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H.O. Havemeyer's Venice 1897

  Less than forty years ago there existed hardly anywhere along the Atlantic coast a more desolate or forbidding stretch of territory than the succession of lagoons, half submerged salt marshes and meadow lands that comprised the south side of Long Island from Jamaica Bay to the town of Southampton. The bays were popular only with the fishermen and gunners at certain seasons of the year, and the salt thatch was sold to the farmers of the middle and north side of the island, who fed it with their English hay to their stock or used it for bedding. The outer beaches separating Great South Bay from the Atlantic Ocean were favorite resorts of the local residents of the main land who erected shanties thereon which some of them occupied at various times during the summer season. The bay was the main support of all the south side residents, the chief occupation of the male inhabitants being oyster cultivation, fishing and shooting wild fowl.

Soon after the completion of the south side railroad, about thirty years ago, the attention of city people was drawn tot he natural advantages of all this country, swept as it was by cooling sea breezes during the hottest days of summer and easily accessible to the beaches upon which the surf of the Atlantic rolled in all its grandeur. The low price at which large tracts of land within fifty miles of New York could be bought induced many wealthy men, such as W.K. Vanderbilt, Pierre Lorillard, W.W. Astor, Christopher R. Robert, Frederick G. Bourne, W. Bayard Cutting, A.A. Frazer, Nicoll Ludlow, Woodruff Sutton, the late John H. Harbeck, S.T. Peters, J. Howard Gibb, H.B. Hollins, D.S. Conover, ex-Mayor Schieren, A.S. Swan, A.M. Hoyt, W.M. Van Anden, Alfred and C. Dubois Wagstaff, Austin Corgin, the Olympic Club, the South Side Sportsmen's Club, Henry O. Havemeyer and many other wealthy people to come out and build summer homes in the towns of Babylon and Islip and many bought large estates here. The largest of these estates comprise from five hundred to six thousand acres each. The natural effect of such an influx of the wealthiest people of the cities o this section was in a few years to increase enormously the price of all the land of the town and especially of the shore fronts available for the purpose of residence and boating and bathing. Even the half submerged meadows and marshes found a market, as they were susceptible of being made available.

One of neglected tracts fronting on Great South Bay at the mouth of Orowoc Creek and comprising between two and three hundred acres, half submerged at every tide, was purchased some years ago by Henry O. Havemeyer, the president of the American Sugar Refining Company. The new owner a little over a year and a half age entered into a contract with Henry A. Vivian to fill in a low submerged tract of sandy meadow of about seventy-eight acres, located at the foot of Main street and comprising a corner bounded on the south by Great South Bay and on the west by Orowoc Creek, to a height of several feet above the level of highest tide. The gravel and sand were taken by Mr. Vivian's immense steam dredge from the bottom of Orowoc Creek and near to the west bank of the improved property and thrown nearly half a mile inland by the huge force pumps. In this way a deep waterway was created navigable for yachts and other vessels of the largest size close tot he front of the entire property on the creek.

This work cost about $1,000 an acre for each acre of land so improved, but as upland in this neighborhood is valued at $5,000 an acre, this filling in is a pretty good investment. Through this entire tract in a north and south direction a canal 2,200 feet long and 100 feet wide has been dug and it is this tract that Mr. Havemeyer purposes to improve at once and convert into an attractive residence for himself and others like him who can enjoy a beautiful home by the sea. In the middle of the tract an elliptical plot of eighteen acres, which is bisected by the canal along the line of its longitudinal axis, is being laid out and prepared for choice building sites. This plot comprises about twenty-five acres of land and will afford twelve handsome villa sites of one and a half acres each, six on each side of the canal, and a semi-circular plot of several acres comprising a segment of the ellipse at the north end of the tract will be reserved as a park. A broad driveway, a continu8ation of Ocean avenue, lined with noble shade trees, will extend from the north entrance, bisecting the park and terminating at the head of the canal. Large shade trees will be set out in other portions of the park, which will be also beautified with shrubbery flower beds, lawns and serpentine walks. The grounds will be so graded that the northerly entrance tot he elliptical tract will be at an elevation of fifteen feet, gradually sloping down to the head of the canal. The broad boulevard will divide at the entrance, branching to the right and left, and it will entirely encircle the elliptical tract and afford a rear entrance to each building site in the plot and from the south end of the tract will extend down to the bay. Each site will have a frontage of several hundred feet on the canal.

The canal will be spanned by an ornamental bridge at its southern end. Each villa site will comprise one and a half acres of ground, and where adjoining plots have separate owners it is arranged to have the stables built on the line, so that they may adjoin and if possible the kitchens will be built the one opposite the other and removed as far as possible from the living apartments. When all the sites are occupied there will be a space of 400 feet between the houses and the houses will be located at different distances back from the canal, the arrangement supplying a handsome vista through which those residents located at the upper end of the water way as well as those at the lower end can obtain an unobstructed view of the waters of the bay beyond. This will surpass in beauty any description words can give. The houses will be located on artificially elevated building sites and the grounds in front of the houses will be terraced down to the banks of the canal. These terraces will be covered with rich earth in which will be arranged beautiful flower beds and grass lawns. Row boats will come up the canal under the bridge and be tied up to the banks in front of the owners' residences. The owners can step directly aboard and row to their sailing and steam yachts, which will be anchored outside in the waters of Great South Bay.

Eight outside plots have been arranged for in the plans. These plots, comprising from two to six acres each, will front directly on the bay and on Orowoc Creek. A rear entrance to each plot will be afforded by the broad avenue that circumscribes the elliptical plot about the canal. One of the largest of these plots, located on the point at the intersection of Orowoc Creek and Great South Bay, has been reserved by Mr. Havemeyer for his own use, and upon it he will erect a handsome residence in Venetian design, and it is expected that all the other villas will conform to a similar style of architecture. In harmony with the level landscape, the buildings will be broad and low, two stories in height, with a uniform sky line, unbroken by turrets, pinnacles or cupolas. The enclosed porticos will take the place of the usual summer house veranda, as being much less exposed to the burning rays of the sun, although a roofless piazza will surround a portion of the house, on a level with the ground floor. A court, surrounded by a low wall or hedge, will extend from the front of each house down to a bank of the canal.

It is intended to lay out another tract similar to the above to the east of that tract, as soon as the improvements on the tract now being treated are fully under way. The arrangements for selling the plots and the character and the erection of the buildings are in the hands of Richard M. Montgomery & Co., 61 Pine street, New York.


Website: The History
Article Name: H.O. Havemeyer's Venice 1897
Researcher/Transcriber: Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Eagle Aug 19 1897
Time & Date Stamp:  


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