A century ago, the future of a small North Shore community rested in the hands of 98 voters.
In a decisive but split vote, 59 residents approved incorporating the village of Bayville on March 26, 1919.
Bayville kicked off its centennial celebrations last month with an opening reception at St. Gertrude Parish Center and has planned other events, including a block party in July, a swim race in August, and the burial of a time capsule and a closing reception in September.
David Rapelje, director of the Bayville Historical Museum, said the village’s birth coincided with its growth as a destination for seaside tourists.
“The village was starting to become a summer retreat,” Rapelje said. “In 1921, coming to Bayville was almost like coming to the Hamptons.”
“Bayville,” a 2009 Arcadia Publishing photo book on the history of the village that Rapelje helped produce, indicates the first bridge connecting Bayville to Mill Neck was built in 1898, and in 1917, daily ferries connected the community to Rye, in Westchester County, and Stamford, Connecticut.
“When they opened the ferry, that’s when droves of people started coming in,” Repelje said.
A slideshow that Rapelje created for the Bayville Historical Museum for the centennial — now posted on the village website — shows the village's transformation from a settlement of indigenous Matinecocks to a summer destination to the year-round community of 6,746 people it is today.
Winslow Pierce, a railroad lawyer, spearheaded the effort to incorporate the village and became its first mayor. Pierce owned a large estate in Bayville called Dunstable, a remnant of which was given to the village in 1954 by a later owner, Mona Williams, and remains preserved as a forested area.
After World War II, large estates were divided and developed with houses, but the transformation from a summer community to a year-round one was gradual.
“After the Second World War was when it really started to become more of a full-time, suburban area,” Rapelje said. “The East End … in the '60s and even into the '70s, a good portion of the town was still summer homes, but now … for the most part, there are all-year residents now.”
Mayor Robert De Natale, 78, said his family started coming to village in 1949.
“This was purely a summer residence,” De Natale said. “Then, over the years, these cottages and summer homes converted to winterizing and heating.”
Tensions over development have surfaced and resurfaced through the years. In the 1960s, a proposal by Robert Moses to build a bridge from Rye to Bayville galvanized the community in opposition just as talk of a tunnel connecting the two municipalities has in recent years.
Beachfront hotels have long been a part of Bayville’s history, but recent proposals for a waterfront inn and event center have brought out large crowds to village meetings in support and opposition.
De Natale said while the large estates were developed, the village made changes over the years to preserve its character.
“If they hadn’t made changes in zoning laws back in the '80s," he said, "you would have small lots all over the place.”
Key Dates in Bayville History
1898 - First Bayville to Mill Neck Bridge is built.
1917 - Daily ferry service between Bayville and Rye and Stamford.
1919 - Village of Bayville incorporated. Winslow Pierce becomes first mayor.
1921 - Bayville Fire Company established.
1951 - Village Hall moves to current location.
1964 - Robert Moses studies bridge from Rye to Bayville.
2012 - Superstorm Sandy causes widespread flooding.
Sources: Bayville Historical Museum; “Bayville,” Arcadia Publishing