Back in the 1920s, when there were many duck farms on New York's Long Island, a man named Martin Maurer decided he needed a better building as a place to sell his ducks and their eggs. He had recently driven to California and knew about some of the unusually shaped structures there, so he imagined and then built an oversized white Peking Duck as a roadside stand on his property in Riverhead, New York, in 1930.
Could he have envisioned a day when his silly structure would be listed as a National Historic Place?
The structure has been moved a couple of times from its original site, but its longevity has earned it the status of a major landmark. In fact, some architects, following the lead of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour in their book Learning From Las Vegas, refer to all buildings in "symbolic" forms as "ducks."
Flocks of tourists come to see
the Big Duck each year.
Since the late 1980s, the duck has been taken care of by the Friends for Long Island's Heritage at its new site in the Sears Bellows County Park. In the twenty-first century, the curator of the Big Duck, Babs Bixby, often called the "Duck Lady," has helped make the place a fascinating and fun mix of souvenir store and mini-museum of unusual buildings. Her passion for the Duck is infectious, but even she knows its charm is a bit of a mystery: "The Big Duck is this little way station, this little special place. And there's no explaining it."
If you're in New York, it's a great day trip out to the eastern end of Long Island. Babs gave us directions: "The most direct route is Sunrise Highway, Route 27, which goes all the way from New York City to Montauk Point. And it's a very long island, you know, Long Island is, so, take it straight out to Exit 65N, and then that that feeds you right onto Route 24, and then you go just a mile and a half and then you'll see the Duck on the left, just sitting there as if it's sailing out across State Route 24."
the "Duck Lady"
THE BIG DUCK
[send mail to:
61 Bellows Pond Road]
The Big Duck is open every day from May 1 through Labor Day
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Weekends after that. Also 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.