Monday, December 27, 2010

Brooklyn Waterworks, Freeport, Long Island, NY

 A pile of bricks is all that's left of the Brooklyn Waterworks, once located in Freeport, New York, a few blocks from where Rob grew up.

The City of Brooklyn purchased nearby Milburn Pond to supply Ridgewood Reservoir in the 1880's. After the pond was enlarged, a new pumping station was needed to accommodate Brooklyn's growing need for water and the Brooklyn Waterworks, also known as the Milburn Pumping Station, was born.

Brooklyn Waterworks before the smokestacks were removed
Designed by Brooklyn architect, Frank Freeman was completed in 1891 and was described as  "Long Island's most ambitious Romanesque Revival design."  It housed five steam pumps and could deliver up to 54 million gallons of water a day.   Piping ran down the length of  Route 27, also known as Sunrise Highway, continuing down Conduit Avenue in Brooklyn. 

Once Brooklyn became part of New York City, however, the need for the new pumping station diminished.  In 1898, Brooklyn began receiving its water from the Croton Aqueduct system and in 1929, the Brooklyn Waterworks was used only as a backup water supply for emergencies.  Its two huge smokestacks, pictured above, were removed at that time.

Milburn Pond Park, Freeport
The pumping station continued as a backup supply until it was decommissioned in 1977. The property was bought up by Nassau County, who removed the machinery and allowed the building to fall into decay.  It is said that the group Blue Oyster Cult recorded there in the 80's before a large fire destroyed the building in the 90's.  The shell was the only thing that was left of it for years.

There were rumors that the property was bought up and was going to be used a condos and later, a hospital.  These turned out to be true.  According to Wikipedia, the property had been bought up by developer Gary Mileus (who also owns Oheka Castle) in 1989, for 1.4 million dollars to be used for 48 condos; construction to be completed in 1990.  However, a housing market collapse halted the project and, not long after, the building was severely damaged by fire.  Once again, Mr. Mileus produced another proposal to convert what remained of the building into a hospital. This time, his idea was blocked by the local government. 

Remains of Brooklyn Water Works, 2006

In 2009,  Mileus won a 3.5 million dollar lawsuit relating to the ownership of the property from the Village of Freeport.  It is estimated that Mr. Mileus lost 12 million on the property. The Brooklyn Waterworks was torn down on August 30, 2010.  According to an article in L & M Publications, the Brooklyn Waterworks had landmark status since 1986, but was found to be beyond repair.  In fact, Freeport's Landmarks Commission had approved the demolition because "it was dangerous and it became a safety issue."
These pictures are from Rob's Long Island Oddities Mini Run in 2006

There are still two pumping stations left, one in the town of Wantagh and one in Massapequa. 

My friend, Kanc (named after the historic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire) and I are showing off a brick that Rob saved from the building. 

 As usual here are some links with more information:

This is a link to the Long Island Oddities site.  It contains a detailed history of the Waterworks plus more pictures of the building in decay.

Wikipedia article where I borrowed the black and white picture of the Brooklyn Waterworks.

A Youtube video that I found by local historian Robert Miller

and another Youtube video showing the ruins

some pics and an aerial photo of where it used to be. These are really interesting shots.

article in the New York Times dated January 12, 1869

  Newsday article regarding Gary Melius lawsuit against the Village of Freeport

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lord and Taylor, NYC, NY

On December 10, 2010, Susan, Rob and I made our traditional trek to NYC to see the Christmas decorations. On the way down to Penn Station, before seeing Macy's windows, we stopped off at Lord and Taylor's to catch a glimpse of their windows.  Even though they didn't take any pictures of me there, I was curious about how these wonderful Christmas windows began and searched the web.  I have written about the Rockefeller tree and Macy's Department Store.  Here is the last installment, which is the history of Lord and Taylor.

Looks like a city street, doesn't it.  It's actually this year's Christmas holiday displays in one of the windows at Lord and Taylor's department store.  In fact, Lord and Taylor was the first store to use their windows for elaborate holiday displays at Christmas rather than merchandise as other stores had done.

