The Hercules Figurehead has guarded Stony Brook Harbor for over 70 years. Hercules was the original figurehead on the USS Ohio, the first ship to be launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1820. The whole cost of the ship was $550,000 then, about 14 million dollars today. The Hercules Figurehead alone cost $1,500 (today, $38,000.) In the Nile’s National Registry, an English Captain in the Royal Navy was quoted as having said that the USS Ohio, with its 74 guns, was “the perfection of a line-of-battle ship”.
The USS Ohio voyaged to the Mediterranean in 1838, suppressed the slave trade off the coast of Africa, and traveled to Mexico towards the end of the Mexican-American War in 1847. It was stationed in Boston from 1847 to 1882, and was used as a training post because its size accommodated large numbers of Naval Officers at one time.
During the Civil War, the USS Ohio was fully armed and was utilized to bring Navy Officers to blockade fleets off the coast of Southern States.
In 1875, the Hercules Figurehead and the USS Ohio were placed “in ordinary” and were considered of no further use to the United States government. Both were sold in 1882 to Mr. Israel Snow of Maine for $17,100, who then sold both for $20,000 to a group of Long Islanders from Greenport and Riverhead. They undressed the vessel of its materials for other purposes.
The USS Ohio was burned in an explosive funeral pyre in Greenport Harbor, which resulted in the injury and death of one person.
The Hercules Figurehead and the USS Ohio’s Anchor were removed from the ship before its funeral and were sold to a family in Aquebogue for ten dollars. The family fixed Hercules with new paint and sold the figurehead to Miles Carpenter, the proprietor of the Canoe Place Inn at the time, for between $15 and $25.
The figurehead remained across the street from the Canoe Place Inn from the late 1800s until 1951, when Ward Melville purchased it and relocated it to Stony Brook Village and created the Hercules Pavilion, where it now stands guard at Stony Brook Harbor.