Sunday, August 29, 2010

TheGreat Long Island Sphinx, Bayport, NY and the Anchorage Inn, Blupoint, NY

During our travels, Rob came upon the Great Long Island Sphinx.  This was the last stop on Rob's Mini Cooper Oddities Tour.  He was always fascinated with this and so the next thing to do was the research.  And so I will share with you what I found.

The Sphinx was built by Captain Will Graham in the early 1900's to attract people to his Anchorage Inn, also built by him in 1897.  We will go into the Inn in the second half of this blog and Will Graham's life.

When the Inn burned to the ground in the 20's, the Sphinx was moved to the inside of the gas station that was built on the site. It  was operated by the Ferri family from the early 30's to 1973, when the family sold their land and the gas station to a Long Island company called Power Test. While bulldozing the gas station in 1974, Power Test accidentally severed the head of the Sphinx from its body. If  Lou and John Fontana, owners of  Fontana Concrete in Bayport, hadn't passed by, the Sphinx wouldn't exist today.  And so, in the fall of 1981, the Fontana brothers began their restoration of the Great Long Island Sphinx. Finished in 1983, it sits in front of Fontana Concrete to this day as a memorial to the Inn and its builder, Will Graham, Lou Fontana and the Ferri family who kept the Sphinx intact.

Right down the road from the Sphinx are the remains of the previously mentioned Anchorage Inn in Bluepoint.   Will Graham, a skilled sculptor and marble worker,  arrived in America from Belfast, Ireland in 1888.  He built the Anchorage in 1897 and promoted business through a publication called "The Log" which was aimed at vacationers who wanted to spend time on Long Island.

A few of the famous who stayed at the Anchorage: Theodore Roosevelt, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks among them.

While continuing to operate the Inn, Graham never stopped sculpting and building.  His most famous work was the Great Sphinx.  He did build an early aeroplane and once promoted a bullfight at the Inn to which two thousand people attended. 

Will Graham died of pneumonia inside his Inn on February 20, 1920 at the age of 57. After the death of Graham's wife, the Inn burned down in 1927. The pictures that we took this afternoon are all that's left of the Anchorage Inn.  These are the fireplace, a chimney and the well.

As usual, I have included the following sites which helped me out tremendously in bringing you this history.

This link talks about the Anchorage and it includes pictures of the old inn, the Sphinx and Will Graham.

This site describes the Sphinx and how it was saved and restored.

Here I am hard at work on my blog.  Thanks to all of you who continue reading.  There is still much more to come.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Meadowcroft, Sayville, LI, NY

Here I am sitting on the porch of the John Ellis Roosevelt estate, Meadowcroft, waiting for the 1:00 tour.  We went there this afternoon and what a surprise.  It's a beautiful house inside, but I can't share that with you because you're not allowed any shots.  So bear with me.  I did find a site with a virtual tour of Meadowcroft, so you'll be getting to see the bottom floor at least.

As was explained to us on the tour, Meadowcroft, (the name means small farm) is located in Suffolk County's Sans Souci Lake Nature Preserve.  This "summer cottage" was saved from destruction in the late 1980's when a local fire department wanted to burn it down to see how fast they could put the fire out.  A local wine merchant named Barney Loughlin (who we will mention later in this blog) was instrumental in saving the house.

 This summer cottage was used by the Roosevelt family to get away from the hustle and bustle of New York City where the family had a brownstone on 20th Street.  Country air was good for you, city doctors prescribed at the time, and Long Island was the perfect area to build a house.

Divided into two sections, the front of this mid nineteenth century house was the more formal of the two and designed by local architect Isaac H. Green.
The back of the house, also known as the original farmhouse, was used as servant's quarters. The rooms in the older farmhouse include the kitchen. (complete with running water and a sink) laundry, servant's dining area and the servant's quarters which were upstairs and closed off to the public. These rooms were later used as guest rooms. There was also Mr. Roosevelt's woodworking room next to the servant's dining area.  The main house, which the Roosevelt family used, has a formal dining room, ladies parlor room, a library, and a beautiful living room which you will see in the virtual tour site link that I will include.  Upstairs on the second floor there is a nursery, men's sitting room, four bedrooms, and four beautiful bathrooms.

The outside buildings include a stable and a barn, a garage, coach house, a caretaker's house and a concrete swimming pool which we didn't see.  A water tank was located on the barn roof and was used to supply water to the house.  The garage held one of the first cars on the Island.  The Roosevelt family loved all the new modern gadgets which were strewn over the entire house such as two old typewriters, one an old Underwood and another a Smith and Corona.  There were phones, a gramophone with cylinders, even an old electric iron in the laundry.  There is also a hand pulled elevator hidden behind the walls of the house.   

There are actually three Roosevelt's associated with Meadowcroft, Robert Barnwell Roosevelt who originally purchased part of the land on which the house is located, his nephew Theodore Roosevelt, who visited the house and was very close to his uncle Robert, and John Ellis Roosevelt, Robert's son who was T.R.'s cousin.

