Jones Beach, the Marvel by the Sea
By Bill Bleyer
Newsday Staff Writer
When Jones Beach opened Aug. 4, 1929, visitors marveled at the elegance of Robert Moses' nautical vision. A trip to the new state park was more than a day at the seashore; it was a voyage.
The water fountains were operated by miniature ships' steering wheels, the trash cans were hidden inside ship funnel ventilators and the employees were dressed like sailors.
The 2,413-acre state park featured swimming in the ocean surf, in a bay and in heated pools, and a variety of other activities. Patrons -- and there were 1.5 million of them during the first full year of operation in 1930 -- could also enjoy handball courts, deck tennis and shuffleboard courts, an outdoor roller rink, archery, softball, fishing docks, rowboat rentals, an 18-hole pitch-and-putt golf course, dancing, and other sports and entertainment programs. There were even solaria for nude sunbathers and electric bottle warmers for mothers caring for their babies.
As time and tide have washed across the beach over the decades, much has changed. The nautical water fountains and uniforms, the nude sunbathing and the bottle warmers are long gone, and other facilities and programs have been lost to budget cuts or changing times.
Among the things eliminated were handball courts, archery ranges, and umbrella, beach chair and rowboat rentals. The outdoor roller rink, unused for a decade, may be converted to lighted volleyball courts. Parking Field 9 was closed in 1977 because of beach erosion.
But other facilities and programs have been added as the park operation expanded. Since Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Jones Beach, the West End complex has been developed with two large parking fields, although West End 1 was closed in 1991 because of budget cuts. A pool was added in the East Bathhouse in the 1960s.
The 8,200-seat Jones Beach Theatre was added in 1952 -- at first presenting musicals and then shifting to rock concerts. For this summer, the theater's seating capacity is being expanded to 14,354. The pitch-and-putt course has also been expanded and a miniature golf course was opened in the late 1970s.
It all started here, the "Hampton's Mystique" that is, when in 1870, Westhampton Beach residents began renting out rooms to travelers who reached the area via the newly constructed Long Island Rail Road spur from Manorville.
This practice soon spread to other parts of the Hamptons and it was not long before tourism became the most important segment of the area's economy, replacing whaling, fishing and farming as the inhabitants' main source of income.
The Greater Westhampton area is made up of several communities: Quogue, Westhampton Beach, Westhampton, Remsenburg and Speonk, all of them beautiful, all of them exclusive, and all of them ideal places to visit for the season or to settle permanently and raise a family. Indeed, Westhampton has become one of the fastest growing year round communities on Eastern Long Island as many of the seasonal visitors fall in love with the Hamptons and decide to make it their home.
A visit to the village of Quogue gives one the feeling of grandeur and opulence rarely experienced in traveling throughout the country today. Its tree-lined streets, well-manicured lawns and stately Victorian mansions blend together to make Quogue one of the most desirable areas in the Hamptons. By contrast, Dune Road on the ocean in Quogue boasts the most outstanding examples of contemporary home architecture in the world.
Quogue is one of the oldest communities on Long Island, having been founded in 1640 when 40 Puritan Freeholders from Lynn, Massachusetts paid 10 pounds in "good strong merchantable wampum" for the area which was to become what today is called Quogue. The land purchased was valuable for its broad meadow, which was called "Shennecock Meadow," and for the "bonack" or ground nut which grew wild there. The bonack was an important staple of the early settlers and Indians as well. Quogue was also strategically located at a spot where dead whales were frequently cast up on the beach. The oil and other by-products obtained from the whales played an important role in the early economy of the area.
