The centerpiece of the New Suffolk Waterfront has had a long and storied past. With the help of donations, fundraisers, and a long term low interest Small Business Administration loan it has been brought back to life by the NSWF and is now the home of Case’s Place, a casual restaurant. The rent and revenue share the NSWF receives from Case’s Place helps to partially cover the operating expenses of the Waterfront.
The NSWF uses the fireplace room at the Galley Ho for its free community lecture series and utilizes the entire restaurant for fundraisers a few times a year. The NSWF office is located on the second floor.
Galley Ho History
Exactly how and when the Galley Ho building first started its life is still a bit of a mystery, but there is a lot we do know about our beloved centerpiece of the New Suffolk Waterfront. It was constructed circa 1900, during the heyday of oystering, submarine trials and the John P. Holland Torpedo Boat Co. Historians say it was where the barrels for shipping oysters were made and was owned at that time by the Radell Oyster Company.
The Galley Ho building's earliest known location was at the southeast corner of Jackson and Second Streets. Around 1940, it was purchased by Charlie Dompke, who operated it as a luncheonette, serving fishermen and locals. Then, in 1943, it was bought by Elsie Fensch and moved to the foot of First Street, just up from the where the Town Beach is now situated. There, Elsie opened her restaurant - Fensch's, which was also affectionately known as the Coney Island Building or, simply, Coney Island, though no one can say why. Maybe it had something to do with the candy store Elsie added to the building!
In 1963, the soon-to-be Galley Ho was relocated once again, just a few steps away from the docks alongside the old boat basin at the end of Main St. A short time later, Dean Blaikie rented the building, renovating it with a modern kitchen and adding a fireplace for warmth in the winter. The Galley Ho was born!
The restaurant became known far and wide for fresh seafood and burgers, as well as dinners. Its sweeping views of Peconic Bay made it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. In 1988, the Galley Ho closed its doors and, though a couple of other restaurants opened in later years, none were successful.
When the NSWF purchased the property in 2009, the Galley Ho was in deteriorated condition and no longer operating as a restaurant. But everyone loved its simplicity, its atmosphere, and the spectacular view of Peconic Bay from its oversized picture windows.
For the first few years, the NSWF used the building occasionally for community events, and decided to do some renovation work as money was raised. The plan was to make some basic repairs but to keep the historic character of the original. But, before the permits could be pulled to do the work, Hurricane Sandy struck, damaging the foundation of the building and destroying the bulkhead, which was only 18 feet away.
The NSWF immediately moved the building away from the bulkhead so repair work could begin on the marina and the building sat on “cribbing” for over a year, while drawings were developed, permits obtained, and funds raised. The NSWF applied for, and was awarded, a long-term, low interest loan from the Small Business Administration for disaster repairs, and began work at the end of 2014. The NSWF took great care in renovating the remaining portions of the building, which dated from 1900, while bringing the building up to safety and access codes. The fireplace room, lost in the Hurricane, was rebuilt with a big open ceiling and wood paneling, lots of windows and, once again, a fireplace. The original bar was restored and re-installed, the picture windows were repaired, and the rooms maintained their original size and unique charm, when the work was completed.
The Galley Ho building re-opened its doors on Memorial Day weekend of 2016, to once again begin the summer in its historic role as a casual waterside restaurant.