Noted scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was one of several important visitors to stay on the North Fork of Long Island during the 1930s and 1940s, which included author and political activist Helen Keller (1880-1968) and composer and conductor Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). His time would be spent sailing and playing music with those he met and befriended during an important and momentous period of his life.
The summer of 1939 (Einstein summered here during 1937, 1938, & 1939) would become known not only for Einstein's residency, but the creation and the mailing of his famous letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Fellow scientists Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner came to visit Einstein on July 16, 1939 - a visit that would lead to the creation of the now infamous letter. The letter would set the United States on the path to the creation of the first Atomic weapons to ever be used in a military conflict.
Two copies of the letter were actually created, the one sent to FDR now resides in the Roosevelt Presidential Papers at Hyde Park, NY, while the other version was sold by Christie's in 2002 for $2.1 million dollars.
The Einstein House on West Cove Road, photo (c) by SHS.
The house Einstein occupied, located on West Cove Road (originally known as Old Cove Road) on Nassau Point, still stands today - though it is privately owned and not accessible to the public. During Einstein's tenure there he was always wary of curiosity seekers and those trying to snap a photograph of him. Local resident and postman Albert Richmond noted "You let Einstein come to you," not the other way around.
In addition to important visitors like Szilard and Wigner, other members of Einstein's entourage came to visit and enjoy the North Fork. This included Valentine Bargman (1908-1989), Einstein's assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. He would join David Rothman and Einstein in their musical interludes at the Rothman house in Southold.
The Southold Historical Society owns an original Einstein letter as well as copies of many others sent to friends here in Southold. We also have over a dozen images taken during his time here on the North Fork copied from the original negatives held by the Rothman family.