Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Woodsburgh Pavilion , 1870-1901

In July of 1901, the  Pavilion Hotel, which had been built by Samuel Wood in 1870 and attracted vacationers to Wood's hamlet of Woodsburgh for thirty years, was demolished.  It had remained unoccupied for four years, and was to be replaced with a club house for the community's residents.

The Pavilion sat on an elevated area in the center of town, at the intersection of Woodmere Boulevard and Broadway.  Built in the shape of a Greek cross, it was 175 feet long and 60 feet wide. It consisted of the four-storey main building and two three-storied wings, surrounded by a two-storied piazza.  The first floor contained a drawing room, dining room and reading and smoking rooms as well as separate gentlemen’s and ladies sitting rooms adjacent to the hotel office. Smaller rooms for baggage, coat rooms and the barbershop as well as a few sleeping apartments completed the first floor.  The second and third floors contained the 14’ x 17” guest rooms and “commodious” bath rooms.  Two rooms on the fourth floor were occupied with immense water tanks, which provided running water to every room.  The basement contained the billiard, laundry, provision and storage rooms, while a two-storied extension in the rear housed the kitchen and servants’ facilities.  The gas and ice housed were located at the rear of the building, since it was expected that the building would be lit entirely by gas.
Four hundred guests could be accommodated in state-of-the art luxury.  After a January 1870 gale blew down the first frame, the “handsomely ornamented” wooden building with its Mansard roof was built at a cost of $80,000. The smaller hotel across Broadway could accommodate about 100 guests.  At least twenty 25’ x 40’ cottages would be built on either side of the grand Boulevard.  A half mile long and eighty feet wide, with sidewalks and shade trees on both sides, the graded road was the first of many which would link the Rockaway villages and bring visitors to Mr. Wood’s new Paradise.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle describes the interior in detail:

  The ladies’ parlor is fitted up in exquisite taste, and abounds in luxurious lounges and easy chairs; elegant velvet carpets deaden the footfall on the floor, and window hangings of green damask and lace “temper the glare of the sun.” The halls are carpeted in green with crimson borders.  The reading room, off the office, is comfortably and elegantly furnished in Brussels, and oak and green leather furniture.  The private supper room is more elegantly furnished, and the wine room (Mr. Stetson [the proprietor] will have no public bar in his house,) is in the same style.  The dining room is furnished with a number of tables, accommodating eight or ten.  The shelves of the china and silver room are loaded with handsome ware and everything taste or necessity could require.  …The sleeping apartments are furnished in walnut [paneling] and Brussels [carpeting], and throughout everything is the most elegant style. The chandeliers are bronze and in exquisite taste. In short, the house is beautifully furnished throughout.”

In 1869, Samuel Wood, a wealthy businessman,  had begun his acquisition of 400 acres of farmland in the area known as Browers’ Point in an effort to repay the home of his youth for his subsequent success.  The community supported the endeavor and welcomed the project, which would become the driving force of Wood’s later life.  The  Daily Eagle chronicles the hiring of work teams to begin the layout of the Boulevard, which stretched from the main thoroughfare (Broadway) to the bay. One hundred and fifty men worked steadily through the winter of 1869-70 in the hope of opening the resort the following summer.  The first structure to be built was the railroad depot, followed by the Grand Hotel or Pavilion, a smaller hotel (later called the Neptune), five cottages and the Boulevard, which extended in a straight line from the railroad tracks to the bay.

But by 1900, the Pavilion was dated and Woodsburgh's panache as a vacation spot had diminished.  It was around this time that Robert Burton, a member of the Rockaway Hunt Club, bought the entire village from Samuel Wood's heirs with the intention of developing it for his private use.  In the first decade of the new century, Burton demolished or moved all of Woodsburgh's existing structures and began the construction of his planned community, eventually named Woodmere, which would contain all the modern amenities and attract both vacationers and year 'round residents to a new Paradise in the country, just 40 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.

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