Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp/Massapequa Zoo and Kiddie Park

Frank Buck was a household name on Long Island from the 1920s through the 1940s. He was a renowned animal hunter and collector of exotic animals for circuses. He also starred in a few movies. At the World’s Fair in Chicago, he set up an exhibit of the animals he had collected in his travels. When the fair closed, he moved the entire camp to Long Island.

Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp was forty acres and housed lions, elephants, tigers, monkeys, reptiles, and other wild animals. Many of the animals came from the collection of Charles W. Beall. One of the main attraction was Monkey Mountain, a seventy-five foot tall exhibit at the center of the property.

The Camp contained multiple buildings on the property including a three-story Tudor Style building--the Frank Buck Hotel--as well as other restaurants and stores. Above all, Buck’s Jungle Camp housed hundreds of exotic animals including lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys, and reptiles, among others. The Camp’s animals became an important feature of the community and live animals like elephants were brought to galas and society events in nearby towns to help boost publicity and ticket sales. In addition to functioning as a zoo and amusement center, the Camp served as a holding center for exotic animals coming into New York from Buck’s expeditions before being sent to other zoos and circuses. The Camp was a hit with the press and often was written about in newspapers such as the New York Times, which discussed all different types of topics, such as new arrivals and animal births in the compound.

In 1943, the camp was not able to sustain itself anymore and the animals were shipped to public and private zoos across the country. In the 1950s, the Grimaldi family bought the remaining property and renamed it Sunrise Kiddie Land and Animal Farm. It was renamed the Massapequa Zoo and Kiddie Park a year later. This six-acre zoo had kiddie rides and animals. Local residents can recall that the Massapequa Drive In was located adjacent to the zoo from 1950 until 1968; before the zoo closed, visitors to the Drive-In purchased their tickets near Monkey Mountain and monkeys could be seen from car windows.

The zoo remained open until 1965 when the property was sold to a developer to make additional parking space for a shopping center.  The Westfield Sunrise Mall now occupies this site.


Berman, Marisa L. Historic Amusement Parks of Long Island. The History Press, 2015.

Pallone, Jillian. “Frank Buck: Bring ‘Em Back Alive.”  www.hofstra.edu/pdf/library/libspc-oe-lisi-frank-buck.pdf

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sagamore Hill

When Theodore Roosevelt had finished college and was beginning to start a family, he thought that the best possible place to settle with his wife and to raise children would be Oyster Bay. He purchased farmland in Cove Neck, a peninsula just east of Oyster Bay village and envisioned building a large, sturdy, modern home. He hired New York City architects Lamb and Rich to design such a house, and construction based on their Queen Anne-style sketches began in 1884.

Plans for the house were nearly halted due to the sudden death of Roosevelt's young wife Alice in February 1884. She had died just two days after giving birth to a daughter who was named Alice after her. Family members convinced Roosevelt that despite the tragedy of his wife's death, he would still need a proper home for his baby daughter, and he soon decided to go ahead with the house construction.

In 1886 Roosevelt became re-acquainted with Edith Kermit Carow, a friend of his sister's whom he had known since he was six. It took them very little time to resume an earlier relationship and to become engaged. After they were married, Roosevelt and his second wife Edith took up full-time residency at Sagamore Hill in 1887. The couple would raise a total of six children in the house and, over the next 30 years, they would experience some of the most memorable and cherished moments of their lives there.

The most significant events took place at Sagamore Hill during the seven summers it served as Theodore Roosevelt's Summer White House, from 1902 until 1908. During that time, Roosevelt used his home to host luminaries from around the country and around the world.

Theodore Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill on January 6, 1919 when he was sixty years old. Ted Roosevelt, eldest son of the president, hoped eventually to take over the house and to raise his family in it. However his mother Edith wanted to remain in the old house, and she gave Ted a few acres of land on which to build a new one (eventually known as Old Orchard house). Despite extensive travels in her later years, Edith always came back to the old house at Sagamore Hill. She died there in September 1948 at the age of eighty-seven.

