My Turn: Silver Sands recalls the simple summer tradition
Sadness, disappointment, regret – I experienced all of these emotions when the Silver Sands Motel, a longtime family business in Greenport, was sold earlier this year.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my feelings of loss. For over 60 years, Silver Sands has been the vacation destination for countless North Fork visitors. People came to the motel, with its vintage seahorse logo, from all over Long Island, as well as from the city and points beyond.
My wife and I, along with our children, were part of this happy annual migration. For the Conway family, summer wasn’t summer without at least a few days at Silver Sands. No matter where our vacation travels might take us, it was obvious that in June, July or August we would pack our bags and head east to our favorite motel. Our visits were a family tradition that everyone looked forward to.
What was the appeal of Silver Sands?
In the late 70s, tired of the glamor of the Hamptons, my wife and I decided to explore Greenport, a quiet fishing town we had heard of but never visited. Looking for a place to spend the night, we came across Silver Sands, half a mile from town on Peconic Bay.
Although his property was breathtakingly beautiful, the motel itself was rather modest: fifteen units flanked by a handful of small cottages. Its rooms — linoleum floors, wood-paneled walls, and small, functional bathrooms — weren’t likely to make the cover of high-end hospitality magazines.
Yet there was something wonderfully unassuming about Silver Sands. Like the rest of Greenport at the time, it was charming in a rustic, sometimes quirky way. It was also the perfect solution for honeymooners wanting to escape the glitz.
The Jurzenias, the family that owned Silver Sands, were lovely. From the start they went out of their way to make us feel at home. After checking in we received a welcome package of North Fork wine and crisps and learned that breakfast, coffee and a newspaper would be delivered to our room the next morning.
Our brief stay at Silver Sands was enough to convince us to return the following summer – and an endless string of summers after that.
Over the years, Greenport has grown upscale, opening Manhattan-style restaurants, replacing local stores with trendy boutiques and lounges, and gradually leaving much of its salty past behind.
But at Silver Sands, little has changed. The motel’s environmentally conscious owners have continued to showcase the area’s natural beauty, at one point installing a video monitor in the living room so guests can view ospreys nesting at a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
The motel has also remained child-friendly, offering plenty of activities for youngsters. Our sons swam, paddled around the bay, tried to beat their dad at ping pong and pinball, and even played in a treehouse at the edge of the property. No one was ever bored.
When my wife and I visited Silver Sands last year, it still felt like an oasis of summertime innocence, a place where kids could splash around in the fresh waters of the Peconic, like our now grown children did. in the old days. The motel, including its rooms, hadn’t changed much since our first visit decades earlier. And that suited us perfectly.
I read that the new owners plan to renovate the property, add a bar and other amenities, but retain the original “feel” of the motel. I am sure the new establishment will be interesting and inviting. But it will be impossible for anyone in my family to forget the old Silver Sands – a link to a sweet, tender time for all of us.
Richard J. Conway,
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