Artist Lake


Artist Lake, Photo from Queensborough Public Library

Artist Lake, Photo from Queensborough Public Library

Artist Lake, Photo from Thomas Bayles Collection, Longwood Public Library

Artist Lake, Photo from Thomas Bayles Collection, Longwood Public Library

The Many Names of Artist Lake:
A Short History

Artist Lake is a kettle hole lake with no water flowing in or out, its sole source of water is rainwater.

Throughout Longwood's history, Artist Lake, of Middle Island has been called many different names by many different people. Early Brookhaven Town records have it being called Hurtin's Pond and Southampton Pond. During the Revolutionary Era, the pristine lake was known as Corwin's Pond in honor of local resident Reverend, and Revolutionary War veteran Jacob Corwin. The 1838 United Sates Coastal Survey Map shows the name Glovers Pond.

1838 map, Glover's Pond

In 1738 14 acres were laid out to Captain Robert Robinson, adjoining the pond. Captain Robinson sold the 14 acres to Daniel Brewster. In a deed dated April 2, 1784 Zophar Gerard with Francis his wife sells for L360 to James Swezey, land, dwelling house, barn, etc. bounded west by the Connecticut Hollow, North by Country road, and "running eastward to a certain highway east side of the pond, thence running with the highway southward to a certain oak tree marked, thence running westwardly with the line between Jonah Tooker's land and said Gerard's land to the above mentioned Connecticut Hollow or the first mentioned bound. Elliot D. Carpenter was the owner of the land on the east side of the lake in 1871

Local residents referred to the Pond as "Blooming Lake" for the White Lilies found on the lake.

A reporter for the Long Island Farmer made reference to this in the December 2, 1835 issue of the newspaper.

" Bryant Davis's hotel and stagehouse (Pfieffer's General Store in later times) is a recently built good inn, uniting the many requisites for effecting an immediate cheerfulness on the sojourner through these unfrequented forests and Arabian roads. Good stabling attached. Onwards to Blooming Lake (Artist Lake) a beautiful, pure, small sheet of water, adorned with the White Lily, and a pretty residence on its eastern border to the Horn Tavern."

However, during the 1880's, a dispute arose as to whether Artist Lake was a proper title. Middle Island resident and Brookhaven Town Clerk, Benjamin T. Hutchinson, objected. Preferring the aesthetically pleasing "Blooming Lakes." Hutchinson contended that Artist Lake was an inappropriate title since only one artist had ever made his residence at the lake. Although Hutchinson sneered at the naming of the lake by a "foreigner" not from our area a case can be made for it being called Artists Lake. 1870 Middle Island census lists two lake view residents, Alonzo Chappel and Ole P. Balling, both of whom listed their occupations as "Artists".

An article appearing in a local newspaper at the time gives additional information.

"George Chappel (brother of Alonzo Chappel) bought a tract of about 170 acres adjoining the "Home by the Lake" and has lately sold two small farms from it to artists in New York, who are expected to soon come and build, and probably more will soon purchase homes here."

It appears that George Chappel might have had something to do with the renaming of the lake, perhaps for greater real estate appeal.

Artists Lake eventually gained acceptance through popular usage. The 1873 Beers- Comstock shows the lake being called Artists Lake (plural) . Later maps refer to the lake as Artist Lake (singular).

1873 Beers map, Artists Lake (plural)

At the time of the debate, Artist Lake was in fact two distinct lakes, one on each side of Middle Country Road (Route 25). The second lake would be located today where K-Mart parking lot now stands. Torrential rains would often trigger an overflow of water across Route 25, making Middle Island's main road impassable. In order to provide drainage control, ten men were hired in the late 1890's to construct a drainage ditch, which is still visible in Prosser Pines.This solution did not end the flooding problem. Part of the problem was resolved, rather tragically, during the construction of the Fairy Town Amusement Park. The builder of the amusement park, which no longer exists, filled in the second lake, to make more room for parking.

In the late 1970's, the Brookhaven Town Highway Department dug a canal and installed pipes to carry the excess water to the lakes in Yaphank.

Today, one Artist Lake remains. Amidst the surrounding commercial and residential developments, Artist Lake is an oasis of beauty. In harmony with the elements, the lake provides an opportunity for ice-skating in the winter and fishing in the summer.

Yet, the mystery lingers. Was Artist Lake named after Alonzo Chappel alone or was the scenic area home to other artists? And was Town Clerk Hutchinson right when he disputed the name "Artist Lake?"


