The Village of Dering Harbor is the smallest village in New York State with respect to area. It is only 200 acres in size, has 35 homes and 74 residents. Its architecture is a mix of Victorian gingerbread with dashes of Queen Anne, Tudor and neoclassical designs.
How it was Established:
The Village was established in 1874 with the construction of a sprawling resort hotel, the Manhanset House. The hotel was intended as the center of a summertime community, slightly more elegant than the hotel and camp meeting colony of Shelter Island Heights across the harbor. Its VIP clientele included the likes of General William T. Sherman, John Philip Sousa and J.P. Morgan.
Hotel as Anchor:
The great wooden hostelry, 300 guest room, fulfilled its purpose for thirty six years. Having survived one major conflagration in 1896, it succumbed to a fire in 1910. Meanwhile, private cottages proliferated slowly and attracted Broadway luminaries such as David Belasco, Mrs. Leslie Carter, Minnie Maddern Fiske, and Barbara Bel Geddes.
After the Fire:
Bereft of the hotel, cottage owners were forced to fend for themselves. Rather than rebuild the hotel, they opted for a quiet private club which also served as golf clubhouse. But problems with management kept cropping up; The casino’s original sponsor was prone to engage in public disagreements with the likes of Albert Einstein and FDR.
Village Is Incorporated:
In 1916, residents incorporated as Dering Harbor Village, named after Thomas Dering, a resident and a member of the US House of Representatives. In 1931, a mayor was elected and a village hall was constructed. The architect was Alfred Easton Poor, who put a neo-classical stamp on much of the Village.
The community continued to expand. Flanking the casino overlooking the Greenport channel arose “Little German”. It was given this name because several German-speaking Manhattanites built a cluster of capacious cottages there, including one designed by Stanford White, which has since been destroyed.
The Village Today:
The tiny Village continues to govern itself with its own Mayor, Village Clerk and Board of Trustees. It has tended more and more to rely on the Town of Shelter Island and outside contractors to provide residents with the customary municipal services. Consequently, the Village no longer has its own post office, chapel. police, fire engine or electric power plant. It does retain its own water tank, twice weekly trash collection (the rest of Shelter Island uses the Town Recycling Center for its trash and recyclables collection) and hosts an annual cocktail party. (from League of Women Voters of Shelter Island).