Dering Harbor lies on the north side of Shelter Island facing Greenport. It rose in 1916 on the site where the legendary Manhanset House hotel had stood from 1874 to 1910. The sprawling, 300-room resort, one of two on Shelter Island that emerged in the 1870s and changed it from a backwater to a booming resort, was destroyed by fire May 14, 1910. Wealthy cottagers who lived around the hotel became alarmed that key services it provided, including fresh water, fuel, street maintenance and sewage disposal, would be lost. They bought the hotel site for about $85,000 and formed the village in 1916.
Ten male voters were needed to pass the incorporation but couldn’t be mustered. It was prior to women’s suffrage but a loophole allowed women to vote on municipal incorporations. Three did, though they were unable to vote in the election of village officials.
The dominant figures among the wealthy cottagers, Charles Lane Poor and Benjamin Altha, had contending visions. Altha favored opening the site to development. Poor demanded it be kept a quiet summer residential enclave. He became the second mayor, in 1919, and his views prevailed.