Then & Now

Then & Now

[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!

[March 2016]


Before the railroad came to Port Washington in 1898, the center of town was the shoreline.  On the north end, local commerce centered around the Mill Pond and the Hotel Renwick (the same building currently occupied by Diwan). Commercial life stretched southward where several boatyards thrived near where Manhasset Bay Yacht Club is today.  In between these points were fishing shacks, tidal mills, boat building and repair facilities, a fish market, a bicycle shop, steamship docks and the usual cast of characters that made up many small shore villages on Long Island.

By 1872, the Civil War of the previous decade was just beginning to recede into memory, even though it had been (and remains today) the deadliest and most costly war in American history.  A young man named Peter Hults, who had moved to Port with his brothers Issac, William and Jacob from City Island, had an idea.  He would abandon his earlier attempts at oystering, and join his brothers in local construction work.  It was in that year that Peter Hults built our town’s first hotel, The Port Washington Hotel, complete with its own dock, on the shore road across from the entrance of today’s Town Dock. [For today’s reference, as you face the road from the Town Dock’s entrance, it was located just to the left of the present home of Daniel Gale Reality.]


The view is looking back north toward what became Sunset Park.  At that time, the watery shoreline came right up to the road. 

The Port Washington Hotel did a solid business for more than 20 years. In 1895 when Peter Hults died, it was sold to Charles Heubner who operated it as Heubner’s Hotel for a few years. However in 1900, the hotel was sold for the last time, and for more than 60 years, would be known far and wide as Bradley’s



On the left is John Bradley standing on the front porch of his hotel

 around 1915 with his friend Lorenzo Smull, a prominent builder

whose own grand house was across the street from today’s Louie’s.

Let me give you a sense of where you are.  Remember that Sunset Park, where the Sousa Bandshell is today, was made years later from landfill.  But its not here yet.  The Town Dock would be built a few years after this photograph was taken. Take a look:


GDS 0146b

According to reports, John Bradley always wanted a restaurant on the shore and the Bradley's thrived under his stewardship. New York’s high society and politicians alike became regular customers, including the Vanderbilts, the Astors, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker, prize fighter Jack Dempsey, Broadway legend George M. Cohan, humorist Will Rogers and many others.

IMG 1090

The Bradley family reach stretched beyond the hotel, constructing the Bradley Building where Brothers All Market stood for several decades at 83 Main Street. Later, the Bradley family bought and developed property across from the train station and John’s two children, Herbert and Irma had avenues named them. They ran the hotel after their father’s death in 1943, finally selling the aging restaurant in 1959. 

The hotel finally caught fire in February, 1962, ending almost a century of the finest dining and hospitality ever seen in these parts.

Take a 360 degree look at the spot today, at
the entrance to the Town Dock. Then travel around Port Washington

by clicking on each pulsing circle or the thumbnails on the left

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336 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington, NY 11050-4530
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