Familiar with Fishers Island from visitations beginning in the mid-1880s, two brothers named Edmund M. & Walton Ferguson, both prominent bankers and businessmen, bought nine-tenths of Fishers Island in 1889 from the Fox heirs, the exceptions being the 101 parcels that had been sold by the Fox family between 1876 and 1889.
Their plan for development was ambitious: transform Fishers Island from a day excursion destination to a seasonal resort that catered to an exclusive clientele.
Over the next 15 years the two Ferguson brothers invested heavily to create an infrastructure worthy of a first class resort. They established a new electric company, a water system with a mid-island pumping station, a private navigation company, a golf club, and numerous other businesses.
Edmund M. and Walton Ferguson. Dates unknown. Museum Collection
The two Ferguson brothers operated under the business name: “E.M. & W. Ferguson.”
The two existing Fishers Island hotels at the time of their purchase—the Lyles Beach and the Mansion House—were both important components of their development plan. They immediately expanded and improved the Mansion House and began building an associated cottage colony on Bell Hill (today’s Shingle Hill). They also bought out the tourist hotel, the Lyles Beach, which after renovations was reopened as the Munnatawket Hotel. A third major hotel, the Mononotto Inn, opened in 1893 on a bluff overlooking Hay Harbor. This hotel, owned by business parties from Bethlehem, Penn., directly competed with the Fergusons’ two hotels. By the late 1910s, these three hotels cumulatively offered more than 300 rooms to let, not including their 31 associated cottages.