Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Pilgrim State Hospital

At the turn of the 19th century, New York City’s psychiatric facilities were becoming overcrowded and the expansion to quiet, calm Long Island farms was a strategy to deal with the overpopulation. The concept was to build a center on Long Island near farms and have patients in a relaxed setting. This idea for the hospital created the concept that the hospital was more of a “farm colony” than a psychiatric asylum. Two major farm colonies were created because of this concept, Kings Park State Hospital and Central Islip State Hospital. These two farm colonies eventually became overcrowded also, and another farm colony was needed. This lead to the creation of Pilgrim State Hospital.

Pilgrim State Hospital, known now as Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, is a state-run psychiatric hospital on Long Island. It was named in honor of Dr. Charles W. Pilgrim who was a former New York State Commissioner of Mental Health.

The psychiatric center’s construction began in Brentwood, NY in 1929. The Pilgrim State Hospital was opened on October 1, 1931 and at its opening, it was the largest hospital of any kind around the world. The hospital had multiple sets of buildings and each set was known as a quad. Each quad was composed of four building surrounding one central building which housed the kitchen for each building set.

The hospital was a close-knit community and self-sufficient. It had its own police department, fire department, post office, courts, Long Island Railroad station, power plant, swine farm, church, cemetery, water tower, and staff and administrator housing centers.
In the years following its creation, the patient population continued growing as it did for the other hospitals. With the continuous growth, New York State felt the need to expand and purchased more land southwest of the hospital. This newly acquired land was used for the construction of the Edgewood State Hospital, which had a very short lifespan.

At the time of the Second World War, the War Department took control of Edgewood State Hospital and three new buildings of Pilgrim State Hospital. The new possession of these buildings was called Mason General Hospital, which was a psychiatric facility devoting its work to aiding and treating battle-traumatized soldiers. There is a documentary called “Let There Be Light” made by John Huston (available at libraries in Nassau County) about Mason General Hospital and the soldiers there who suffered PTSD and other psychiatric disorders from battle.

After World War II’s end, Pilgrim State Hospital again experienced a large patient increase, with 13,875 patients committed and over 4,000 employees staffed to help these patients. The 1950s brought about a more aggressive treatment style at Pilgrim State Hospital where there was a history of lobotomies and electro-convulsive therapy.

Pilgrim State Hospital soon began its decline due to the availability of pharmaceutical treatments as an alternative to aggressive treatments and hospitalization.

Today, Pilgrim State Hospital still stands, but the farm land was sold. The farms are now part of Suffolk County Community College. The parts of the hospital that still stand are very small compared to the previously used areas of the hospital. Additionally, part of Pilgrim State Hospital is now a host to the Long Island Psychiatric Museum with displays including photos, newsletters, and relics left behind.

“Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Aug. 2018,

Monday, November 5, 2018

Roosevelt Raceway

Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, was the first track in the nation to run harness horses.

The harness racing facility opened on September 2, 1940. George Washington Vanderbilt III, George Preston Marshall and Eddie Rickenbacker raised money to build a new home for the dormant auto race the Vanderbilt Cup, which had last been run in 1916. Vanderbilt Cup winner George Robertson was hired to oversee construction of the facility. The land was acquired by lease of the land that was "Unit 2" of the Roosevelt Field airport, and was the site of the runway from which Charles Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis. The original raceway was twisty and bumpy, not quite suited to the big-bore big-BHP racecars of the day, and a number of the drivers did not like the track. The 1937 layout was faster, with fewer corners and longer straights. Despite these adaptations, no GP motor car races were held there afterwards.

The property was leased in 1939 by a group of investors (Old Country Trotting Association) led by George Morton Levy with the intention of opening a harness racing track. It was the original home of the Messenger Stakes, part of the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers. It was also the first track to use the now universal "mobile starting gate".

The site of Roosevelt Raceway is part of the Hempstead Plains, located in an unincorporated area of the Town of Hempstead. It is located near where the first English Governor of New York, Richard Nicolls, established the "Newmarket Course", the first horse racing track in North America (and the first organized sport of any kind) in the territory that would become the United States, in 1664

It closed in July, 1988 due to dwindling crowds, lured away by offtrack betting and new competition from the Meadowlands race track in East Rutherford, N.J., that forced the decision to close, the track owner said.


