Long Island has always been known as a mecca of history, but just a ferry ride away hides another amazing historical community, the Fire Island Pines. A longtime haven for the LGBTQIA+ community, the Fire Island Pines features beautiful architecture, historical homes, plenty of celebrity gossip, and, of course, represents a big part of the gay rights movement.
To help both visitors and locals better understand the history of this special community, the founder of the Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society, Bobby Bonanno, created a walking tour that people can sign up for.
“I started this in 2021 and I thought it was a great idea to begin with, because we had COVID restrictions then and it was outside,” Bonanno said of his initial idea.
The tour, which can accommodate about 30 people and takes Ocean Walk from the eastern end of The Pines to the western end, takes about an hour and a half and features a guided booklet and over 40 stops. Bonanno noted that the leader of the tour has a microphone, so everybody can hear.
Bonanno, who has been a resident of The Pines for over 40 years, said he got the idea for the tours when he was standing outside of a house in The Pines with a friend, and he began talking to three younger people nearby about the history of the house.
“Part of the mission of the organization is about mentoring young people, and I thought that this could be a great way to do it,” Bonanno said. “I didn’t want it to be so literal and so strict. I wanted it to have somewhat of a lightheartedness to it, but with information. Our topics range from architecture, parties, celebrity, to gossip. We run the gamut.”
“The biggest compliment is when a young person comes up and says, ‘Wow, I really love what you do and I’m so grateful.’ That means we’re doing our job because that’s who we really want to reach.”
The tours are very popular and continuously sell out, with many people from Long Island as well as neighboring Fire Island communities coming to learn some history.
“If a person can walk away from a tour with three to five things that they can share with their housemates, it’s just a great thing,” Bonanno said.
Because of the heat, the tours tend to run in the early summer as well as later in the summer. The next scheduled tours are planned for Labor Day weekend.
In addition, Bonanno said that he and the organization are currently working on a shorter 45-minute tour for next year.
“Fire Island is just a beautiful place, and it amazes me sometimes when people on Long Island tend to say they were never there,” Bonanno said.
Tickets for the tours are $35 each and can be made online at pineshistory.org. The Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society can also be visited on Instagram and Facebook @fipines.
According to their website, “The Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society is a group of The Pines community members whose mission is to collect, preserve, display, and celebrate the rich and colorful history of the Fire Island Pines for present and future generations.”
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