On Christmas Day, 1678, the Town Council of Hempstead allotted certain properties on Long Beach to forty-two freeholders. Its eastern boundary was Brockleface Gut and the wester boundary Wells Lane, just east of what is now Lawrence. In 1725, fifty-nine descendants of these forty-two freeholders met together and deeded the property to Jacob Hicks. The Lawrence family acquired the property from the Hicks estate. From the Lawrences a part of it descended to Carman Frost, a clam man on the bay. Frost sold a third interest in his property in the nineties to Richard Sandivoord, and the deed was made to read so that Sandivoord was to have a third of all the property Frost might own west of Brockleface Gut and east of East Rockaway Inlet. This gave him a provisional interest in all of Long Beach, Short Beach and Jones Beach and Hicks Beach. His claim included 10,000 acres of land and about fifteen miles of the most desirable beach front on Long Island.
The Town of Hempstead had leased the greater part of this property. Sandivoord instituted proceedings to divide the property so he could get one-third and Frost was made a party to the action, having interest identical with those of Sandivoord. The case was taken to court in 1898, and Justice Brown was appointed referee. He handed down his decision on September 25, 1902, Frost and Sandivoord were awarded the undisputed title to the Post Lead tract, part of Hicks Beach and valuable oyster beds. It comprised from 1,500 to 2,000 acres. All of the ocean beach property was awarded to the Town of Hempstead and to the persons or the corporations who have bought or leased from the town. The beach property at the time was considered worth $7,000,000.
The Long Beach Hotel property with twenty-seven cottages belonging to it was a winner by the decision. Capitalists from Philadelphia and Atlantic City brought the Long Beach property from Paul K. Ames, receiver of the Long Beach Association, about September 1, 1900. Title was passed when the new Long Beach Land Company obtained a deed from the Town of Hempstead. The transfer included the whole of Long Beach with all the improvements thereon. These consisted of the old Long Beach Hotel, more than nine hundred feet long, and twenty-two cottages, and represented an outlay of $2,000,000. The Town of Hempstead received $25,000 as the purchase price of the beach. The bonds and accrued interest and fixed chares on the property added $800,000 more.
The beach, seven miles long and from a quarter to half a mile in width, contained 1,324,65 acres in 1880. Changes in the inlet have added to the west end and in 1900 the tract was estimated to contain 1,500 acres. The interior consists of sand dunes, changing with every storm, but high enough above the sea to make permanent improvements possible. The hotel was built in 1880. The ocean front has changed little in the last fifty years.
It is not so many years ago that Long Beach was the resort only of fishermen and hunters of water fowl. No one then dreamed of its possiblilites as a residence and summer resort. It is practically an island on the Atlantic coast, three miles beyond the mainland. Favored in summer by a temperature considerably lower than any other section near New York, and in winter many degrees warmer, by reason of its proximity to the Gulf Stream, Long Beach is becoming an all-year resort. That it has attracted a great number of all-year residents and visitors is hsown by the fact that it has become a city in an icredibly short time, its population how being upwards of 25,000.
What was but a short short time ago a village is now a thriving residential and business place, having for its municipal headquarters one of the finest civic centers to be found in any city of the second class. It also has many homes that in other localities would be called "show places." Long Beach West and Long Beach East are also thriving and prosperous sections made up of thousands of more moderately built homes and bungalows. The boardwalk is one of the features of Long Beach, being a modern concrete promenade paralleling the ocean for some three miles, and enjoyed by thousands in and out of the regular season. A wonderful expanse of beach is another feature. The bathing public is served by a number of modern bathing pavilions, and the beach is one of the finest on the Atlantic coast. There are many hotels and restaurants, and one hotel, the Nassau, is said to be the largest and finest on Long Island. The place is becoming noted as a convention resort. Various clubs, civic associations, business men's associations and a chamber of commerce are features of he city. The City of Long Beach is said by medical authorities to be the healthiest, as it is the youngest, city of the state. Physicians from various parts of the country send patients to Long Beach both in winter and summer to recuperate from various disorders. The surf bathing is said to be the finest on the coast, the only other resort that can rival Long Beach being Atlantic City. Among the sports that may be indulged in are golf, tennis, horseback riding, baseball, football, sailing and yatching, and polo has lately been added to its sport features, its ambition being to become the Dauville of America. Another feature of the place is a million-dollar bridge, and it has theatres, a hospital and all other essentials of a modern city.
