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The That’s One Mighty Big Duck

The Big Duck is a Long Island landmark known well beyond the borders of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Big Duck is one of the finest remaining examples of mimetic roadside architecture. In fact, similar types of buildings, shaped like animals, food, etc., are referred to as a "duck architecture" in reference to this structure.

The Duck started out as a store for farmer Martin Maurer and his wife to sell their Peking ducks. From the 1920s to the 1950s, three quarters of American ducks were produced in Long Island. In the 1950s, there were more than 70 other duck farms nearby. But today, there are only 4 duck farms left on Long Island.

The Maurers got their idea while on a trip to California, inspired by eating in a teapot-shaped luncheonette. They hired a couple of unemployed theatrical designers during the Depression to make their feather-brained idea a reality. The plans for the duck were drawn from an actual duck tied to a porch with a piece of string. Construction of the Duck was completed in 1931. It is 20’ tall, 30’ long, 15' wide, and weighs 10 tons.

Ford Model T tail-lights were used for the Duck's eyes (they still work and glow red at night). Today, the interior is used for the Big Duck souvenir gift shop. In December, the Duck is decked out with garlands and ornaments for the holiday season.

The Duck has been moved a few times. In 1936, it was moved from Riverhead to Flanders where it continued to sell eggs and processed ducks. The Duck closed in 1984 and in 1988 it faced demolition and was moved to Hampton Bays. It's possible that the Duck may return to its previous Flanders site in order to preserve a dozen old farm buildings in order to give the property a national historic site designation. (The Duck is on the National Register of Historic Places). There is a nice miniature replica (still rather large) of the Duck at Island Green Golf in Selden, NY. These days, the duck is the home of the Long Island Tourist Information Center as well as a welcome sight for all who drive past its roost.

Photo by Debra Jane Seltzer

You can read about all of New York’s other Roadside Oddities and curious attractions in our book Weird New York.

Weird New York

 

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