Named after the Indian chief Sagamore Mohannis, Sagamore Hill stands atop Cove Neck on 95 acres of forest, tidal salt marsh, and bay beach; land which was purchased in 1880 for $10,000 down and a 20-year, $20,000 mortgage. The house itself is a sprawling 23 room, two-floored, Victorian styled building, with a massive 30 x 40 grand room known as the North Room where Roosevelt kept his trophies, books, paintings, sculptures, library, and dozens of priceless artifacts given to him by foreign dignitaries.

The first floor contains the large center hall, library, dining room, kitchen, and drawing room. The house is surrounded by a spacious raised porch shaded by an unmistakable green awning. The second floor contains the bedrooms, nursery, guest rooms, and a turn of the century water closet with a uniquely large porcelain tub.

After Edith Roosevelt passed away in 1948, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association acquired the home in 1950 and undertook a significant restoration, adding a porch, which the National Park Service recently removed. In 2015, hundreds of specialists restored and refurbished the interior while ensuring the exterior was reinforced and ready to stand for decades. From repairing the roof, gutters and woodwork and installing a new LED lighting system to replacing all 98 windows and reapplying period-specific wallpaper, the project brought the home up to date, while making sure that guests only see what Theodore Roosevelt saw. Since acquiring the home in 1963, this project was the Park Service's first true deep dive into the largest presidential home it oversees, which gave those working there a greater appreciation of the Oyster Bay mansion's unique character.


“History & Culture.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/sahi/learn/historyculture/index.htm

“Sagamore Hill - Home of Theodore Roosevelt - Roosevelt Almanac.” The Man in the Arena - April 23, 1910 - Theodore Roosevelt Speeches- Roosevelt Almanac, 1 Mar. 2010, www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsahi.html

Sisson, Patrick. “Magnificent $10M Restoration of Teddy Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill Home Exemplifies Peak Taxidermy.” Curbed, Curbed, 14 July 2015, www.curbed.com/2015/7/14/9940818/sagamore-hill-reopens-theodore-teddy-roosevelt-historic-home

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Nunley's Amusement Park - Baldwin

William Nunley chose the spot for his kiddie park in Baldwin due to its accessibility by public transport. It was located across from a Long Island Railroad stop. The site was originally home to the restaurant the Dutch Mill and a carousel pavilion. In 1947, additional rides were added and it became a true amusement park. This small park featured rides geared for young children.

The first roller coaster was designed by the Pinto brothers until the mid-1950’s. It was then replaced with a new coaster designed by B. A. Schiff & Associates. A miniature golf course was added to the park in 1961.  The most iconic element of Nunley’s Amusement part was the beloved 1912 Stein and Goldstein carousel. Nunley’s Carousel was created in 1912 by the Stein and Goldstein Artistic Carousell Co. of Brooklyn New York. The carousel was installed on the Brooklyn waterfront in Canarsie’s Golden City Park where it was known as “Murphy’s” carousel and operated for 26 years. In  the Spring of 1940, it reopened as Nunley's Carousel

The most memorable feature of the carousel was the rung grab, Children could reach out and snatch a rung. If they got a brass ring, they won a free ride. The carousel remained in Baldwin until the park closed in 1995. It was originally scheduled to go up for auction, but Nassau County purchased the carousel so it could remain in the community. It remained in storage from 1995-2007. A local nine-year olf girl began a fundraising program called “Pennies for Ponies” to raise the necessary funds to restore the carousel. It was moved to its current location in Museum Row in Garden City in 2009.


Berman, Marisa L. Historic Amusement Parks of Long Island. The History Press, 2015

“Historic Nunley's Carousel on Museum Row.” Cradle of Aviation Museum, www.cradleofaviation.org/plan_your_visit/nunleys_carousel.html