Bay Shore Harbor is located on the South Shore of Long Island, New York, on the Great South Bay north of Fire Island. A hamlet within the Town of Islip in Suffolk County, Bay Shore Harbor is about 56 nautical miles (76 kilometers or 47 miles) east of the Port of New York. Bay Shore Harbor is one of the oldest towns on Long Island, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the land purchase from local natives. After suffering an economic slump in the late 20th Century, Bay Shore Harbor has rebounded into the popular shopping and resort area it once was. In 2010, over 26.3 thousand people called Bay Shore Harbor home.
Bay Shore Harbor and Long Island were home to the Lenape (later called the Delaware) and the Mohegan peoples before Europeans arrived. In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano became the first European to meet the Lenape on the western side of Long Island. The Bay Shore Harbor area was home to the major creators of sacred shells known as wampum which were used for trade with the Europeans. The indigenous people of the future Bay Shore Harbor and Long Island fell prey to the diseases like smallpox brought by Europeans, and white settlements pushed the survivors off the island.
One of Long Island's oldest towns, Bay Shore Harbor was home to Sagtikos Manor as early as 1697. The British used this Bay Shore Harbor manor as a headquarters during the American Revolution. Bay Shore Harbor had many names as the Europeans settled and developed the area. They called it Awixa and Penatauit, names used by the indigenous Secatogue tribe. Bay Shore Harbor was called Sodom in the early 1800s, although the reason for this is not known. Bay Shore Harbor became Mechanicsville from 1842 until 1949 when the name Penataquit was once again adopted. However, Penataquit was hard to spell, and the town's name and the name of the post office were changed to Bay Shore in 1868.
Bay Shore Harbor was popular for its resorts and shopping district in the late 1800s when affluent New Yorkers found its white sand beaches and the rick fishing on Fire Island. The Long Island Railroad gave them easy access to Bay Shore Harbor, and the town grew as a summer residential area for the wealthy.
In the 1950s and 1960s, new housing developments arose where farms and woodlands had been in Bay Shore Harbor, and they were settled by middle- and working-class people. Sudden growth strained local infrastructure, but Bay Shore Harbor continued to be one of the most popular shopping destinations in the region.
Bay Shore Harbor did not have a local government and, by the 1970s, the community entered a period of decline. The residents of Bay Shore Harbor could not make important decisions about local matters. Rather, the Town of Islip and Suffolk County rezoned single-family residential areas to mixed commercial and residential areas. Store fronts on Bay Shore Harbor's Main Street were vacant or rundown. When the nearby Pilgrim State Hospital was emptied, psychiatric patients were relocated to rental housing in Bay Shore Harbor's downtown area. Crime increased, and indigents slept in public parks and on the street. Bay Shore Harbor's waterfront did not suffer as much as downtown, largely due to the ferry going between Bay Shore Harbor and Fire Island.
Since the 1980s, the citizens of Bay Shore Harbor have worked to restore their community. Gated communities with upscale condominiums and townhouses arose on old estates. The old Bay Shore Theater opera house was renovated. Bay Shore Harbor's Main Street got new sidewalks, restored parks and landscaping, and antique streetlights.
Today, Main Street has many new restaurants and boutiques, and it gained a meditation garden. The Bay Shore Harbor waterfront docks have been rebuilt, and there is a new waterpark at the Bay Shore Harbor marina. Rundown commercial buildings have been razed and replaced by new retail establishments like a Lowe's home improvement center and a BMW dealership.