The Big Duck, the historic roadside icon on Flanders Road, celebrated its 90th birthday Saturday with an event hosted by Friends of the Big Duck, the stewardship organization of the surrounding property called Big Duck Ranch.
The 20-foot tall, wood-framed, concrete duck originally stood on a duck farm off West Main Street, where it was built in 1931 by duck farmer Martin Maurer, who used it to sell processed ducks and duck eggs.
The roadside icon became emblematic of duck farming on Long Island, where 100 duck farms once flourished. The region became famous for the Pekin ducks grown here.
Maurer moved the Big Duck to a new ranch he purchased on Flanders Road in early 1937.
The Big Duck continued to operate as a poultry store into the early 1980s. In 1983, the farm was sold for the last time and the Big Duck was closed down in the fall of 1984. The property’s new owners, interested in developing the site with residences, agreed to donate the Big Duck to the county, which moved the Big Duck in January 1988 to a site further east on Flanders Road in Sears Bellows County Park. There, it was repaired, restored and painted.
But the Big Duck wasn’t permanently settled yet. The former Maurer ranch, where the Big Duck roosted from 1937 to 1988, was acquired by the Town of Southampton in 2001 and the building was moved back to the site in 2007.
The beloved local icon has attracted national and international attention over the years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New York State Register and is a Southampton Town landmark.
Suffolk County, which owns and maintains The Big Duck, operates a souvenir shop and history displays inside the building. Southampton Town own and maintains its grounds. Friends of The Big Duck support their efforts by raising funds to landscape the flower garden around the structure, clean the public restrooms, and operate the Long Island Duck Farming exhibit inside the accompanying Victorian Barn.
On Saturday, state, county and local officials came together to salute the Big Duck at Big Duck Ranch, presenting the Friends of the Big Duck with proclamations and resolutions. County Executive Steve Bellone, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, County Legislator Legislator Bridget Fleming. Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar were on hand to commemorate the anniversary.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Diane Tucci
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct an error concerning which entities maintain the building and grounds and to clarify the responsibilities of Friends of the Big Duck.
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