Oyster Bay Walking Tour
Special Places to See recently did a walking tour of Oyster Bay. There were eight Meetup members who joined me on this excursion.
Our event began with the president of Oyster Bay Railroad Museum, John Specce, meeting us at the Long Island Railroad platform. The hospitality that we received at several Oyster Bay sites was extraordinary. One of the reasons we chose Oyster Bay as our first event was the town’s love for President Theodore Roosevelt. I don’t believe there is another town that honors their hometown president like this one.
Theodore Roosevelt Rock Memorial Monument
1) As we left the train station, we crossed the tracks to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. There is a monument to him which is unique. This monument titled “the Book of Theodore Roosevelt’s life written in Rocks” consists of 24 chapters in his life. It begins with a rock from his home on East 20th Street, to Cuba, to a bronze book for his writing. Did you know he wrote 31 books. This is a unique monument to a great president.
2) As we walked towards the boat landing, we came up to the antique trains. These are part of the Railroad Museum. It was fun to stand on the back platform of an old train to imagine traveling from town to town making political speeches. At another train. we sat on the engineer’s seat. We were fortunate in having a retired railroad person explain the different tools and types of trains.
3) We walked over to the Visitor Center of the Railroad Museum. Here we found miniature train sets running, the staff in old fashion railroad attire. There was a bust of Theodore Roosevelt and tons of railroad artifacts. An interesting center. Most of these artifacts will eventually be housed at the Railroad Station once it has been renovated.
4) Across the street from the visitor center, we entered the 20th Century Cycles owned by Billy Joel. There is a collection of his motorcycles. When we entered, there were about 4 motorcycle riders inside admiring them. We were told that Billy Joel comes by during the week to select the ones he wants to ride for a while. The bikes were beautiful, and we spent a while looking for certain brands. If you are a motorcycle aficionado like Billy Joel, you will love to view them.
5) As we left the Century, we walked to the Derby-Hall Bandstand replica. It is in the center of Oyster Bay and offers a early 20th century feel to the town. This one was placed in 1981 and Leonard Wood Hall worked tirelessly to have this built. It was to be dedicated to Ethel Roosevelt Derby, Theodore’s daughter. Before the dedication, Mr. Hall died and the organizers decided to dedicate it to both of them. My image of small towns in the US is that of a bandstand and canons surrounding it. This square meets this image of mine. There is a John A. Dahlgren canon with a base that was cast from metal recovered from the USS Maine. There is one from the USS R. R. Cuyler which enforced a blockade of Florida during the Civil War. President Roosevelt in 1903 unveiled it in his home town.
Oyster Bay Post Office & Town Hall
6) If you stand at the top of the bandstand, you will look to the right and left and the two buildings are almost identical. The architect for the U.S. Post Office was William Bottomley and he wanted to achieve this mirror image of the Town Hall. What was interesting is that Mr. Bottomley was married to writer and sculptor Harriett Townsend, a member of the town founding families.
Oyster Bay Flagpole by Italian artist, Leo Lentelli
7) The US Post Office interior contains murals by Ernest Peixotto. Outside of the post office there is a terracotta flagpole and a bust of Theodore Roosevelt inside by Leo Lentelli.
The Octagon Hotel
8) Octagon Hotel built in 1887 may be the only octagon shaped hotel in the US. It is now apartments and retail space.
9) I started to discuss the Printery, built in 1906, when a lady and a gentleman came over to our group. As it turns out, she works there and gave us a personal account of the structure. She told us of the things that are still there from many years ago. About a ghost that haunts it. We crossed the street and she pointed to the original printing press and lettering. It is great to hear first hand from a worker about the building.
10) The piece de resistance was the tour at the Raynham Hall Museum. When we arrived, we were greeted by a costumed pair of docents. The director had said that we would have a special docent and we did. She took us outside to show us the original part of the house which was from the 1750’s and the Victorian addition done in 1851. Afterwards, we entered the house, a group of students from Denmark who had just finished their tour were leaving. For me, it was another location where I encounter more foreigners than native New Yorkers wanting to learn about our history. The docent took us to each of the rooms and up the stairs where we learned a great deal about the founding families of Oyster Bay and the inhabitants of this house museum.
11) After the Raynham, we stopped in front of the Masonic Hall which was one that Theodore Roosevelt belonged. We did not get the opportunity to enter it.
Snouder Corner Drug Store
12) Snouder Corner Drug Store had the first telephone in Nassau County. Several years ago, it had some interesting flyers on the windows which depicted some of its history. It has recently been sold, and looking for a retail tenant. These flyers are now gone.
The First Presbyterian Church and Christ Church
13) The First Presbyterian Church and Christ Church are right across from each other. Christ Church built in 1878 held the funeral of Theodore Roosevelt. There are wall plaques in the church memorializing the Roosevelts. First Presbyterian Church built in 1873 is an historic Carpenter Gothic-style building. The architect was J. Cleveland Cady. He designed the original Metropolitan Opera House, and the American Museum of Natural History.
I do believe everyone who joined me on this excursion had an interesting, historical experience. We also dined at one of Oyster Bay’s restaurants.
Until our next event…..so long