Sunday, July 18, 2010

Long Island Motor Parkway

Hi again.  In back of me are remnants of a bridge that went over the very first limited access highway in the country known as the Long Island Motor Parkway.

William Kissam Vanderbilt, great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and a racing enthusiast, created the Vanderbilt Cup races in 1904, with the idea of bringing European car racing to the United States. The cup was provided by Tiffany and the races were run over 30 miles of local roads in Nassau County.

Deciding that local roads were too dangerous, Vanderbilt hit on the idea of a landscaped parkway with banked turns and no grade crossings or commercial vehicles to hinder race cars driving at the top speed of 60 mph.  Originally planned for a 60 mile parkway from Queens to Riverhead, LI, it became a 45 mile parkway from Flushing to Ronkonkoma.  Groundbreaking began in Bethpage in 1908. The Long Island Motor Parkway was born. 

The races were originally run on the first 10 miles of the parkway until 1910. Due  to numerous accidents and the deaths and injuries of spectators, the races were finally banned by the New York State Legislature. In 1911, the Long Island Motor Parkway became a toll road used by everyone from socialites to rumrunners or just motorists taking their families out for a Sunday drive to Long Island.  An inn, known as the Petit Trianon was built at the end of the parkway on the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma.  The inn later became a club and restaurant and was managed by various owners until it burned to the ground in 1958.

The Long Island Motor Parkway met its end in 1938 when it could not compete with the more modernized parkways of Robert Moses's newly built Northern State Parkway.  The parkway was sold and broken off into different sections.  A part of the parkway still exists in Suffolk and is known as Motor or Vanderbilt Parkway.  A section in Queens is used as a bike path in Alley Pond Park. The biggest loss however was in Nassau County where most of the parkway was cut up and built over.

Susan and Rob did do some research on the road due to Rob's continuing interest.  They traced the entire road and took lots of pictures and kept a log about it.  They were also written up in the local paper in the late 70's.  The article is gone and not available on the internet, but there are other articles that I'm including here.

At the end of the article you will find references that will contain more information.


  1. Clyde, you always go to the most interesting places.

  2. Very interesting!

  3. Clyde, you never fail to amaze me with all the great places you all visit! This was very interesting. I would say you are luckier than most moose!!