Of all the North Fork’s scenic and peaceful neighborhoods, there’s only one where the street names harken back to an 19th-century epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Laughing Water in Southold.
A small, private community along Corey Creek, Laughing Water was once the domain of Cedric Wickham, a former owner of Mattituck Airport and fan of Native American lore.
The 80-year-old community’s name derives from Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha,” written in 1855. The name of Hiawatha’s lover, Minnehaha, was believed to translate to “Laughing Water.”
In the more than 150 years since its publication, countless children have memorized parts of the poem in elementary school classes across the country: “By the shores of Gitchee Gumee … ”
Children have been coming to the shores of Laughing Water since the 1930s, when Mr. Wickham sold 83 lots to John Flynn.
At the time, land advertisements described the neighborhood — which then boasted a nearby nine-hole golf course — as a place with “pure air, ocean breezes, wonderful drinking water, [with] rare opportunities for life in the open.” Lots sold for $150.
These days, real estate at Laughing Water is going for a bit more. Two waterfront homes on Minnehaha Boulevard are currently on the market for $610,000 and $899,000. The former is tucked into Corey Creek and features three bedrooms and two baths. The latter, a four-bedroom, 2.5-bath house, is closer to Peconic Bay.
“It’s like stepping away from the real world,” said Pam Holzer, a Connecticut native who now lives in the Laughing Water home her mother bought in 1968. “You’re away from everything.”
Richard Prieto’s parents were early residents who bought land there in 1946. Back then, he recalled, they referred to the biannual property association meetings and cookouts as “pow-wows.”
Today, the membership of the property owners association at Laughing Water includes 70 of the community’s 100 homeowners. Membership costs $185 per year and includes access to the neighborhood beach and two marinas.
The beach is about 200 feet long and is tucked into a small cove on the west side of Corey Creek. A sandbar shields the cove from Peconic Bay and is a short swim from the beach. A footbridge — called Muskody Bridge — that once connected the beach to the sandbar was destroyed in the 1938 hurricane and never rebuilt.
Larry Kulick is president of the property owners association. An accountant by trade, he ended up leading the association because, he said, he “get[s] along with a lot of people, and a lot of people get along with me.”
Despite the fact that nearly half the people who live in Laughing Water are second-home owners, Mr. Kulick said it’s a tight-knit community.
“People say it’s so great out [on the North Fork] during the summer, but I wouldn’t really know, because I don’t leave here,” he said, half-joking. “It’s so peaceful and quiet.”