Lord and Taylor was founded in 1826 by Samuel Lord, and immigrant from England, and his wife's cousin, George Washington Taylor.  Their first store was located on Catherine Street in Manhattan and sold hosiery, misses' wear and elegant Cashmere shawls.

In 1861, they moved their store to Broadway at Grand Street and in 1870, they moved again to a newly constructed cast iron building on Broadway and 20th Street, an area known as the "Ladies' Mile". From there they moved again to their present location on Fifth Avenue in 1914, becoming the first store to reside there.  The building, designed by Starrett and van Vleck, became their headquarters and flagship store and is located between 38th and 39th Streets.  Towards the end of 2007, it was designated as a New York City landmark.

In 1916, Lord and Taylor became a founding member of the American Dry Goods Company, soon to become the Associated Dry Goods Corporation. 
In 1921, Dorothy Shaver started at the store in 1921 to promote and market dolls that her sister Elsie had created.  The dolls were known as the "Five Little Shavers."  She joined Lord and Taylor in 1924 and became head of the Comparative Shopping Bureau.  In 1927, she became a part of the Board of Directors and in 1931, she was appointed Vice President.  In 1937, she became First Vice President and 1945, Dorothy Shaver became the first woman president in the United States.  In 1946, she became the first woman president of a major Fifth Avenue department store.  She remained as President until her death in 1959, but her legacy lives on.  Her many innovations at Lord and Taylor are still continued today.

The store began to expand with the opening of the Manhasset, Long Island store in  1941 with several more opening up across the country. This includes stores in Connecticut in 1969, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, Michigan and four stores in Illinois in the 70's.
In the early 80's, Lord and Taylor expanded to eleven stores in south Florida. At one time, Lord and Taylor had 86 stores across the United States.

Amidst structural changes, Lord and Taylor lost its former position as the fashion leader in the 80's and 90's to Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Nordstroms.

Today, thanks to more restructuring changes in 2003, Lord and Taylor has made strong signs in turning around its financial position.  In September of 2010, the store is looking toward its first expansion in 10 years with the opening of a second store in Westchester County, NY.  It is scheduled to open in 2012.

Here are some other links with more history information.

Wikipedia article:

Article in Fortune Magazine, 2008

Lord and Taylor official website

pictures of present and former Lord and Taylor stores


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Knollwood Estate, Muttontown, Long Island, NY

These are the remains of a Gold Coast estate that wasn't saved.  Its name is Knollwood, also known as the King Zog ruins, which I will explain later on.  This is what's left of the rear entrance, with a double staircase leading out to the garden.
Knollwood  was built for Wall Street mogul and steel magnate Charles Hudson on a 260 acre property.  Designed by architects, Hiss and Weekes, this 60 room house was constructed between 1916 and 1920.  The estate also contained Westbrook Farms, (not to be confused by the Bayard Cutting estate called Westbrook) a working farm with over one hundred Jersey cows.  The extensive gardens were landscaped by Ferrucio Vitale.  Gazebos, fountains and porticoes dotted the leveled gardens.

The photo on the right shows only one staircase heading into what was once the garden area.  In back of me you can see the rear stairs and the hill that the house once sat upon.  There were three levels of the formal gardens and later I will provide before and after links so you can see what this magnificent estate looked like.  I'm sure it will surprise you as it has surprised me.
In 1951, King Zog  of Albania bought the estate from the Hudson's for approximately $102,800. He intended to use the mansion as his kingdom in exile, but he never moved in. In 1955, Albania's parliament sold the estate and built a large concrete wall around it. This was done to keep out vandals and looters searching for King Zog's vast wealth that was rumored to be buried inside the mansion.

By the time noted philanthropist, Lansdell Christie bought the estate in 1955, the house had been so badly damaged  that Christie had the mansion ripped down for safety purposes in 1959. Today the estate and the grounds are located inside Muttontown Preserve where you can see the terrace wall and double staircase (picture on the right) and most of what is left of the leveled gardens.  Some of the remains are still crumbling, but you can hike around and take pictures.  


The entrance gates to Knollwood

Early shot of the rear of Knollwood.  Notice the double staircase at the base of the house all the way over to the right.

 Here are the links that I promised.

