowned Meadow,” and it became Port Jefferson in 1836, after Thomas Jefferson, who significantly funded the region. “The Village” became incorporated in 1963.
  • Port Jefferson’s first colonial settlements appeared in the 17th century. The community remained rural until the mid-19th century, when it was developed into a thriving shipbuilding center.

FACTS ON OUR HISTORY

  • The Village’s shipbuilding industry spanned over a century, from approximately 1797 (when its first shipyard was built) to its close in the 1920’s.
  • As a shipbuilding hub, Port Jefferson’s main role was to build and support ships that participated in coastal freighting trades. The Village eventually became the largest shipbuilding industry in Suffolk County.
  • Well-known circus owner P.T. Barnum owned a segment of land running through the Village. He aimed to establish Port Jefferson as the home base for his circus, but would eventually sell his land after disapproving residents put a stop to his plans.

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