Use the above map: The sections of the parkway in red are no longer used for automobile traffic. Click on any marker and see more info about that site. In 1903 Horatio Nelson Jackson was the first person to cross America by automobile. There was no single paved road to accomplish such an arduous task. A mere 5 years later Long Island could boast of a parkway solely for automobiles, the Motor Parkway.
It all started with Willy K. Vanderbilt Jr., an avid motorist and racer. In an effort to bring European racing to America he presented a 30 pound silver trophy to the American Automobile Association, for use as a prize. The first race was held on Long Island in 1904. The race originally went through the hamlets of Long Island on existing roads. The 1906 race was marked by tragedy when an onlooker walked onto the roadway and was run down by a racer.
The desire to have a portion of the Vanderbilt Cup race on a private roadway led to the construction of the first roadway solely for automobile traffic. As a dual benefit the Motor Parkway would be the gateway to Suffolk County, where recreation and summer outings awaited.
In 1929 Robert Moses, the great builder was constructing free parkways all over Long Island. The Motor Parkway charged a hefty toll. This combined with the great depression led to the close of the Motor Parkway in 1938. What remains of this pioneering parkway?
Let's start in western Nassau County and travel east as if we were on a Sunday outing in the Parkway?s heyday. We?ll learn about the Motor Parkway through discovery of its ruins and remnants.
Some of the Motor Parkway?s toll collectors lived in lodges built along the parkway. Motorists would stop under a lodge?s porte-cochere, give the toll to the lodge keeper, who would open a gate and grant them parkway access. Toward the end of the parkway?s years most of the lodges were sold to the resident toll keeper. Connected to the back of this modern home is one of these toll lodges. The lodge was heavily modified and no longer visible from the road. It is located at 351 Lakeville Road. In its original condition it would have looked like the Garden City Lodge. They, along with the first six lodges constructed, were designed by John Russell Pope.
One of the benefits of traveling the parkway was the elimination of intersection crossings. Horse and carriage use was still common and so were accidents between car and equine. The parkway never lived up to this task, as the eastern end was neglected in this respect. This 1909 abandoned bridge is a testament to the crossings the parkway did avoid. This is where Courthouse Road crossed over the parkway. The right of way under the bridge is now used for power lines, but parkway pavement can still be seen. The original bridges were built by placing I-beams across the abutments and covering them with concrete. The I-beams can still be seen from under the bridge.
It was officially named the Roslyn Lodge but actually exists in East Williston. This is one of the first 6 lodges that were designed by John Russell Pope. Though heavily modified, sitting next to the abandoned right of way, it is still recognizable as a lodge.
This house, at 284 Rudolf Road in Mineola, was the toll lodge for the Jericho turnpike entrance to the parkway. It looks different than the lodges drawn up by John Russell Pope. That?s because it was designed in a factory and delivered as a kit. It had a porte-cochere that spanned the parkway. As a home, has been modified over the years.
This is a quintessential John Russell Pope Lodge. Out of the surviving lodges the Garden City Lodge is the least modified. The main modification is actually the lodge?s location. It used to be located on Clinton Avenue and present day Vanderbilt Court. In 1989 it was moved to 7th street by the Chamber of Commerce, whom still use the building today. They even have a small museum set up in the basement. Annual passes to the parkway could be purchased. The purchaser would then be given a metal plate to put on his car to show he had paid. The photo on the right shows such plates in the small museum.
Next to the original site of the Garden City Lodge is a home that was once the parkway manager?s office. It replaced an earlier office on the same site.
Being a private endeavor the parkway did not enjoy eminent domain for its construction. Land was purchased off of nearby farmers and land owners. As a result the parkway had some sharp turns. This banked curve remains an amazing feat of engineering. Remember things we now take for granted were new back then.
As we enter Bethpage State Park we are driving on an section of Motor Parkway. The parkway then continues through the park's wooded area. After the state park we come to a section of roadway that can still be seen in Battle Row Campground. From there the parkway enters Old Bethpage Village Restoration, where it crossed over a private farm road. The bridge is still intact. Recently during a cleanup operation a bulldozer was driven over it and the bridge easily held up.
Now in Suffolk County we pass under another farm bridge. It is located next to Maxess Avenue in Melville. A historical marker has been put up noting this is the last standing original Motor Parkway Bridge in Suffolk County. There are a few more visible signs as we head further east. Eventually we reach a portion of the Motor Parkway still in use, though widened.
Originally tolls were collected at a small booth on Washington Avenue in Brentwood proper. This part of the parkway did not avoid crossings. As a result of this liability no tolls were collected between 1916 and 1921. When tolls were again collected a ticket shanty was built, not at Washington Avenue, but instead at Commack Road. In 1923 a proper lodge was built and it is said the former shanty at this location became part of what is now the Bon Witt Inn. Rumor has it that the lodge may have become the nearby Mason Ole. After the lodge was closed, a toll booth was constructed. This area is unique in that it had four lodges throughout the parkways use, three in Commack and one in Brentwood.
The last remnant we come to is fittingly at the end of the parkway in Ronkonkoma. This house was, you guessed it, a toll lodge. Actually it is 1500 feet from the end of parkway, located there because of the steep grade that used to exist in the parkway?s first 1500 feet.
Here is an excelent video that covers the Motor Parkway, including the Queens section.