Riverhead, New York is the county seat of Suffolk County. It is located at the junction of the tuning fork-type ends of Long Island, at 40.9° North and 72.6° West. It's current population is about 28000.
The land around Riverhead, including the lands between the Mattituck and Wading Rivers, were originally the home of the Montaukett tribe. The Riverhead area received its name from the emptying of the Peconic River into Flanders Bay (the water between the forks of Long Island). John Tucker and Joseph Horton acquired rights to set up a sawmill there in 1659. By 1690, the Peconic River was being harnessed by several grist and textile mills.
The town split from Southhold when the origination of Suffolk County took place in 1792. Riverhead was incorporated as the county seat of Suffolk, and the village grew quickly because of its importance in the local government. Industry also continued to grow, with shipbuilding and farming beginning to take root in the town's economy. Riverhead was also home to large duck farms, which thrived until World War II.
The Long Island Rail Road began operation in 1846. The railroad opened the door to New York City residents looking for an escape from the city, leading to growth on Long Island of tourism and population. Riverhead, being one of the last towns on the island, did not receive the same growth spurt that closer towns in Nassau County received.
However, many Polish immigrants came to Riverhead in the early 1900's. The immigrants came to the area for it's good farming land, using skills they had acquired back in their homeland. Today, one in four residents of Riverhead are of Polish decent.
The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, located on Peconic Street, is the only one of three theaters from the late 1800's to survive in Riverhead. The music hall originally opened on October 11, 1881 to rave reviews. Thomas Edison would often show his inventions in the music hall, drawing large crowds. After changing into a pool hall and a casino, the hall closed in 1925. It remained hidden as storage for the store downstairs until 1978, when the space was re-discovered. The hall is currently being restored to it's original condition, and is slated to open in the spring of 2003.
The Okeanos Aquarium is also located on Peconic Street. After coming under new ownership on 2000, the aquarium was renovated, and a 40-foot wide shark tank was added. The aquarium is the home of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which rehabilitates stranded and injured sea animals.
Riverhead is a large tourist town, with over 25 million visitors coming to the area a year. Because it is only 70 miles away from New York City, Riverhead is a quick weekend outing by car or train. Agriculture is also very important, with half the land used for farming on Long Island located in Riverhead.
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