Newspaper articles

Southside Signal
December 31, 1871

I do not observe in the columns of your esteemed paper any notice of events or improvements going on at Artist Lake, Middle Island. It would doubtless interest your readers to learn something of this heretofore remote region. I regret that you have not yet made it convenient to visit this delightful and healthy locality, and witness the beautiful scenery in which it abounds. The fine prospect of the lake and surrounding country, from adjacent hills, must be seen to be appreciated. Beautiful even in winter, in spring and summer “Artist Lake” and its surroundings are more than picturesque. The lake is situated on the south side of the old Kings Highway, which was laid out in 1705, from Fulton ferry, Brooklyn, through the middle portion of Long Island to near its eastern extremity. It is about 4 1/2 miles from the sound and about the same distance from Yaphank Station L.I.R.R. and 60 miles from N.Y. It will measure about 1 ½ miles in circumference. There is no visible inlet or outlet to the lake, but it is fed by living springs boiling up from its bottom. The lake abounds with an abundance of fresh water fish, supplying fine sport to the disciples of Isaac Walton. The shores have a gradual slope, and are gravely affording bathers a secure footing to any desired depth, the extreme depth of water being about 20 feet. The lake instead of being a round pond is is partially divided by a peninsula. There is also a pond of considerable size about 4 rods north of the lake, which one would conclude had once been a part of the same water. Between these two runs the highway. With the exception of two valleys, which in some remote period been water tributaries to the lake, the surrounding land rises gradually to an elevation of about 60 feet, affording excellent building sites for residences. The soil is heavy loam, as productive as any on Long Island. The trees are hard wood – oak, chestnut, hickory, black walnut and locust. New York citizens visiting Artist Lake in the summer can enjoy boating, bathing, and fishing to their hearts content, and may also add to their enjoyment healthy exercise of hoeing corn and digging potatoes, together with air unequaled for purity; they may live long and die happy. Three years ago Artist Lake was known only as a large pond, around which were located three farmhouses; cultivated land could be purchased at from $25 to $40 per acre, and like all sections of country the highways were indicative of the inhabitants; namely one zig zag track, making it necessary to travel a mile and a half to the mile and woe be to the stranger who, becoming a resident, attempted alteration or improvement in the old established way of doing things. Artist Lake has been blessed by the settlement around it of several cultivated families from the city, who have given it an impetus on the road of improvement. Within the last two years there has been purchased in the vicinity of the lake several hundred acres of land in plots from ten to forty acres each, N.Y. citizens. Among the most noted, I would mention the place of A. Chappel, a noted artist formerly of Brooklyn. E.D. carpenter, grain broker of N.Y. Mr. Balling an artist of note, has created a handsome dwelling after the Swiss model. He has recently painted a fine picture, representing ‘brush burning at Artist Lake” Now is the time to stake out your claim.

Respectfully yours,
Tom Billson

Southside Signal
March 13, 1875

Mr. Carpenter of Artist Lake had the misfortune to have an ankle broken last Friday by the overturning of the sleigh in which he was riding.

April 20, 1918

Camp activities are evident on our roads and about us in all directions. Sunday noon a platoon of soldiers filled the road as they were marching past, in route to the camp from of their practice stations where they have been encamped for a week or more in Centereach or Terryville. Another camp is located in Robinson’s field near Artist Lake. We understand they are practicing for signal services, and the wires which the stretch temporarily for telephone and telegraph instruments.

Joseph Butler was at home on relief from duty in the Navy over Sunday.

Port Jefferson Echo
January 3, 1920

Ice houses are being filled with ice about 7 inches thick on Artist Lake.

July 2, 1921

The Mostert family moved into their new house on the site of the Alonzo Chappel house, overlooking Artist Lake.

July 1, 1922

Roy Still caught a Black Bass in Artist Lake that weighed 51?2 pounds and measured 22 inches in length.

Southside Signal
July 15, 1871

The “Fourth” was celebrated here in a more than usually liberal manner. Mr. Bartlett gave at his residence, a brilliant display of fire works in the evening; also refreshments and music in profuse variety were placed at the disposal of the two or three hundred natives and others who were present.. A good time was the verdict of all present. At the same time another display of like festivities was in progress at Artist Lake under the auspices of Mr. Carpenter, whose residence adjoins the lake.



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