Old Long Island. This site has many links to Knollwood and is worth looking at to see other long lost estates of the Gilded Age.

Here is an aerial view of Knollwood including the pamphlet that was used to sell the estate.

Wikipedia article

Long Island Gold Coast Estates where I got the picture from.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Macy's Department Store, NYC, NY

This is Macy's Department Store, located at 34th and Broadway in New York City, but the store wasn't always located here. Rowland Hussey Macy's store, better known as R.H. Macy's, was located on 14th Street and 6th Avenue in 1858.

By 1877, the small dry goods store had developed into a successful department store and had grown so large, it took up the ground space of 11 adjacent buildings.

In 1902, Macy's had outgrown their old location and moved to its present location across from Herald Square. By, 1918, Macy's was doing well. The company became public in 1922 and began their expansion of competing department stores with stores such as LaSalle and Kock Toledo, Ohio, in 1923,  Davison-Paxton in Atlanta, Georgia in 1924 and Bambergers in Newark, New Jersey in 1936.

In 1924, the 7th Avenue entrance was completed, making it the World's Largest Store having one million square feet of retail space.  Back then, just as now, Macy's attracted shoppers from around the world.

Also in 1924, a tradition began.  The first Macy's Christmas parade was started by Macy's immigrant employees as a celebration of their new American heritage.  It featured floats, bands and animals from the zoo and had attracted 10,000 onlookers.  If you haven't guessed by now, it is now known as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and officially ushers in the Christmas season every year with the arrival of Santa Claus at the end of the parade. 

In 1945, Macy's acquired O'Conner Moffatt and Company in San Francisco.  Two years later, the names were converted to the Macy's. This included the famous 1866 store in Union Square, where, in 1971, The Cellar was introduced to their basement. It was so successful that the New York stores followed five years later.

Federated Department Stores acquired Macy's (now known as Macy's Inc.) in 1994.  A & S (Abraham and Straus, a great department store in its own right) became part of Macy's in 1995.  In the same year, Macy's purchased the Broadway Stores, which includes Broadway, Emporium and Weinstocks. Jordan Marsh of Boston, already owned by Federated became Macy's in 1996.  Macy's also bought up 17 Stern's Department Stores located in New York and New Jersey in 2001.  In that same year, Macy's purchased stores in Hawaii and Guam.

By 2005, Macy's had 240 locations, most of its stores concentrated on both coasts of the United States.  When Federated became Macy's Inc., there were approximately 425 locations across the country. In 2006, Macy's locations grew larger, now serving customers in more than 800 stores all over United States and online.

There are several first's in Macy's history, beginning with the the promotion of Margaret Getchell to an executive position in the late 1800's.  They also developed the one-price system, and according to their website, in which the same item was sold to every customer at one price, and quoting specific prices for goods in newspaper advertising.  It was the first store to introduce the tea bag, the Idaho baked potato and different color bath towels,  Macy's was also the first store to acquire a New York City liquor license. They were also the first to start the tradition of holiday window displays in 1896.

A recreation of  the first store was also located in Freedomland on 14th Street and 6th Avenue  in the Little Old New York section of the park.

By the way, the red star that adorns the Macy's store was adopted by R.H. Macy as a symbol of his success from his sailing days. 

Here are some websites that will give you more history.

Wikipedia article:

the official website

Time Magazine article "A Brief History of the Thanksgiving Day Parade",8599,1862565,00.html

Saturday, December 11, 2010

History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Rockefeller Center, NY

 Here I am at Rockefeller Center and behind me is the 74 foot Norway Spruce from Mahopac, NY that was chosen for this year's tree.  The tallest tree to stand at Rockefeller Center was a 100 foot spruce used in 1999.
The very first tree to stand in this spot was only a 20 foot balsam fir in 1931 and was decorated with "strings of cranberries, garlands of paper and even a few tin cans" on Christmas Eve. The tree was put up by construction workers who had just started work on this magnificent place.  The actual tradition didn't really begin until 1933 when 30 Rockefeller Plaza first opened.  And so every year, except for 1932, there has been a tree standing at Rockefeller Center. 
First tree to stand in Rockefeller Plaza, 1931
 In 1936, two trees were put up to celebrate the opening of the skating rink.  There were three trees erected in 1942 to support the war, each one was trimmed with red, white and blue decorations.  In 1944, the trees remained unlit in keeping with wartime blackout regulations.  When the war ended the next year, organizers celebrated by using six ultraviolet light projectors to make 700 fluorescent globes appear to glow in the dark.

