Some believe that past, present and future are all happening at once, and the events of long ago keep playing out over and over again in the spots where they took place, enabling some to see ghosts, and others to predict the future. With this in mind, we’re taking you on a bygone stroll (or frantic run) through Long Island’s past. Because what could be more green than walking through nature in autumn, alongside recycled souls and the decaying remains and ruins of what once was…
You probably pass them everyday, two rows of pine trees forming a line down the center median of the Southern State Parkway. They mark the approach to August Belmont’s mansion, now the site of Belmont Lake State Park. The wealthy banker threw lavish parties at his home at the turn of the century, later built Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, and is believed to be the inspiration behind the character Julius Beaufort in Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. So next time you’re cursing traffic and trying to get to the left side of the fork before the parkway splits, just remember it used to be someone’s driveway.
Jayne’s Hill, part of West Hills County Park in Huntington, is the highest point on Long Island. Walt Whitman spent hours walking the meandering tree-lined paths around his home leading up to its peak, drawing inspiration for his poems. Stop to take in the view of the Atlantic Ocean over the trees and you may even hear Whitman singing. His ghost is said to be still walking through the woods.
This Gold Coast era estate built for Wall street Mogul Charles Hudson was demolished in 1959, but its massive stone gates and stairs still sit in the woods in the southeastern part of the Muttontown Preserve, marking its former entrance. The former King of Albania, King Zog, fled his native land with national treasure before WWII. He bought the 60-room estate in 1951, but never moved in and rumors of hidden treasures in the walls spread.
If you take a walk through the woods of Sands Point, you’ll come across a castle by the sea, or at least that’s what it looks like. Medieval towers, part of a replica of an Irish castle constructed by August Belmont on the coastline, are all that’s left of the mansion that played host to parties attended by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beacon Towers is believed to be the inspiration for Gatsby’s mansion in The Great Gatsby. It was torn down in 1945.
A grand replica of Meudon Palace in France, this massive stone mansion once sat high atop terraced hills overlooking its 300 acres and the Long Island Sound. At the top of the hill still sits a partial façade of the mansion with Tuscan columns, old iron fences and turrets, scattered in the woods. The house was built for William Guthrie, a lawyer for the Rockefeller family in 1900.
This narrow country road has no streetlights and is surrounded by woods. There are several scary tales associated with this area related to a mental hospital that burned down with patients inside. Many people report seeing a “Lady in White” on the road.
As if the menacing abandoned buildings of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center—where lobotomies and shock therapy were the norm—weren’t terrifying enough, on its grounds is a potter’s field where hundreds of unclaimed patients were laid to rest. A plaque marks the spot at the top of a hill covered in debris.
The next time you’re at a Long Island Ducks game, take a walk near the parkway and the federal courthouse and you’ll find a cemetery. Concrete markers sit atop the final resting places of patients from the former mental hospital that once sat on the Citibank Park grounds. Continue over to the New York Institute of Technology campus, where the rest of the old buildings were converted into classrooms, administrative offices and dorms.
In 1901, way before cell phones, Nikola Tesla constructed a world communications tower to demonstrate how electrical energy could be transmitted without power lines. It was never fully operational and left abandoned. Investors, including JP Morgan, and financier John Jacob Astor, who later died in the Titanic, lost their money and the project was considered a “folly.” During WWI the tower was blown up over fears German spies were using it. The building still stands today along Route 25A.