Collection Facts

Extent: 
31 items
Collection Owner:
NYH Topic Area(s):

Historical Context

During the early 20th century, new concepts in transportation and destinations were developed by different levels of government with the advent of the automobile. On August 4, 1929, Jones Beach state park and the Wantagh causeway were opened to the general public. This was the first major public project created by the Long Island State Park Commission under the direction of Robert Moses, its first President. Unusual for the time period, he did not allow any commercial carnival - like amusements in the public park. This was to be a new type of leisure and recreation facility that could only be reached by automobile. Since the parkway ended temporarily at Merrick Road, Wantagh became known as,” The Gateway to Jones Beach”.

To build the park complex during the 1920’s the existing beach community of High Hill Beach was demolished with some homes moved to West Gilgo Beach by barge. Two Art Deco bathhouses and an Italianate – style water tower, became the central features of the park. Later a boardwalk was added along with a small golf course, dance area and restaurants. During the late 1930’s, an amphitheater was built at Zach’s Bay to stage, “Broadway Shows by the Ocean”.

Today Jones Beach is a world - famous park, renowned for its beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the most popular visited beach on the East coast of the United States, with an estimated 6 million visitors a year.

Finally, the concept of,” automobile parkways”, was to have a profound effect on the development of Long Island in the 20th century. Farmland that existed for centuries, overnight became,” suburbs”, a new concept of living in the country but commuting by car to work in the city. Wantagh within decades went from a farming village to a bedroom community of New York City.

Scope of Collection

Pictorial history of High Hill Beach, Jones Beach and the New York State Parkway system during the 20th century to the present time.