1951 was the year that NBC first televised the tree lighting on the Kate Smith Show.  During the years 1953 through 1955, the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony was broadcast from the Howdy Doody show.  Since that time, the tree lighting has become a tradition, usually broadcast from late November to early December, each with a number of celebrities popular during that particular year including, Bob Hope, Barbara Walters and Liza Minnelli.

In 1971, the tree was recycled and used as mulch for the nature trails in upper Manhattan.  In 2005, the tree was cut up and the lumber given to Habitat for Humanity to use as door frames for homes in New York, Louisiana, Brazil and India.

Ornaments for the trees changed as the years changed.  In 1934, the tree was hung with dogs, horses, giraffes, sailboats and stars along with 1,200 colored lights. Holiday songs were piped into a public address system and made it seem as if the tree was singing. During the 50's, the trees were spray painted white and trimmed with popcorn and cranberry garlands with 10 foot aluminum icicles. 

The tree was topped with a 4 foot plastic star and was used between the years 1950 through 1960.  A fiberglass and gold leaf star was used in the 1990's before being replaced by the 550-lb. Swarovski Star in 2004.

I will end here, but as usual, you can always learn more from these sites that I am including at the bottom of this blog.   Thanks to Wikipedia article and to a Time Magazine pictorial that I found on the web for the black and white shots.
The Time Magazine pictorial, "A Brief History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree".  Great shots and historical accounts.  Check it out.,29307,1863633_1809368,00.html 

Wikipedia article

Here is the link to Manhattan NY.  This explains the history of many different landmarks around NYC

and another article

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Westbrook, Estate at Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River, LI, NY

The breakfast room
We took a tour of Westbrook, the estate of William Bayard Cutting at 2 this afternoon.  The estate is located on the grounds of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River and what a lovely place it was.  Decorated for the holidays, there was a tree in every room.  I'm sitting in the breakfast room, one of the brightest rooms in the house.  The glass case I'm sitting on contains some of the china pieces that the family used while they were living here.

Westbrook was designed by architect Charles C. Haight and was completed in 1886.  An annex, built in 1890, contains a billiard room, an organ, a gentleman's smoking lounge and some guest rooms.  According to our wonderful tour guide Anna, it was closed off after Bayard Cutting's death in 1912 by his wife, Olivia Bayard Cutting.  It was opened every once in a while to be aired out and cleaned.  It is still closed off to this day.

The dining room
Each room has a different wooden floor and beautiful Tiffany windows, lamps, trim and mosaics.  We have some pictures of some of the windows and a lamp which I will share with you later.  The fireplace in the dining room is from the 1500's and was shipped over from Europe.  The entrance way, one of the largest rooms in the house, is furnished with 400 year old English oak which was also shipped over from an estate in Europe.                              

Fireplace in the entrance way

  According to the Wikipedia article, Scottish heather was shipped over to be used to thatch the gatehouse.  Also in 1895, Mr. Cutting and his brother designed a golf course which is considered to be the first private golf course in the United States.

William Bayard Cutting was born in 1850 and was brought up by his maternal grandparents after his mother died giving birth to his brother Robert Fulton Cutting.  His father was living in France.  William graduated from college in 1869, received his Master's Degree and was admitted to the bar in 1872.  He married Olivia Peyton Murray five years later and they had four children, two sons and two daughters, the two sons born with tuberculosis. Their oldest daughter, Justine, lived well up until her 90's. The younger daughter cared for her mother, Olivia, until her death in 1949.   
Their son's room, Bronson Bayard Cutting

The Bayard Cuttings were well acquainted with Louis Tiffany and his windows adorn almost every room in this Tudor style country manor home. According to our guide Anna, the dining room Tiffany window is the first to capture the morning light. I will post the windows at the bottom of this blog.
Entrance to Westbrook
In 1936, Mrs. Cutting's daughter, Mrs.Olivia James, deeded approximately two hundred acres to the State of New York as a gift in memory of her father. This was only part of the estate as the property originally consisted well over one thousand acres.  An additional three hundred and eighty two acres was donated in 1938 by Mrs. James and an endowment consisting of one million dollars was made by Mrs.Bayard Cutting for the arboretum.  Mrs. Bayard Cutting would continue to live at the estate until her death in 1949. 

