Then & Now

Then & Now column

[January 2018]

A Rare Visit to the Past

By Ken Buettner, Trustee, 
Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society

We don't usually have the opportunity to travel into the past, but one of those rare chances is available if you do it quickly.

If you come north on Port Washington Boulevard, just past the entrance to the North Hempstead Country Club, and look to your right, you are taking in a view that has not existed for almost one hundred years.

What you are seeing is "Sunny Croft" an Italianate-styled house that was built by Joseph Willets in 1874 on a twenty-acre estate. At that time, in typical Victorian style, it was painted in multiple colors. Unfortunately, the black-and-white photos that exist only hint at the varied hues that existed. As tastes changed, the house became all white, which is how it remains today.

In 1920, A. Wright Chapman purchased the estate to use as a summer home, and renamed it "Longlands." He also sold the back ten acres of the property to the fledgling North Hempstead Country Club (likely where the 11th and 12th holes are located today). Over the ensuing years, the trees and shrubs grew larger and thicker and did a good job of mostly keeping the house from view.

In 2017, the now century-old Club purchased the house and its surrounding property to add a driving range to its facilities. To prepare the land for the range and for the deconstruction of the house, the fence between it and the Club was taken down and trees and shrubs that had shielded the house from view were removed. As a result, the sweeping view from the road to the house has been restored for the first time since around 1918. 

If you try, you can imagine riding in a trolley car on Middle Neck Road (the old name for Port Washington Boulevard) heading back into town from a visit to Mineola. Following the curve of the tracks, the trolley starts up the gentle rise in front of the Club and rings its bell. You look to the right and see the big white house up the hill to your right. Look quickly...before it's gone!

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