The first lease of Long Beach was made to W. H. Bartlett on September 1, 1879, at an annual rental of $300. Charles H. Clement, Supervisor, acted for Hempstead. One consideration required that $25,000 should be expended on the property during the first year of occupancy. The following spring Barlett transferred the lease to Thomas R. Sharpe and an additional lease was made to him. These leases were dated March 1 and March 6, 1880. The annual rental was $1,000 a year. On April 1s, the leases were assigned to the Long Beach Improvement Company and on May 1st, the entire property was mortgaged to the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company for $1,000,000. Another mortgage for $250,000 was taken by the company on January 31, 1881, when the property was leased to R. Southgate. The Long Beach Construction Company was organized on June 18, 1881. It leased a portion of the property for forty-nine years and built the hotel and cottages at Point Lookout, the east end of the beach. The same day this company placed another mortgage for $250,000 upon its property. The mortgages amounting to $1,500,000 were foreclosed in 1885, and the property was bought in by the Long Beach Hotel and Cottage Company, controlled by Austin Corbin, George Edgell and others, who were associated with Mr. Corbin in the management of the Long Island Railroad.
Another new mortgage was made to the Farmer's Loan & Trust Company for $360,000. After a bad season in 1892, Mr. Corbin and his associates abandoned the property. It virtually passed into the hands of J.P. Morgan & Company who had arranged with the holders of the last mortgage to control the property. The hotel was not opened in 1893 and no trains were run to the beach. The Long Beach Association was formed in the spring of 1894. Among its moving spirits were General C. C. Dodge, General Thomas L. James, Conrad Jordan and J. L. Brownell. While it assumed the mortgage for $360,000 the association really acquired no title to the real estate or the improvements. Disastrous seasons followed in 1894-1895 and 1896, and after the season of 1896 had been closed prematurely the property passed to Paul K. Ames as receiver. The assets of the association were limited to the property, outside of the leasehold and improvements covered by the mortgage of $360,000 held by J. P. Morgan & Co. So that the title remained vested in the Long Beach Hotel and Cottage Company, or J. P. Morgan & Co. representing the bondholders.
Title was now taken from the town of Hempstead by the new Long Beach Land Company, and turned over to the syndicate formed to buy the assets of the Long Beach association through Paul K. Ames, receiver, as well as the rights of the bondholders and the Long Beach Hotel and Cottage Company.
The Great South Bay Ferry Company ran steamers to the beach from Woodcleft dock. In 1905, a spur of the trolley line was built from Atlantic Avenue to the dock, and the long walk from the station to the beach was eliminated.
Vast improvements were deferred until the action of Carman and Amanda Frost of Woodmere against the town of Hempstead to establish title to a large tract of beach and uplands could be decided. The Court of Appears in October 1906, sustained the title of the Town of Hempstead to the property. The property was valued at several millions of dollars and the town received only a nominal rental from the Long Beach Association for its use.
The interests of the Long Beach Improvement Company were purchased early in 1906 by a wealthy syndicate said to include Frank Bailey, of the Title Guarantee and Trust Company; Henry Morgenthau, Frank Reynolds, Senator Patrick H. McCarren, William H. Reynolds of Brooklyn, and others, including a number of Cincinnati capitalists who brought more than $1,000,000 into the deal.