Rear of Westbrook

In 1973, Westbrook was placed on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Special thanks to our tour guide, Anna, who did so much for us today. We really enjoyed her tour today and she really took command of the large crowd that we had.

Here are the Tiffany windows I promised.  A lamp is included.

Dining room window

Tiffany lamp in Mr. Bayard Cutting's bedroom

Living room window and entrance way windows

As usual, below are some links to several sites on the arboretum:

Wikipedia article on William Bayard Cutting.  Click on the reference links inside article to learn more.

Wikipedia article on Bayard Cutting Arboretum

Below is East Islip's historical  page on the Westbrook estate.  Click on Oral 1, 2 and 3 for a complete history.

This is the official website of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum

Here is Westbrook and the Arboretum on Wikimapia.  It is outlined in red.

One last picture to leave you with.   This is the beautiful rear view of  the Connetquot River that the Bayard Cutting family could enjoy from every room in the house. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Yonkers, NY

Fresh white clam pizza with some Foxon Park White Birch Soda.  Delicious! Worth a trip from Long Island to come out to Frank Pepe's in Yonkers, NY.  Susan and Rob don't come very often, but since they were 15 minutes away decided to come by.  And what a treat, they brought me along with them.

There are four locations, Fairfield and Manchester CT, the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT and one coming to the Danbury Mall in January, 2011. 
Orginally located in New Haven, CT, it is known as Pepe's and it was started in 1925 in the neighborhood of Wooster Square.

Frank Pepe arrived in this country from his native Italy at 16 in 1909 and worked in a factory until World War I broke out. At that point, he returned to Italy to fight on their side.  After the war, Frank and his new bride Filomena, returned to New Haven in 1920 and began working in a Wooster Street macaroni factory, then at a local bread factory, also on Wooster Street.

Frank Pepe opened his first bakery also on Wooster Street and from there, with his wife by his side, started making pizza.  They offered two types, tomatoes with grated cheese, garlic, oregano and olive oil and the second with anchovy.  The Original Tomato Pie, as it is known, is still on the menu and you can get anchovy on the side.

Between the years 1925 - 1937, Frank Pepe started small, employing relatives,  In 1937, he moved his pizzeria to the building next door where he lived upstairs with his wife and two daughters.  He became known as "Old Reliable" for his contributions to the community and to his family.

In the 1970's his daughters purchased back their father's original bakery to be used as an annex to Pepe's pizzeria.  In the 90's, Pepe's two daughters retired, leaving the business to their children who still operate the business today.

According to their website, Frank Pepe originated the New Haven-style thin, but chewy crust pizza which is simply delicious.  It is a coal fired oven, the kind that he used to bake his breads.

The White Clam pizza, which is what Susan and Rob ordered, became Pepe's signature pie. It all started because Pepe's also served appetizers of Rhode Island raw little neck clams on the half shell, the pie was added in 60's and gradually became popular over the last 40 years.

The coal fired oven, which you see in back of me, has been recreated from Pepe's original oven, brick by brick. The fire doors are cast from the original mold of Frank Pepe's original pizzeria begun 80 years ago in New Haven, CT.

Everyone working at the Yonkers venue is very friendly and cooperative and always go out of the way to welcome you, especially if you have come a long way to enjoy their pizza.  The parking lot is always jammed and so is the restaurant.  The pies at Pepe's are always cut slightly different then their regular counterparts, each slice cut so that everyone can enjoy the crust.

So if you're ever in the area, please visit this great pizzeria.

Here is their website where you can find more information.

