Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Big Duck

Location:   Flanders, N.Y.
Year:   1931

The Big Duck is a ferrocement building constructed in the shape of a giant duck. It is 18 feet wide at its widest, 30 feet long, and 20 feet tall at the top of the head. The duck's eyes are made out of Model-T taillights. 

It was originally situated in Riverhead, New York, and used by duck farmer Martin Maurer to promote his duck farm. In 1937, it was moved to Route 24 in Flanders, where it stands today. 

Long Island ducks are as definitive as Maine lobsters, Idaho potatoes, New York cheesecake, and Maryland crabs. Duck farming was the major industry on eastern Long Island in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Almost 100 duck farms were in operation in its peak years just before World War II. There are very few left. After the war, suburban sprawl swallowed up much of the duck farming area, and on the North Fork vineyards have all but replaced duck farms.

For much of its history, The Big Duck provoked mocking merriment in passersby. It is now a Long Island landmark regarded fondly by all.

Since the Big Duck closed for business in 1987, it has been a museum dedicated to the history of the Long Island duck, and this curious little building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The word "duck" is now used in architecture to describe any building where form follows function. 

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