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On most road trips children argue with siblings or bug their parents with, “are we there yet?” I would look out the car window in bewilderment. OK, I still do to this day. My mother was driving me through Bayport once, many years ago, and I spotted a Sphinx. “That used to be behind a gas station, across the street and down the road,” my mother explained as she pointed further eastward. I thought to myself “Why would someone move it, or even build one in the first place?”
While conducting historical research, I came upon an old article in the library mentioning the Ye Anchorage Inn, of Bluepoint. The first photo I saw was that sphinx! Continuing my research, I learned of Captain Will Graham, a very interesting character and the Inn’s proprietor.
The Ye Anchorage Inn, the Sphinx and Graham's areoplane.
Captain Will Graham came to New York from Belfast, Ireland in 1888. Prior to his arrival, he was a skilled sculptor and marble worker. In 1897, he established the Anchorage Inn at Bluepoint. He continued sculpting as well. To promote the Inn, he started a publication called “The Log.” It was geared toward vacationing travelers, and mentioned his inn and many others on Long Island.
Many famous people stayed at the Inn, and would write their names on one of its walls. Some of those who visited included: Elbert Hubbard (writer, publisher and artist), Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas Fairbanks (early actor, screenwriter, director and producer once known as the “King of Hollywood"), Mary Pickford (actress and co-founder of United Artists), Charles Francis Murphy (Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall), Anita Stewart (silent film actress and producer), Ralph Ince and his brother Thomas Ince (both silent film directors, actors and screenwriters)
Graham’s most famouse sculpture was the Sphinx, which was used to attract guests to the Inn. The Sphinx’s base is hollow, and part of it was used as a hen house, while the rest was filled with bricks, old bottles and other debris. An inscription on the base reads, “She who climbs the Sphinx’s head, a millionaire will surely wed.” Graham didn’t stop at sculpting; he also designed an aeroplane that was stored next to the Sphinx. With the Sphinx, the "wall of fame", and an early aeroplane, the Inn was quite the place to be. As if all this were not enough, Graham once promoted a bull fight at the Inn. He advertised it as an auction of a herd of cattle, “including two Bullocks and a Bull.”. It was advertised this way to avoid the legal prosecution. As people bought tickets, he would tell them what the event was really about, and the news spread by word of mouth. Two thousand people attended!
Will Graham sitting on his own creation.
Captain William Graham died of pnemonia inside the Inn on, Feb 20th, 1920 at the age of 57. His obituary says he received the title of Captain when he led the Wyanokes Rowing Club on the Harlem River. The Inn passed through many hands after he died. In 1927, his wife died, and the following year the Inn burned down. Children were reportedly wittnessed fleeing the scene.
The Sphinx has since moved west, but there are still many remains of the Ye Anchorage Inn. These ruins include a chimney/fireplace with a face carved on one side, a well, and an odd oblong structure. So, if you pass these items on Montauk Highway, think of Captain William Graham and his charming Ye Anchorage Inn.