In 1835, Quogue was the second regular overnight stop on the stagecoach run from Brooklyn to Southampton. Travelers became aware of the beauty of the Quogue beach during these stopovers and with the establishment of railroad service in 1844, large numbers of summer boarders were attracted to the area. Around the turn of the century, families which had summered at the hotels and boarding houses began to build one-family homes. This led to more elaborate landscaping which transformed the open meadows into the village of today.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge. Old Country Road, Quogue. (300 acres) Wildlife sanctuary managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Features 7 miles of self-guided trails, a nature center, a distressed wildlife complex where animals can be viewed and a year-round ice harvesting exhibit. (653-4771)
Quogue Village Theatre. Jessup Ave, Quogue. Hampton Theater Company performs three major productions and several smaller shows through the season in this 200-seat theater. (653-8955)
Old Schoolhouse Museum. Quogue Street, Quogue. Circa 1822 schoolhouse with memorabilia of Quogue, including photographs, toys, farm equipment and early utensils. (653-4111)
Combining village quaintness with Manhattan chic, the tree-lined
streets of Southampton feature museums, historical sites and the
famous village shopping district.
Add to this white sand beaches, impressive estates and a variety of recreational activities and the town of Southampton is truly an ideal place to visit.
Established in 1640 by English colonists as the first settlement in New York State, the community still has a decidedly "Colonial" atmosphere. The Village of Southampton and several local buildings are included in the National Historic Registry.
Visitors can take a self-guided historical walking tour. Maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce. Highlights of the tour include the Historical Museum, the Old Halsey Homestead, which is the oldest frame house in the state and the house which served as English General Erskine'sHeadquarters while his troops were stationed in this area during the American Revolution.
An art community evolved around the turn of the century when William Merritt Chase founded The Art School in Shinnecock Hills, now called The Art Village. Due in part to the natural scenery and soft, diffused light and wispy clouds encompassing the South Fork, artists such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning, Fairfield Porter, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers and Eric Fischl have all maintained studios in the area.
Quaint shops on historic, tree-lined streets such as Job's Lane dot Southampton Village. Approximately 200 retail stores in the village include antique shops, art galleries, fine giftware, gourmet shops and unique clothing boutiques. There are more than 20 restaurants in Southampton Village alone, with prices ranging from economy to fine dining. The Hamptons' major health care facility, 168-bed Southampton Hospital, is located in the village, and attends to the medical and surgical needs of visitors and residents.
The village alone boasts seven miles of unspoiled beaches. Some have free parking available. Town beaches have daily parking passes on a first come, first served basis. Southampton's waters are a haven for boating or fishing. Shinnecock is a popular dive spot and Tiana, Shinnecock, Peconic and Noyac Bays are popular among windsurfers.
There are also outstanding tennis facilities available, as well as three golf courses. The Shinnecock Golf Club, the site of the 1896, 1986, 1995 and the future 2004 U.S. Open, is the oldest private 18-hole golf course in America. During the summer, the Southampton Campus of Long Island University is abuzz with jazz and popular rock concerts. The Southampton Cultural & Civic Center, the Parrish Art Museum and the Roger's Memorial Library sponsor a variety of activities for adults and children, including plays, art shows, concerts, readings and workshops.
Conscience Point Historic Site and Nature Walk. Four miles from Southampton Village, off North Sea Road. A large boulder bears a plaque with the inscription: "Near this spot in June, 1640, landed the Colonists from Lynn, Mass., who founded Southampton, the first English settlement in the State of New York." Offers a great view of the Peconic Bay, and a nature trail leads through a rich variety of native
shoreplants. Open year round.
First Presbyterian Church of Southampton. South Main Street. Oldest church in New York State, started in 1640. (283-1296)
Old Halsey Homestead Museum. South Main Street. Built in 1648 by town founder Thomas Halsey, the oldest English frame house in New York. Displays furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries. Open mid-June - September. Maintained by the Southampton Historical Museum. (283-2494)
The Elias Pelletreau Silversmith Shop. 78 Main Street. Founded in 1750 by Captain Elias Pelletreau, famous Colonial silversmith and Revolutionary War patriot, shortly after he completed his apprenticeship in New York City. Today pieces of Pelletreau silver, made some 200 years ago (between 1750 and 1810) in the quaint shop, are sought by collector
I missed out on most of the above when I stayed at the Southhampton Inn after reunions. Tiana Beach was nice. Suzanna and I were there the first summer we were married and this was my first time back. Coopers Beach was great. The water was crystal clear and there were interesting homes all along it. They had a beautiful church on the beach that only has services in the summer. The restaurants in Southhampton are great.