Unfortunately, two tours are given every Sunday in the summer only, one at 1:00 and the second at 3:00.  We opted for the earlier tour and were joined unexpectedly by friends.
Earlier I had promised to mention Loughlin Vineyards which is run by Barney Loughlin and his daughters.  Well, here I am sitting on a fence post and on my left is the small shack that is the tasting room.  Also located on my left you can spot some of the vineyards.  What does this have to do with Meadowcroft? The answers are threefold.  One is that Barney Loughlin's parents worked for the Roosevelt's.  Barney's father was the caretaker at Meadowcroft and Barney grew up along with his brothers and sisters on the property in the caretaker's house down the road from his vineyard.  His mother was Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary.  Two is that Barney purchased the land from one of the last surviving children of the Roosevelt clan and had taken over the job as caretaker of the property after his father passed away. He and his family now live in the small caretaker's house.  And number three, if you haven't guessed by now, Loughlin Vineyards is located in back of the Meadowcroft estate and you have to pass the house to get to his tasting room.  This is how we discovered the house in the first place.  We were also given a private tour and learned how his wine is made.  By the way, his South Bay Blush is one of the best tasting wines on the Island.  Our friends always buy at least two cases of the stuff.

 Here I am in front of the vineyards. On a nice day in the summer, Barney will let you have a picnic and just enjoy the quiet of the day.

There are the usual links that I am providing:

This link will give you a virtual tour of the first floor of Meadowcroft estate.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower, Shoreham, LI, NY

Well, you can hardly see me, but I'm here at the break in the fence.  In back of me stands the main building known as Wardenclyffe, Nikola Tesla's failed experiment to provide free electricity through wireless power.

The tower was named for James S. Warden who bought the property and offered 200 acres to Tesla which would house the laboratory and the wireless communication tower.   

Tesla planned out Wardenclyffe in 1898 and construction began on the main building in 1901 by famed architect Stanford White. The tower was designed by an associate of White's, W.D Crow.  Originally backed by millionaires J.P. Morgan and John Jacob Astor, Tesla moved all his equipment from his Houston Street lab in NY to Long Island in 1902. By 1904, as the project neared completion, last minute changes to the tower were required as it was still not functional. This caused construction costs to skyrocket and went far beyond the budget that was set by Morgan. When he realized that there was no money to be gained, Morgan pulled out of the project, blackballed Tesla and discouraged other financiers from contributing to this project and any other project of Tesla's in the future.  
Looking for alternative funding, Tesla promoted the services of Wardenclyffe, trying in vain to attract people to take notice of his other inventions. All his efforts had met with little or no success. On top of this, his patents expired causing all his royalties to stop. With no more backers and no money coming in, the project was shut down in 1905. Employees were laid off in 1906, but the building still remained open until 1907. In 1908, the property was foreclosed.  In 1911, Tesla was able to produce a new mortgage from George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria. By this time, the building has been partially abandoned and the tower had deteriorated.  An investigation into his finances from 1912 to 1915 caused Tesla to lose the property to Mr. Boldt and his project was ridiculed.  The tower was finally destroyed in 1917 to be used for scrap metal.

In 1925, Tesla tried again when Boldt put the property up for sale, but lost his appeal in a second foreclosure.  This would lock Tesla out of any future development of Wardenclyffe.  The property was sold off and leased in 1939 to Peerless Photo Products and was then bought up by AGFA Corp in 1969.  They remained at the site until 1992 when the facility closed.  The site is currently undergoing cleanup of waste that resulted when it was still Peerless Photo, but was financed by AGFA who are the current owners.

Rob had included this site on a Mini Cooper Oddities Tour in 2006.  Here is a picture from the front of the building and another taken from the side on our test run.

As we neared the ruins this time, we found that AGFA had put the land up for sale yet again.  We did not know the date until we read the Wikipedia article that I have included in the my usual links at the bottom of the page.  In 1976, Wardenclyffe Tower was nominated to be made a National Historic Site, but is being held up for a number of reasons.  As of 2010, the site is crumbling and overgrown as you can see by the pic below

This is the partially finished Wardenclyffe Tower in 1902 from the Wikipedia article.


update  January 1, 2014

Revisited Wardenclyffe and saw some dramatic changes. Now called the Tesla Science Center, supporters from all over Long Island and Serbia have made this clean up possible.   The Christmas tree circle mark the area where the tower once stood.  A statue of Nikola Tesla stands inside the gated iron fence.   The woman in the picture, Annie Lipton, took a long drive to visit this particular building, a Long Island oddity.  Rob, Sue and I give credit to all those who took part in saving this beautiful building and the property it sits on.  We now eagerly await the opening of what looks to be a interesting and wonderful museum.  

Here are the links:
 This is a great video on Nikola Tesla.  Enjoy!  It's not the best quality, but stick with it

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Glen Ellis Falls, Gorham, New Hampshire

Here I am sitting in front of Glen Ellis Falls, one of the many magnificent falls in the area.  This one, unlike other waterfalls, can be easily accessed from the parking lot, which we will talk about later.

Located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Washington, it is believed that the falls was created by a series of avalanches from overhanging cliffs on the east side of the valley thirty thousand years ago.