Hevesi, Dennis. “Roosevelt Raceway Closes Down; Losses and Competition Are Cited.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 July 1988, www.nytimes.com/1988/07/16/nyregion/roosevelt-raceway-closes-down-losses-and-competition-are-cited.html

“Roosevelt Raceway.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roosevelt_Raceway

Monday, October 22, 2018

Eisenhower Park

At 930 acres, Eisenhower Park is one of the largest public spaces in the New York metropolitan area – larger, in fact, than Central Park. The park offers a full range of athletic and family activities, including one of the finest swimming facilities in the U.S., a major golf facility, dozens of athletic fields and courts, picnic areas, summertime entertainment, playgrounds, fitness trails and more.

Eisenhower Park consists of the former property owned by the exclusive Salisbury Country Club as well as adjoining properties acquired by the county. Prior to being The Nassau County Park at Salisbury, the golf courses were part of the Salisbury Golf Club, first developed in 1917 by Joseph J. Lannin, owner of the Garden City Hotel, Roosevelt Airfield, and the Boston Red Sox. Lannin died mysteriously in 1928, but his daughter Dorothy’s residence and carriage house (The Lannin House) still stand on Eisenhower Park’s property. Lannin moved the Salisbury Links to this site after his old course was made private. Golf architect Devereux Emmet designed the red course for the new club. Golfer Walter Hagen won the 1926 PGA Championship on it, making the course world famous.

During the Depression, the owners were unable to pay taxes and the property was taken over by the county. Subsequently, the county acquired additional land in the area. In 1944, Nassau County Park at Salisbury was established as part of County. Executive J. Russell Sprague's vision to create a park that "one day will be to Nassau County what Central Park is today to New York City." The park was officially dedicated in October of 1949.

The park was rededicated on October 13, 1969, as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Park at a ceremony attended by the 34th President's grandson, Dwight D. Eisenhower II, and his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano dedicated a statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower in a ceremony at Eisenhower Park on Sunday, October 13th, 2013.

Here’s a list of some of the things found in the park:

16 lighted tennis courts

Twin Rinks Ice Center consists of two indoor, NHL-sized skating rinks, as well as one outdoor rink.
Athletic fields include 17 baseball fields (14 for softball and three for hardball), four soccer fields and three football fields.

There is one full-court basketball court.

In the summer of 2007, the park introduced a two-mile Fitness Trail that provides a jogging or walking trail and 20 attractive and simple fitness stations that incorporate a variety of exercises. These include stretching, pull-ups, sit-ups and balance walking exercises that increase slightly in difficulty as the trail proceeds.

Eisenhower features three excellent 18-hole golf courses open to the public: the Red, White and Blue courses. The Red course, which hosted the Commerce Bank (PGA) Championship, has been called by Newsday one of the "Top 10" public golf courses on Long Island. In addition, the park has an illuminated driving range.

An 18-hole Miniature Golf Course is a popular attraction for children and families. The course, which has been named "Best of Long Island" by News 12 Long Island, features two 18-hole courses with terraced landscaping that incorporates a waterfall, small ponds, flower beds and a number of challenging holes.

There is a Batting Cage with nine separate batting areas offering varying pitching speeds for baseball or a softball option.

There are three playground areas with a range of activities for children.

Built in 1998 for the Goodwill Games, the Nassau County Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park is one of the finest swimming facilities in the U.S. It regularly hosts major swimming competitions and is also open to the public. The Center includes a “stretch” 50-meter pool that is 68 meters long, with three movable bulkheads. There is also a 25-meter diving well with competition diving towers, platforms, and springboards. In addition, there is a beautifully renovated fitness center, located above the pool.

The Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre is an outdoor theater that hosts a full schedule of entertainment events during the summer, from concerts to movies.

The large and beautiful Veterans Memorial and Wall of Honor commemorates the contributions of the nation’s veterans in various branches of service.

On September 9, 2007, the County unveiled the 9/11 Memorial honoring the 344 Nassau County residents who lost their lives during the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. The monument, one of the largest completed memorials to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, is located by Eisenhower Park Lake, near Lakeside Theatre. The monument includes two stainless-steel towers set in a fountain as well as two steel girders recovered from the World Trade Center; plaques memorialize the names of County residents who lost their lives.

There are two memorials to Nassau County firefighters who have died in the line of duty, including one dedicated to those county firefighters who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In the gaming area next to the playground, there is a bocci court and tables with inlaid chess and checker boards.

Eisenhower is home to Carltun on the Park restaurant, a privately run facility operated in a former country club. The Carltun offers a restaurant, bar, banquet facilities and a meeting room.

