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.”