In 1946, brothers Alfred, Andrew, and Lionel Cooke became partners in a tavern and fishing station called “Anchor Inn” at Mattituck on Long Island, N.Y. Although called a “fishing station,” local legend says it was built after World War I as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Newspapers indicate that it was then known as Stanley’s Tavern, after local entrepreneur and rum-runner, Stanley Naugles. In 1939, Stanley Naugles’ son, George Naugles, took over the business and changed the name to “Anchor Inn.” He sold it to the Cooke brothers.
During Prohibition, Mattituck Creek was a popular spot for rum-runners to unload their wares and the Anchor Inn and the nearby Old Mill Inn served as local headquarters for this illicit activity. The Bistro, just across the bridge, was known as a place where women of the night could be found.
At the time, Canada had a law that prohibited export of liquor to the United States, so instead, the dealers exported their goods to the nearby French territories of St. Pierre and Miquelon, which then provided them to the infamous William McCoy and other “merchants.” Then, they would load up huge ships with Canadian whiskey, or rum from the Bahamas or Cuba or other places, and anchor 12 miles off Montauk Point on Long Island, just outside United States territorial limits. At night, fleets of speedboats and other smaller craft would make their way out to the ships and load up with cases of “hooch” to be distributed on Long Island, New York City, Atlantic City, and elsewhere. Some of these rum-runners were outfitted with V-12 airplane engines left over from World War I, enabling them to outrun the Coast Guard cutters. Also, Stanley Naugles owned an airplane and supposedly he would fly over Long Island Sound and shoot off flares to alert the rum-runners when the coast was clear. Once safe in one of Long Island’s many harbors or coves, like Mattituck Creek, local boys were paid $20 to help unload and keep quiet. It could be dangerous work and many a boat returned to dock with bullet holes, either from law enforcement or hijackers.
The Cooke brothers took over Anchor Inn in 1946, long after its Prohibition heydays. Once at Mattituck, they set up operation at Anchor Inn: Andrew became the bartender, Lionel did the outside work, and Evelyn was the cook. Alfred was a “not-so-silent, silent partner.” Andrew first lived in an apartment above Anchor Inn, and then, after marrying again, he and his second wife moved into a house across the street.
Lionel Cooke left the partnership in October of 1950 and was bought out by his brothers. Lionel and Evelyn then purchased the 26-acre parcel that would become Shirlyn Acres. It appears that Alfred and Andrew Cooke continued to own Anchor Inn for many years, with Alfred’s son “Cookie” managing the place for awhile. It was destroyed by fire sometime in the 1950s and the property was sold to new owners in about 1970.
- “Back Over the Years: Reminiscences of Mattituck in the Early Years of the Twentieth Century, Vol. IV,” Friends of the Mattituck Free Library, 1986.
- “Coming Ashore: Rum Runners of the East End,” Ben Amato, as posted at Hamptons.com, 23 July 2008.
- Reminiscences of Shirley (Cooke) McCarthy.
- The County Review (Riverhead, NY), various issues.
- The Watchman (Mattituck, NY), various issues.