“Eisenhower Park | Nassau County, NY - Official Website.” Nassau County, Long Island New York, www.nassaucountyny.gov/2797/Eisenhower-Park

“History of Eisenhower Park | Nassau County, NY - Official Website.” Nassau County, Long Island New York, www.nassaucountyny.gov/4246/History-of-Eisenhower-Park

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fire Island Lighthouse

Fire Island Lighthouse is an important aspect of Long Island history. The first Fire Island lighthouse was built and completed in 1826. The structure was only 74-feet high and octagonal pyramid shaped. The structure was cream-colored and made of Connecticut River blue split stone. Only being 74-feet high, the lighthouse was ineffective for its purpose of guiding transatlantic ships coming to the New York Harbor. Due to its ineffectiveness, this lighthouse was removed and the materials were reused to build a terrace on the new lighthouse. All that remains of the original lighthouse structure is a ring of bricks and stones.

With the need of a useful lighthouse for transatlantic ships, Congress appropriated $40,000 for a new structure in 1857. This new structure would be over double the height of the original, at 168 feet tall. After its completion, it was officially in use and lit on November 1, 1858. This new tower was made of red bricks which were painted a creamy yellow color and eventually again in August of 1891, it was repainted to alternating black and white bands which still remains its colors.

The lens that was fitted to the tower was called the First Order Fresnel Lens which released a white flash once a minute. The Lens was connected to a Funk Lamp with 5 concentric wicks which caused the illumination inside the lens. Since the lens was fitted to the tower, various different fuels were used with whale oil, lard oil mineral oil and kerosene being the most commonly used. Electricity was not reached to the tower until September 20 of 1938, and ironically the next day a hurricane struck cutting out the electricity, making the lighthouse’s electrification process delayed.

The lighthouse was decommissioned as an aid for transatlantic ships on December 31 of 1973, but the structure was left remaining and use of the light house and its tract, which spans approximately 82 acres, was temporarily given to the National Park Service for five years. Eventually, the tract was declared by law to be within the boundaries of the Fire Island National Seashore in 1979.
The year 1982 marked the creation of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society which successfully raised over 1.3 million dollars. The money raised was to restore and preserve the lighthouse.

Two years later, in 1984, the Fire Island Lighthouse was marked as a historic site and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The restoration and preservation team decided to restore the lighthouse to its condition at the time of electrification, which was in 1939 due to delay from the hurricane.

The restoration was eventually completed and on Memorial Day of 1986, the lighthouse was relit and was reestablished as an official aid to navigation for boaters.

December of 1996, the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society was able to gain control over maintenance and operation of the Lighthouse and the Keeper’s Quarters. These aspects of control were through an agreement with the National Park Services, but did not give the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society ownership of the historic site.

The lighthouse is currently lit by two 1000-watt bulbs. These rotate in a counter-clockwise direction which gives the appearance of flashing lights every 7.5 seconds. The light from the lighthouse is visible for approximately 21-24 miles.

Source: http://www.fireislandlighthouse.com/history.html

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Haunted Places: Sweet Hollow Road

Sweet Hollow Road is the site of several ghostly legends. The most tragic among them states that a school bus full of children was driving along the Northern State overpass bridge above Sweet Hollow Road on a snowy day. After its driver lost control, the bus skidded off the bridge, killing everyone inside. It is said that if you stop your car under the bridge and put it in neutral the spirits of the deceased children will push you forward.

Another legend involves a day camp which supposedly existed along the road during the 1930s. Some of the children who went to the camp are said to have been abused or even killed, and their spirits can occasionally be seen walking along the road wearing ‘30s clothing, though they quickly vanish. Sweet Hollow Road is also said to be home to a police officer who was shot and killed. His ghost still patrols the street and will pull motorists over from time to time.

The road is also the subject of one of the Mary’s Grave legends. This version takes place centuries after most of the others, but involves a young woman named Mary who suffered a tragic fate. Mary is said to have gotten into a fight with her boyfriend while driving down the road and was then either pushed out of the car by him or jumped out of it herself; in either event, she was quickly hit by oncoming traffic and died. Some say you can still see a lady in white walking along the side of the road, and that she will jump in front of your car when you pass. Mary’s grave and tombstone are also alleged to be located in a small cemetery on Sweet Hollow Road.

Non-human ghosts are also said to haunt Sweet Hollow Road and include a black Labrador, a horse and a mysterious dog-like creature. The ghostly horse has been seen and chased into the woods near the crossroads of Mount Misery Road and Sweet Hollow. Once it enters the woods, it simply vanishes. In addition, there have been sightings of a dog-like creature who digs along where the woods meet the road, then stands on its hind legs and walks back into the woods.