Freedomland Timeline and Article on Freedomland by Susan

Susan asked me to post her Freedomland Timeline and her article on Freedomland in this blog and I am happy to do so.  Here they are.  Hope you enjoy them.

Freedomland Timeline

May 1, 1959 Freedomland project announced by William Zeckendorf, president of the real estate firm of Webb & Knapp, Inc
May 21, 1959 City Planning Commission approves map change to aid Freedomland
May 25, 1959 C.V Wood, Jr. president of Marco Eng. Corp. of LA and General Manager, Disneyland from 1954 - 56, announces Freedomland project at news conference. Cost estimated at 16 million dollars
May 26, 1959  Full description of the Freedomland project as written up in the New York Times. Cost estimated at 65 million dollars
June 12, 1959 Estimate board gives full final authorization
July 21, 1959 Freedomland stock is offered to the public
August 12, 1959  R.E. Carpenter, Jr. is elected director
August 26, 1959 Groundbreaking ceremonies begin
March 24, 1960 Six small unfinished buildings are razed by fire 
April 29, 1960 Park attractions described in NY Times
May 11, 1960 Bank of NY branch to operate in Freedomland as a model bank of 1850
June 12, 1960 Freedomland, USA nears completion 
June 18, 1960  Freedomland, USA is dedicated with 5,000 people in attendance
June 19, 1960  Freedomland, USA officially opens in the Bronx with 25,000 people in attendance
June 19, 1960 Freedomland, USA debuts on the Ed Sullivan show as Disneyland’s equal on East Coast
June 20, 1960  Freedomland is forced to stop selling tickets because of traffic snarls
June 25, 1960 Ten hurt as stagecoach overturns in Great Plains section of Freedomland; park denies any involvement in forcing photographer to expose picture of accident
June 26, 1960 Three victims hospitalized; one with a snapped spine
August 28, 1960 Front office robbed of $28,836 by four armed men making their getaway in a boat 
September 12, 1960 Three held in robbery incident
September 18, 1960 Freedomland reduces amount of open days
September 20, 1960 International Recreation Corp. considers purchasing three NYC hotels from Zeckendorf Hotels Corp. to provide more working capital
October 5, 1960 Three companies file liens totaling $140,000 against Webb & Knapp
November 11, 1960 Lien filed by Turner Construction Company for $3,648,000
May 24, 1961 Freedomland needs eight million in refinancing to bring the park out of debt. 
June 10,1961 International Recreation Corp. approves giving Webb & Knapp total company control
June 11, 1961 Freedomland’s second season opens
June 19, 1961 Families and guests of UN delegates attend Freedomland
August 18, 1961 Three jailed for1960 robbery
November 7, 1961 W. Zeckendorf Jr. named Chairman, R. Levy is named President and G.A.Hamid, Jr. is named Executive VP
March 21, 1962 A.K. Moss named Executive VP and General Manager
May 27, 1962 Freedomland’s third season opens
June 28, 1962 Announces special “family vacation” admission 
August 13, 1962 Benny Goodman Orchestra in concert at Freedomland
September 5, 1962 Benjamin Moore sues to void their lease for exhibit space and collect $150,000 in damages; also sues for “historical and educational” changes in park’s character to appeal to teens and jazz enthusiasts
September 21, 1962 NYS Supreme Court dismisses suit
Summer, 1963 Addition of bumper cars, a roller coaster and a Last Supper made of wax
April 22, 1964 NY World’s Fair opens
July 1, 1964 Webb & Knapp transfers 60% interest in International Recreation Corp. and its subsidiary Freedomland, to National Development Corp.
September 14, 1964 Freedomland files for bankruptcy.  Sites World’s Fair as loss of patronage

thanks to the New York Times and Nassau Community College for helping us to find the information we needed.


"Mommy, Daddy, Take My Hand"

A Tribute to a Forgotten Park
Susan Friedman

The date is October 8, 1871. You are walking on a busy downtown street in Chicago, enjoying the sights and sounds of the old city when a cry of "Fire!" fills the air. Fire bells begin to ring. You turn your head just in time to see the doors of the old-fashioned red-brick firehouse swing open. An old-time hand-pump engine is wheeled out and pulled down the streets of the city.