The falls are 64 feet high and joins with the Saco River near Glen, New Hampshire where Mt. Washington is located, the highest peak in the northeast at 6,288 ft.  The river flows through Maine down to the Atlantic Ocean. 

The trail is well marked and easy to get to as you can see by the photo on the bottom. .

Just walk from the parking lot down the steps and through the tunnel to reach the trail.  Follow the granite steps for which the state is famous for and grip the log handrails to the top of the observation area before descending to the base of the falls for a perfect picture.  It may look deserted from where I am sitting, but be forewarned that it is crowded, even on the weekday morning when we went.

You can feel the power of the falls as you watch from a safe distance, the spray will fog up your camera and get  your glasses wet as well.   The ground vibrates and you feel the thunder of the falls as you stand and watch mesmerized.

Signs explaining the history of the falls are posted on the trail as you walk by, so it is educational as well as beautiful.

I am including one of the signs here:

"Here the forces of nature provide their own spectacular show. The fall of water attests to the tremendous powers of moving water. From the snow-covered or rain-drenched peaks this river is born to feed others.
In the few seconds this message held your interest, a minimum of 600 gallons of water have passed this point. At this rate, the daily needs to a city of 25,000 people would be satisfied.
Water, indispensible to the needs of man, is one of the resources of the White Mountain National Forest."

 Here I am sitting on my own little island walking back from the falls.  We rested here for a bit and admired the beauty of the surrounding area before leaving

As usual I am including more websites where you can get more information about Glen Ellis Falls:

The bottom one contains many more pictures including the signs along the trail.  It also contains a video of the falls which will give you some idea of how powerful it is.  Enjoy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boulder Field, Hickory Run State Park, Pennsylvania

Here I am at Hickory Run State Park in what's known as the Boulder Field.  This part of the park hasn't changed in over 20,000 years.  It is virtually flat and there is no sign of vegetation anywhere within a large area that measures 400 feet by 1,800 feet. They are made up of red sandstone and conglomerates and some of them are as large as 26 feet long.  Water flows underneath the Boulder Field which eventually will become a tributary to Hickory Run State Park.

 The Boulder Field has been designated a National Landmark and is located in the northeast corner of the park.  Here I am sitting on one of the boulders with a plaque at the entrance to the field.  As you can see from the picture on the bottom, people just love to walk on these.  We watched an entire family of four hopping from boulder to boulder.  Some were even picnicking in the middle of the field. Rob, Susan and I went a little ways in, then sat down near the entrance and just watched.

As you can see by the photograph alongside, the Boulder Field literally appears out of nowhere and is surrounded by the rest of the wooded area of the park.  The Boulder Field can easily be accessed by car (which we did do) or by hiking (which we didn't do) the 3.5 miles to it.  We did do some hiking however and stumbled on a trail called Stage Road.  This was part of an old stagecoach trail which ran from Allentown to Wilkes-Barre. The stage stopped at a hotel which was located in Saylorsville that was north of Hickory Run State Park.  There is nothing left of the town today except foundations.

This is a trip worth making especially if you live in the northeast.  Hickory Run State Park is in Carbon County, PA, not too far from the western foothills of the Pocono Mountains.  It makes for a nice weekend trip or vacation and is about two hours north of the Amish Country.

There are plenty of websites dedicated to this park, although Rob happened to spot it in a Wikipedia article.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bayport Aerodrome Society, Bayport, NY

Here I am enjoying a hamburger at the Bayport Aeordrome Society picnic this afternoon. Rob with his enormous interest in planes stumbled onto the Bayport Aerodrome three weeks ago.

Founded in 1945, this airport is unique in the fact that it has a grass runway.  It is owned by the Town of Islip and has been managed by the Society since 1972.

A little history about the society is appropriate here.  It is a living museum dedicated to preserving aviation history.  Many members have either retired from once prominent aviation corporations and are interested in keeping alive Long Island's rich history of what it was once known for: building and designing airplanes during WWII.  They share their passion with members of the surrounding community and anyone who cares to visit.  Here are some pictures of the planes that they keep alive and running.  We even won a ride on one of the planes.

Here is a full view of the Aerodrome Society's working hangers.  Don't be fooled by the picture.  It was very crowded with new people arriving all the time.  It was also a beautiful day, not too hot and no sign of rain anywhere.

Here is a RC-3 Seabee.  It was developed by Republic Aviation Corp in the late 1940's.  It was hoped that  military pilots returning from the war would want to fly civilian aircraft after they arrived home.  This never happened and this plane was discontinued in 1947.

Here is an REO Speedwagon. You will recognize this name from the rock band who named themselves after this flatbed truck made by REO Motor Car Company.  The initials stand for Ransom Eli Olds who later founded the Oldsmobile Auto Company.

Both Susan and I got to ride on this plane across the ocean above Fire Island and back again.  This photo, courtesy of the Bayport Aerodrome Society site, is a 1940 Aeronca.  It was a beautiful ride, but a little bumpy at the end. 

Approaching Fire Island from the plane.
Here I am after the landing.  All in all a good flight and a fun day.

Here is a link to the Bayport Aerodrome Society.  Enjoy.