The Long Beach Improvement Company owned not only the westerly half of the beach, including the hotel and cottages; the company also had a lease of the easterly half of the beach with thirty years to run. The new managers announced that they would expend from $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 in building another Atlantic City on the eight-mile stretch of beach they controlled. A chain of modern hotels and cottages were projected for the ocean front adapted to winter as well as summer occupancy.
The Farmers' Loan & Trust Company advertised a foreclosure sale of its claims upon the property, a friendly gesture for the purpose of clearing the title. The Long Beach Realty Improvement Company, the seller, was composed of Justice Thompson, the estate of United States Senator William J. Sewell, and other members of an Atlantic City Syndicate.
The big hotel and twenty-five cottages originally costing $1,250,000 were transferred for $3,000,000. The new owners cleared off the claims of creditors and terminated the receivership of Paul K. Ames, while the back taxes due the town of Hempstead were paid.
A short time before the property had been offered to the City of New York at $2,000,000 for a people's beach and a bill was introduced in the Legislature prepared by Mayor McClellan intended to give the city authority to acquire Long Beach or other ocean front property by purchase or condemnation proceedings. This measure was opposed stubbornly by the people of Hempstead who regarded it as an attempt to use Long Beach as the site for a sanitarium. Mass meetings to protest were held and it was represented that such a law would take from the tax roll of Hempstead taxable property worth millions while the improvements proposed by the Reynolds syndicate would add $10,000,000 to the taxable property of the town.
It was intended to take the Long Beach Hotel for the home, and fill it with patients from city hospitals where they had partly recovered. The rest of the large tract was to be used as a park. A commission was to be created and known as the Convalescent and Recreation Seashore Colony of the City of New York.
OLD HOTEL BURNS-The Long Beach Hotel burned to the ground early on the morning of July 29, 1907. About eight hundred guest escaped; five persons were injured, but there was no fatality. The fire destroyed the Congregational Chapel east of the hotel, cottage No. 1 and the servants' quarters. The other cottages and buildings on the beach were saved by the Rockville Centre Fire Department, which arrived after the hotel had burned. They had an old-fashioned hand pump and they had to stretch a line of hose nine hundred feet to pump water from the ocean.
A large part of the boardwalk was burned, and the rest of it would have gone with it if the firemen had not torn up stretches of it to arrest the flames.
When the fire broke out the guests and servants of the hotel apparently were sleeping. Every room was occupied, for the night was the best of the season. It was five o'clock when the fire was discovered. The guests were in a panic when awakened and many of them rushed out without clothing. Several of them were trapped on the upper floors and jumped for their lives. One woman leaped from a fourth story window to the boardwalk and sustained a fracture of the left leg.
All that was left of the hotel was sixteen-foot chimney that rose straight through the centre.
The fire appears to have started in a guest's room on the fourth floor where an alcohol lamp used to heat food for a sick baby was upset. Soon after, the tower occupied by servants fell in with a loud crash. The watchman hurried to the first veranda rooms occupied by W. Johnson Quinn, manager of the hotel, and aroused William H. Reynolds, president of the Long Beach Estates and Senator Patrick H. McCarren, who occupied a suite on the floor. He joined Quinn and Reynolds in organizing a fire brigade.
All three realized that the hotel was doomed. They improvised an alarm system by which they were sure every guest could be aroused. McCarren and Reynolds went through the building personally. William Nephew King rescued two children and assisted in the rescue of other guests. The loss was $200,000, not including the property of the guests protected in the safe.
When it was erected the hotel cost $1,2000,000. After its sale to the Long Beach Estates headed by William H. Reynolds it was renovated at a cost of $50,000.
In 1907, the fall tides washed away a side strip of the beach in the Point Lookout section and some of the cottage owners moved their buildings back. Among them was the Nassau-by-the-Sea Company which moved its cottages one hundred feet farther from the ocean. Division and Pacific Streets on the ocean front were closed to the public and cottages moved into the space. H. Willard Griffiths, president of the Nassau-by-the-Sea Company, was obliged to move its cottages once before so that they were standing on the marsh lands between the bay and the ocean, a safe distance from the surf. The company erected one hundred and twenty cottages in 1904.