Brosky, Kerriann Flanagan. “Long Island's Legends and Myths - Part III - Sweet Hollow Road.” Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch, Patch, 12 Nov. 2012, patch.com/new-york/huntington/bp--long-islands-legends-and-myths-part-iii-sweet-hollow-road

“Sweet Hollow Road.” LIHauntedHouses.com, www.lihauntedhouses.com/real-haunt/sweet-hollow-road.html

Sweet Hollow Road, liparanormalinvestigators.com/our-recent-investigations/sweet-hollow-road

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gardiner's Island Mill

Gardiner’s Island Mill in Easthampton was erected on May 23, 1795. It was built by Nathaniel Dominy for Abraham Gardiner for the cost of $773.36. The mill continued to operate until 1900.

The mill stands on a small knoll about three feet above the level of the ground, making it possible to catch some of the wind. This mill is of the hand-operated, top-turning variety, and covered with shingles. It has simple wood batten doors, and shutters on the three stories. A weather vane of sheet metal stands on the roof above the dormer window which has wood shutters hung in a frame, opposite the dormer through which the wind shaft passes.

Grain is taken in on the first floor, and hoisted by hand-windlass through a trap-door in the floor to the second story, where it is fed into hoppers, one for wheat, and the other for corn. This is a "two-stone mill," having the usual two grindstones for each hopper.

It is one of the surviving 18th and 19th Century windmills and the least altered. It was rebuilt in 1815 and the work of that time is some of the most advanced technology found in a Long Island windmill.


“Gardiner’s Island Windmill.” Historic American Engineering Record. April, 1984

Jaray, Cornell. The Mills of Long Island. Ira J. Friedman, Inc., 1962

“Photographs: Written Historical and Descriptive Data, District No. 4.”  Historic American Buildings Survey. June, 1934

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Culper Spy Ring

British forces occupied New York in August 1776, and the city would remain a British stronghold and a major naval base for the duration of the Revolutionary War. Getting information from New York on British troop movements and other plans was critical to General George Washington, there wasn’t a reliable intelligence network that existed on the Patriot side at that time. In 1778, a cavalry officer named Benjamin Tallmadge established a small group of trustworthy men and women from his hometown of Setauket, Long Island. Known as the Culper Spy Ring, Tallmadge’s network would become the most effective of any intelligence-gathering operation on either side during the Revolutionary War.

Tallmadge recruited only those whom he could absolutely trust, beginning with his childhood friend, the farmer Abraham Woodhull, and Caleb Brewster. Tallmadge went by the code name John Bolton, while Woodhull went by the name of Samuel Culper. Woodhull, who ran the group’s day-to-day operations on Long Island, traveled back and forth to New York collecting information and observing naval maneuvers there. Dispatches would then be given to Brewster, who would carry them across the Sound to Fairfield, Connecticut, and Tallmadge would then pass them on to Washington.
In the summer of 1779, Woodhull had recruited another man, the well-connected New York merchant Robert Townsend, to serve as the ring’s primary source in the city. Townsend wrote his reports as “Samuel Culper, Jr.” and Woodhull went by “Samuel Culper, Sr.” Austin Roe, a tavern keeper in Setauket who acted as a courier for the Culper ring traveled to Manhattan with the excuse of buying supplies for his business. A local Setauket woman and Woodhull’s neighbor, Anna Smith Strong, was also said to have aided in the spy ring’s activities. She reportedly used the laundry on her clothesline to leave signals regarding Brewster’s location for meetings with Woodhull.

The Culper Ring employed several methods of spycraft in its operations. In addition to providing his agents with code names, Tallmadge devised a cipher system for their intelligence reports. Key words and terms were encoded as a three-digit number based upon their position in John Entick’s The New Spelling Dictionary, a popular work of the day. Those reports were also written with invisible ink that required a special chemical compound to be brushed over it to reveal the writing. Moreover, the reports were frequently embedded in letters addressed to notorious Tory sympathizers on Long Island as an additional step to prevent their seizure by British troops inspecting material carried by Culper agents.

The Culper Spy Ring has been credited with uncovering information involving the treasonous correspondence between Benedict Arnold and John Andre, chief intelligence officer under General Henry Clinton, commander of the British forces in New York, who were conspiring to give the British control over the army fort at West Point.

The exploits of this ring were turned into a television series called “Turn; Washington’s Spies,” which aired for four seasons on AMC.


“The Culper Spy Ring.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/culper-spy-ring

Gould, Kevin. “Culper Spy Ring.” Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Inc., 6 May 2016, www.britannica.com/topic/Culper-Spy-Ring