What’s a roadtrip if you can’t pose in front of an oversized something? A trip to the outer reaches of Long Island would not be complete for a roadside giant loving fan without a visit to the famous Big Duck in Flanders NY. Why it’s practically historical in its architectural significance. And kinda cute too!
Built in 1931 in Riverhead NY by a duck farmer in to sell ducks and duck eggs, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. This cement quacker which originally had model T headlights for eyes has been historically renovated and was moved around a couple of times since settling in its current location since 2007. But all that is only a small bit about the important history of this place.
Buildings that are shaped to look like something else can be called follies, mimetic, novelty or programmatic architecture. You know, giant teapots, tee-pees and the like. But an architectural term for these buildings is also a “duck” or “duck architecture”. This term was coined by famous architect Robert Venturi, and this big duck in Long Island is the reason he uses that term!
I wasn’t sure that the duck was open when we pulled up, as it was a bit dark inside, but we entered to find a friendly volunteer behind the counter selling “duckamabilia” and other souvenirs. I could not help but pick up a book on roadside delights, and posed for a rare photo in front of the duck myself!
The Big Duck, on Route 24 in Flanders, now serves as a tourist information center. A good time to visit the duck is during the annual Holiday Lighting of the Big Duck, which is held on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
In 1931, duck farmer Martin Maurer built this 20-ft. high, 30-ft. long, concrete-over-wooden frame "duck" to use it as a Riverhead (Flanders) shop.
Maurer sold ducks and duck eggs from this location.
When the land was sold for development, the Giant Duck preservationists and the Friends for Long Island's Heritage petitioned to save the structure which had become a Long Island attraction.
The owners donated the Big Duck to Suffolk County in 1987.
In 1988 it moved from Flanders to Hampton Bays along Route 24 at the entrance of Sears-Bellow County Park.
It has now moved back to Flanders and rests near the original duck farm, on Flanders Road.
The shop still operates -- now as a tourism center for the East end of Long Island, selling souvenirs to tourists and New York City weekend visitors.
Each year, on the first Wednesday in December, the Suffolk County Parks Department sponsors the Annual Holiday Lighting of the Big Duck.
This year, it will happen on December 3rd.Visitors join in singing carols and once Santa arrives, transported by the Flanders Fire Department, the switch is activated and the Big Duck lights up for all to see.