Einstein on the Beach (Southold, That Is)


The new Einstein Square in Southold is going to be unveiled shortly. The former Rothman’s Department Store building at 54180 Main Road has been completely overhauled, and it and the neighboring building will be renamed at a ceremony on August 2 at 3:00PM. The owners of the building have redone the street-level storefront, as well as the residential space upstairs, and the surrounding greenspace. Douglas Elliman agents Susan Romano and Scott Bennett are representing the commercial and residential space rental.

Wait–why Einstein? 2019 is the 100 year anniversary of Rothman’s Department Store (which has moved next door), as well as the 80th year since Albert Einstein spent the summer in Southold. Einstein and Rothman became good friends and Einstein would later refer to this time as his “happiest summer ever.”

Via Library of Congress

The executive director of the Southold Historical Society, Deanna Witte-Walker, says, “Southold Historical Society is thrilled to see the historic site being preserved.  We have been watching the progress with great satisfaction, knowing both this building and this special relationship between Albert Einstein and David Rothman will be celebrated for years to come.”

In the summer of 1939, Einstein took his sister Maja, his stepdaughter Margot, his son Hans, and his secretary Helen Dukas to Southold. Margot, a sculptor, went to Rothman’s looking for a chisel sharpener. Rothman gave her the sharpener and asked her to present his respects to her father.

Next day, Einstein himself came into the store and asked for “sundials.” Rothman showed him a sundial, but turned out what Einstein really wanted were sandals. Rothman didn’t have men’s sandals, so he sold Einstein a pair of women’s shoes in the largest size he had, 11. Which Einstein then wore all summer.

Rothman and Einstein struck up a friendship, based partially on their mutual love of science and music. Einstein even tried to teach Rothman the basics of the Ehrenfest paradox, part of the theory of special relativity. Rothman said later that even though Einstein called the math he used “trivial,” he himself was stumped.

As Einstein left to go back to Princeton, he told Rothman, “You know, this has been one of the most beautiful summers of my whole life…'”

Salut, sir. May your name live forever.