Curiousity overcomes you and you follow the engine to see where it's going. Suddenly, you see the flames. They are coming from from all over the city. Quick, no time to lose! The call goes out for volunteers to help man the pumps. You join the brigade. As you grip the iron bars and pull up and down, up and down, a steady stream of water shoots out of the long snakelike fire hose. You continue to pump until, finally, the fire is out. You hear hands clapping and you look up to see that a crowd has gathered to watch. You sigh with relief. You have just put out the biggest fire in the history of Chicago. Twenty minutes later, it will all begin again.
The Chicago fire was just one of many attractions at a place called "Freedomland, U.S.A.". I know because I was a "volunteer." At eight years old, I was probably the youngest. It was one of their most spectacular attractions and one I'll never forget.

Freedomland was an entertainment park, the largest anywhere in the world. It was New York's answer to Disneyland. Built in the shape of the United States, this 205-acre park's main theme was American history. It was divided into seven sections of our country, each with its own special exhibit or disaster. You could travel from the East Coast to the West Coast, all in one day.

My family and I came to the Bronx often to visit. On the day its doors opened on June 19, 1960, Freedomland became the high point of my childhood. After we parked the car in the lot, we walked to the stand to buy our tickets. Our first stop was Little Old New York. This was New York as it looked in the late 1800's. Horseless carriages and surreys filled the streets. People in period costumes mingled with people of today. A German "oompah" band played while several shops down the street, someone was robbing the bank.

A horse-drawn trolley took us to Chicago, where the streets were also filled with people. After we put the fire out, the curio shop next door had a fire sale. Paddlewheelers made their way across the Great Lakes. To get to San Francisco, you could board an old iron horse on the Santa Fe railroad. My family always preferred to walk.

The one attraction in the Great Plains section that I remember was Borden's farm with its white barn and matching silo. Borden's logo was on the side with Elsie's head wreathed in the middle of a daisy. Elsie and her two tiny calves lived inside the barn. It was a real farm with pigs, chickens, and live sheep. There was even a cornfield.

Next was San Francisco. It was 1906, the year of the big earthquake. You could visit the naughty Barbary Coast, eat lunch or dinner in Chinatown, visit Fisherman's Wharf, and watch the city collapse in an indoor ride called "Earthquake."

We visited the old Southwest of the 1890's. What I remember was a house called "Casa Loca." which means "crazy house." That is just what it was. This little shack was tilted, but you could walk straight through and never know it. Water ran uphill there, and people popped out of walls.

There was a real gunfight in the streets of the old town, which was a cross between Tombstone, Tuscon, and Old Santa Fe. A popular sky ride in this area was the ore bucket ride. This took you to the top of the Rocky Mountains.

I only remember two attractions from New Orleans. One was the Crystal Maze, a mirror maze that I got lost in, and an indoor ride, "Tornado," that took you inside the eye of a very powerful twister. The fun did not stop there. You could see pirates or ride a dragon, or a carousel. You could even get involved in the Civil War.
Satellite City was the last of of the seven sections and is an area of the park that I do not remember at all. I know, from research, that this was the futuristic part of the park, where Space Rover, a rocketship, took you through space around the entire Western Hemisphere in six minutes. The Blast-Off Bunker was a replica of a Cape Canaveral rocket launching station.

Satellite City was the only part of the park that was not completed when it opened. Perhaps that is why I do not remember it.

Freedomland only lasted four years. Its first season, 1960 to 1961, is the one that will always live in my memory. By 1962, the theme of the park had changed. The history was played down, and it became just an amusement park with bumper cars, roller coasters, and side shows. The park began to lose money. There were accidents and lawsuits. The front office was robbed. In its last season, the park lost more of its patrons to the New York World's Fair. On September 15, 1964, Freedomland filed for bankruptcy. Between late 1964 and early 1965, Freedomland was torn down. Later that year, plans were made for a large apartment complex, Co-Op City, to be built in its place.

