In the early 20th century, St. James was a popular vacation spot for glitterati of the stage and screen. Summer residents included Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore, Buster Keaton, Myrna Loy, and Irving Berlin, among others. Noteworthy persons of the hamlet have included Stanford White, architect; William Jay Gaynor, New York State Supreme Court Justice and Mayor of New York City; Mick Foley, professional wrestler; Soledad O'Brien, television personality; John Miceli, drummer for Meat Loaf; and John Petrucci, lead guitar player for Dream Theater.
The St. James General Store, located on Moriches Road, is said to be the oldest continuously operating general store in the United States. It and a number of other historic structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 as part of the Saint James District.
Many of these 19th-century structures are located along New York State Route 25A, otherwise known as North Country Road. Among them is the Saint James Church, the source of the hamlet's name during the 1850s. In 1873 St. James Rail Road Station was established. Although small, the historic station-house is the second-oldest on the Long Island Rail Road.
St James was the home of Spaceplex, a notorious indoor amusement park and arcade. The company, Spaceplex Amusement Centers International Ltd., was involved in a stock trading scam and organized crime.
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