Known today for agriculture and aquaculture, the Town of Southold was one of the earliest English colonies settled in the northeast. Popular stories throughout the Town’s history include a significant shipbuilding industry, fishing, and whaling ports; prominent symbols in today’s local culture. What may be lesser known is Southold’s history in the brick making industry, with major areas of production in the town itself and on Fishers Island. Though the once significant export that had supported the local economy may have washed away over time, Brick Cove Marina is keeping its history alive.
Jennifer Place, licensed real estate salesperson with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, says the property’s history ties into the local culture today with physical remnants serving as a reminder of life there decades ago. “A stroll along Brick Cove Marina’s beach, where ‘Sage’ bricks still lie among the scallop shells, is all it takes to become face to face with its history,” Place says, who co-lists the property with licensed real estate salesperson JoAnn Wind. “This property was founded on teams of hardworking individuals, and I feel that this strong work ethic is its greatest link between its history and the local culture, even today.”
‘Sage’ is for DeWitt Clinton Sage, a successful business man who was born in Connecticut in 1837. He learned the brick trade at an early age as an apprentice to his father, and took over the family business at the age of 16 when his father passed away. He ran the new business and sold it, moving onto the machinery and munitions trade. Sage later made his way to Fishers Island to recover from an illness when he met local brick maker Eugene Strickland. With the ambition of starting a new brick making yard, Sage purchased the clay deposits between Clay Point and Hawks Nest Point. Success soon followed.
In the late 1800s, Sage produced millions of bricks each season at the Fishers Island Brick Yard, which was reported as one of the largest in the United States in 1887. That same year, he purchased 180 acres in Southold to begin the Long Island Brick Co., which once operated and thrived at what is now known as Brick Cove Marina.
“Sage was very accomplished,” says Diane Vail, whose father, William Leverich, owns Brick Cove Marina today. “The bricks that were made here were also sold in New England. They were loaded on flat boats to take up north.”
An earth dike separated Peconic Bay from the clay deposits that were mined over the years. One of the most notable orders came from the State Hospital at Central Islip which required 30 million bricks for its construction in 1899. Sage had around 100 men working at this Southold site, a time Vail finds intriguing. “It is an interesting history because back in that time they had different barracks for families,” she explains. “Portuguese, Irish, and more were broken up according to backgrounds.”
Sage enjoyed the success of his business leading up to Prohibition, though it wasn’t the ban of alcohol that triggered the downward slope for Long Island Brick Co. The introduction of advanced materials like concrete lessened the need for bricks, and resulted in a decline in Southold brick making. The tides really turned for the site when a hurricane broke through, intruding into the clay quarry and creating a basin. Vail says this somehow began the property’s transition into a little boatyard.
During the Great Depression, Sage sold the property and newly created boat basin to Southold local Fred Young, who operated it as a boatyard. Young later sold the boatyard to Howard Zaner in 1950. Then, Leverich purchased Brick Cove Marina in 1992, and has been operating it since.
The marina, on the market for $8.8 million, has 138 boat slips and a single-family residence. The are other buildings on the property such as workshops, a steel barn, office and marina store, pool house, and sheds. The kiln that was once used to fire bricks remains as well, offering a reminder of the marina’s vast and interesting history.
“The North Fork has evolved to become a true vacation destination,” Place says. “I believe that Brick Cove Marina is poised to become a marina that will serve this new crop of visitors while continuing to serve the local community. The perfect buyer for this property, in my opinion, is someone who sees not only the value in its established business but also in its potential for growth.”
Place shares there is much to enjoy for both prospective buyers and guests. “Brick Cove Marina has so much to offer with its well-maintained boat slips, tennis courts, swimming pool and private beach, but my favorite feature of Brick Cove is its proximity to all the various boating destinations,” she says. “For boating in this area, you just can’t ask for much more. Brick Cove offers immediate, direct access to Peconic Bay. It’s an easy hop to Greenport, Shelter Island and the Hamptons, and if you’re looking for a longer trip, it’s an easy run to Montauk, Block Island, Newport and Martha’s Vineyard, to name a few.”
Vail agrees Brick Cove Marina is a special place, saying “It is one of the North Fork’s hidden treasures, providing serenity and peace to boaters and wildlife side by side. It is a great getaway with protection from storms and a gateway to the adventures of some of the most beautiful waterways in the world.”
Though the days of brick making on the East End of Long Island are long gone, the stories and photographs keep the history alive. Old images give insight to the times of a booming industrial product, life of workers and their families, and the North Fork before it would evolve and thrive again as a destination for first and second homeowners. Physical remnants of Sage bricks on the beach and some of the remaining original structures serve as a reminder of what had been. Experience past and present at Brick Cove Marina today.