To walk down Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor is to step into history. In fact, the entire business district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"The preservation of the old buildings on Main Street, which I think this community takes a great deal of pride in, continues to tell the story of what was here hundreds of years ago," says Margie Burkett, assistant director for public affairs of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, housed in the former Methodist Church on Main Street.
These old former homes are now repurposed as stores and eateries, making shopping a special experience. Say La Vie, full of fun Buddha statues and eclectic clothing (a faux fur poncho for $165 and popular gem bracelets starting at $45,) is in a house built in the 1770s and the hamlet's oldest Main Street building, says store owner Jane Zuckerberg.
Nearby -- although not walkable -- are a healthy bunch of museums, including the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium, the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
There's a municipal parking lot on the west side of town, too. Here are five spots worth browsing on a visit:
129 Main St., 631-549-0105
Unlike many antiques shops, this one is light and airy, and with two floors to browse. It holds plenty of vintage and antique merchandise -- from a circa 1820 leather trunk for $350 or wide collection of pocket watches (including an $1,800 Elgin) to the odd fruit (an $1,800 rare carved coconut from the 1880s).
The shop has commissioned items from serious collectors, and has high-end jewelry and furniture, including the popular arts-and-crafts-style furniture.
"We try to stock things that people are looking for now," says Janet Marcus, a dealer at the shop. "Useful things for the home and modern living."
103 Main St., 631-367-3302
This can be your favorite place, too. Walk into an incense-scented room with the sound of waterfalls. There are so many charming things, from inspiring slogans printed on pillows and fabrics ("She looked in the mirror and saw a pretty face") to Victorian-styled lacy shawls and throws. Look up and see the half-dozen or so orb-shaped chandeliers -- made of glass daisies or rubylike gems for $98.
Lots of fun stuff for little girl rooms, too.
3. COLD SPRING HARBOR PHARMACY
36 Main St., 631-692-7222
Part hometown pharmacy and part French-style cosmetic boutique, owner Jeffrey Yohai says he stocks higher-end items such as Dr. Hauschka's skin care and makeup line and Lilly Pulitzer phone covers ($20-$22).
"Nest candles are a big seller," says Yohai. Most sell for about $30.
There's also all the usual kid stuff, such as the Rainbow Looms, alongside the standard greeting cards and medicinal items.
4. COLD SPRING HARBOR FIREHOUSE MUSEUM
84A Main St., 631-367-0400
The museum is home of the hamlet's first firehouse, built in 1896. Among the treasures inside are old fire trucks, a "Phenix Hand Tub" that was drawn not by horses but volunteers who would pull the wooden cart to the fire.
There are other artifacts, too, such as leather buckets used to haul water. And a more modern artifact: a piece of steel from the Twin Towers. There's even a 100-year-old nickelodeon music-playing machine.
Admission is $2 adults (free for children). It's open noon-5 p.m. Fridays-Sundays.
181 Main St., 631-367-9500
What better way to end your stroll up and down the streets of Cold Spring Harbor than with a stop for a cup of coffee and a pastry?
Housed in a circa 1860 building, the 3-year-old bakery brings in all its goods from Fiorello Dolce of Huntington. It's really known for its coffee, which uses beans from Georgios Coffee Roasters of Huntington Station and Long Island Roasters in Southold. Coffee runs $2.50 for a small cup; a crowd fave -- cold-brewed iced coffee -- goes for $3.50. Muffins, cookies, scones and other goodies satisfy the sweet tooth.
Enjoy your treats on the top deck or below in "Sweetie Pie Garden," both serene and comforting places for tired feet.
Second in an occasional series.