Freedomland may have been a failure, but it was always a winner to me, especially the Chicago fire. When I ask other people if they remember Freedomland, that is the part of the park they always mention first. Many people still remember the gunfight in the Old Southwest and others that remember the old radio advertisement:

"Mommy, Daddy, take my hand. Take me out to Freedomland." 
Copyright ©1997
Susan Friedman

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Richter's Orchard, Northport, NY

This morning we came across another cider mill, Richter's Orchard, a small out of the way 20 acre farm that grows and presses its own apples.  They have twenty different varieties of apples and this includes an orchard of Asian apple pears.  Run by brothers Andrew and Louis Amsler, they press their own apple cider right on site between October to May.  Louis brought us around and showed us the press and explained the making of cider.

If you can see me, I'm sitting on the tractor getting ready to head out to the orchard.

The cider mill was established in 1900 by Frederick W. Richter who arrived in the United States in 1871 with a dream of planting his own apple orchard, which he pursued after working with confections for 29 years.  He moved to Northport where everything was just right to start his own and Richter's Orchard was born.

The present owners, Andy and Lou Amsler had taken over from their father who, after graduating from Farmingdale Agricultural College in 1934, began working for Mr. Richter the same year. Mr. Amsler leased the orchard from Mr. Richter three years later and operated it on his own.

The store.  The mill is on the right.

The attack on Pearl Harbor had left an impression on Mr. Amsler so much so that he joined the Navy and became a Sea Bee stationed in the South Pacific..  Upon his return in 1946, he bought the farm from Mr. Richter and married Mrs. Amsler.  After Mr. Richter's death, they had the hard task of running the orchard, while raising three sons. Out of respect for Mr. Richter, the Amsler family kept the name Richter's Orchard as a memorial to him.

When the Amsler brothers finished their stint at Cornell University College of Agriculture, they took over the business in 1979 after their parents retired. You can still spot them on busy days at the farm to help out Andy and Lou. 

Apple Press

You can buy some homemade apple cinnamon pancake mix, mulling spices, apple crisp mix, apple bread mix and double apple muffin mix.  Their small store is filled to the brim with all kinds of apples and great tasting cider that can be bought by the gallon or half gallon. Andy and Lou are great to talk and reminisce with.  While touring, we met Chipper and discovered that he loved Asian apple pears.
So if you're ever on Pulaski Road in Northport, check out this lovely little family run farm. The house and the outbuildings (the original cider press started out in the stable) date from the 1900's.  Also stop in and say hello to Andy and Lou.  Two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.

The road leading up to the mill
The picture below is the road that leads up to the farm.  The orchards are on either side of the road.  In this picture, the family house is on the left and the cider mill and press are on the right.  The store, which used to be the stable, is the middle building. 

They are open from August to May, but apple pressing begins in October.  They are closed on Tuesdays after January 1.
Here are two links that I found, one has a review and the other is an article about the place.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, New Hampshire

The Brick Store in Bath, NH, the Oldest General Store
This is Kancamagus Pass or Route 112, the highest point of Kancamagus Highway which runs through the White Mountains.  Kancamgus Pass connects  Bath, NH with Conway, NH and is known for its beautiful fall foliage. 

The "Kanc" as it is known by the locals, was named for Chief Kancamagus or the Fearless One.  Kancamagus once ruled all of what is now known as southern New Hampshire,  In 1691, he made the decision to move north to upper New Hampshire, which is now known as Quebec, Canada after trying and failing to make peace with the English settlers.

 Kancamagus Highway is fairly new, having been been completed in 1959.  Some old logging roads were set aside by the federal government, but there wasn't a road linking Lincoln with Conway, New Hampshire.

Lower Falls, White Mountains

The Kanc was paved in 1964 and was plowed for the first time in 1968.  It is now used all year round.

Sometimes when you travel on the Kanc, you can see moose, deer, even a fox. Here are some that we spotted.  There are places that you can hike to such as an abandoned logging town called Livermore.  It's way off the beaten path and if you don't know it's there, you won't find it. 

Rob took some of my relatives that came for a visit.  They had no idea that we were coming and came out to say hello. 

I am including a few links:

this shows you the entire route of the highway:

 wikipedia article on the history

more about the history of the road and some sites you can see

and about the abandoned logging town of Livermore

Brake for moose crossing Kancamagus Highway