The estates of Long Beach, two miles distant, were widened by the storm and likewise improved. No damage was done at Long Beach proper.
Besides William H. Reynolds, the Long Beach Estates included Frank Bailey, vice-president of the Title Guarantee & Trust Company; Robert B. Woodward, vice-president of the Bowery Savings Bank; Martin Joost, president of the Bond & Mortgage Company; Thomas F. Barr, president of the Nassau National Bank; Julian D. Fairchild, president of the Kings County Trust Company' George H. Southard, president of the Franklin Trust Company; William S. Hurley, vice-president of the Borough Bank; Carl H. DeSilver, vice-president of the Nassau national Bank; Frank Fitzgerald, and Jere Johnson.
William H. Reynolds of Brooklyn and his associates won full and complete title to the Long Beach property, for which they had paid more than $1,500,000, on June 1, 1907. Justice Garretson presiding at a Special Term of the Supreme Court in Queens County in Flushing granted an order which vested the title in Mr. Reynolds and his associates.
Paul K. Ames, as receiver for the Long Beach property, applied for permission to accept $2,500 from Mr. Reynolds and his associates for the right of way for a railroad to run from the Long Beach Hotel to Point Lookout, and for personal property in the Long Beach Hotel and four bungalows.
Three steam dredges, one the largest in the world, were put to work in the winter of 1908-1909, twenty-four hours a day, to dredge the channel 1,100 feet wide, twelve feet deep and five miles long, and to convert hundreds of acres of meadow and swamp land lying back of Long Beach into solid ground as a site for the new city of Long Beach.
The dredging task was regarded as the biggest undertaken with the exception of the Panama Canal. In order to complete two miles of waterway within a year from its beginning the preceding summer, the Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Dredging Company employed three hundred and twenty men in shifts of eight hours to transfer to the island some 60,000 cubic yards of sand a day. The dredge "Manila" was brought from the Philippines where it was used in harbor work, and added to the force with several other powerful dredges during the winter.
The sand brought up from the bottom of the bay was of superior quality mixed with clay. As the work proceeded the foundations for buildings were laid. Most of the workingmen were Swedes and the captain of the dredging flotilla was a Swede. There were men of other races among them, and not a few from the southern states. In their leisure they indulged in various games aboard the houseboat which was not only a hotel, but a clubhouse. The Long Beach garage and other structures were converted into temporary lodging houses. In the end the force was increased to more than 1,500.
In the fall of 1907 the work of hauling lumber was performed by several elephants. They did the labor of several teams of horses without apparent exertion. Two elephants sufficed to haul a train of lumber to any place upon the development. Cold weather, however, made their use impracticable and they were shipped to a warmer climate.
Two hundred carloads of lumber were needed for the bulkhead along the beach side of the channel and the piles for its support. Concrete was used chiefly in the construction of the resort. It was used in the hotel and cottages, the bathing pavilion and almost all the other buildings. Each mile of the boardwalk rest on concrete piles and girders numbering 1,700 to the mile. The walk is fifty feet wide, flanked with electric lights on both sides. The piles were sunk in such a manner as to stand a minimum pressure of 12,000 pounds to each square foot, and the huge girders were placed before the boards could be laid. Tests of the walk shoed it would bear a weight of 25,000 pounds to the square foot without appreciable sagging. The contract cost was $136,000 a mile.
The land in front of the beach reached a level and was graded at ten feet above mean high tide, while the land in the rear fronting upon the channel called for a minimum of four feet above mean high tide.
Streets were cut through and sewers, gas and electric conduits, curbs, sidewalks and shade trees were installed while the dredging proceeded.
NASSAU HOTEL OPENED on Saturday, June 19, 1909.
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