Jul 17 2019

Documenting the Location of the 1908 Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Motor Parkway

Our wonderful mapper Frank Femenias questioned the location of the June 6, 1908 ground-breaking ceremony for the Motor Parkway in Central Park (Bethpage) in  Mystery Foto #28.

Frank Femenias:  "Was the ground-breaking ceremony truly held north of the LIMP? I always thought it was south on that stretch of grass, the former CRR right-of-way".

Since I love a history challenge, below is documentation on this historic site.


Howard Kroplick

Official 1908 Invitation

This is the official invitation to  "a red-letter day for motorists." The location is listed as "The Barnes Tract", Jerusalem Road, Central Park.

The official 1928 Motor Parkway Atlas notes  16.465 acres of land was purchased from "Donner & Barnes" north of the Motor Parkway and west of Jerusalem Road. Case closed...but there is more.

June 6, 1908 Ground-Breaking Ceremony.

This photographer was looking south-east with carriages parked on Jerusalem Road. Note the distinctive Motor Parkway field office in the background on the left. Photo courtesy of the Garden City Archives.

The Motor Parkway Field Office on Jerusalem Road, north of the Motor Parkway. Soource: Clinton Robertson Album.

View looking south on Jerusalem Road

Note the LIRR crossing sign on east side of Jerusalem Road and the large tree.

Construction workers digging the Motor Parkway at the ceremony.

Jersusalem Road Motor Parkway Bridge

1948 photo looking south


Central Park Historical Society has placed a historical marker on the east side of Stewart Avenue (Jerusalem Road) under the abutment remnants.


Based on the above documentation and the widening of Jerusalem Road/Stewart Avenue over time, this is my best guess where the historic Ground-Breaking Ceremony took place, almost directly across the street from the historic marker.. west of Stewart Avenue and north of the Central LIRR right-of-way.

Everyone agree?


Jul 17 2019 frank femenias 11:58 PM

Amazing footage never seen before and continues! It looks good Howard, give me some time to analyze. You’re likely right on target. Never seen these images before

Jul 18 2019 Brian D McCarthy 9:45 AM

It all makes sense. Just realized the photographer was viewing northeast with the 1st image. The Motor Parkway Office sign is on the south side of the building. The RR crossing sign was quite large.

Jul 19 2019 frank femenias 1:53 PM

Amazing detective work Howard! Based on the photos the ceremony site was definitely north of the CRR tracks, the RR sign is too far away from the event.
It appears the 16 foot Motor Parkway is situated somewhere within the roped off area of the circular crowd. The circle is larger than 16 feet. It is likely everyone is ON the roadway and just north of it, all within the 100 foot right-of-way. The ceremony stand is just north of the tree that was saved after the bridge was built, where it remained just south of the parkway roadway/bridge. I agree with Brian the top photo is looking northeast, with the tree just off the photo on the right side. With this orientation the shadows are approximately at 3:00, the time of the ceremony meet (3:30). I’m guessing the open umbrellas was for sun shade, no inclement weather apparent. One of the large RR signs was saved and currently at the RR Museum in Wantagh at Wantagh and Emeric Aves. Nice job!

Below photo as per Tim Ivers; First shovel into the actual Motor Parkway!

Jul 20 2019 frank femenias 4:51 PM

Also amazing is how Clinton Robertson’s photo album assisted in locating the ceremony site. His photos keep popping up. I’m attempting to adjust the online map and have located the Barne’s Tract on Nassau County’s map site in 1926. The tract is measuring 1 acre short of the 16.465 purchased. Not bad considering the crude tools. Are there any surveys available for the Barnes Tract? I also noticed Richard and Ellen’s Halfway Tea Room was a vacant lot in 1926. Photos are below.

image image image
Jul 21 2019 Roger A Price 11:10 AM

Wow, what an incredible assortment of historical photos!  Howard, thanks for sending them to us.  Fantastic investigation.

Jul 21 2019 JeRita 8:39 PM

The first automotive parkway was built by horses A friend’s family had a excavating company in Westbury in that era and he once said they were contracted for work on the parkway. Their yard was on Post Ave next to the RR on the north side

Jul 22 2019 Al Velocci 4:41 PM

Howard, Some other info regarding the “Barnes Tract” On the invitation to the ground breaking ceremonies. You will note the quotation marks around Barnes. that"s because Barnes was not the owner of the 16 plus acres, he was the executor for the Samuel T. Downer estate who owned the tract. The Parkway paid $5100 for the parcel purchasing it in June 1907. Parkway officials selected this location for the ground breaking because it was the first section of the Parkway’s r.o.w. east of Merrick Ave. that was wider than 100 feet.  An interesting component of the “Barnes” tract purchase was that the Parkway did not directly acquire it but used an intermediate party. To keep land acquisition costs down, early on the Parkway hired individuals, realtors attorneys and others who would purchase properties in their names and then turn them over to the Parkway. With regard to the “Barnes Tract”, the property was first acquired by Jenny and Charles Shaw of Brooklyn who told Barnes they were looking to purchase a small farm on Long Island in anticipation of moving from Brooklyn when he retired. The Shaws were also instrumental in other purchases for the Parkway. Al.

Jul 23 2019 frank femenias 2:09 PM

Fascinating facts Al, thank you!

Jul 25 2019 frank femenias 12:55 AM

JeRita is correct! I constantly see horses within Motor Parkway construction photos along the LIMP; sometimes captured merely standing by, or participating in more arduous tasks that would be too strenuous for humans. The horses definitely played a role here, in the parkway’s completion. 

Sep 15 2019 Dennis 11:32 PM

Wow! Nice detective work! And, I might be wrong - but it looks like that tree might still be there?!??

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