Mar 20 2015

Newsday Article and Video: “Rebuilding a Bridge”

Scott Eidler reported  in Friday's Newsday of efforts of the Town of North Hempstead to landmark the Old Courthouse Motor Parkway Bridge in Manhasset Hills.


Howard Kroplick

Long Island

North Hempstead seeks preservation for Manhasset Hills bridge that spanned the old Long Island Motor Parkway

Updated March 19, 2015 8:01 PM
By SCOTT EIDLER  [email protected]

Historians who want to preserve a 106-year-old bridge that stood above the historic old Motor Parkway recall the sweeping changes that thoroughfare brought to Long Island: the privately financed road allowed early car owners and racers to zip -- well, sort of -- from Queens to Lake Ronkonkoma.

Essentially, something as thrilling as what "space flight" is today had come to the Island, recalled local historian Walter Gosden: "Almost like Star Wars." Gosden and others who love the history of the old parkway hope the bridge, in Manhasset Hills, will survive under a North Hempstead plan to have it landmarked.

At the turn of the century, Long Island was crisscrossed with dirt roads that were traveled by horse and buggy and the few cars of the day. William K. Vanderbilt Jr. financed the Long Island Motor Parkway for Vanderbilt Cup auto races. The entire stretch was completed in 1926.

Back then, there were few rules of the road, and a driver's death in the 1910 race ended the Vanderbilt Cup races there.

Though ownership of what is known as the Old Courthouse Road bridge is unclear, town officials worry it is unprotected and could be demolished.

"It's amazingly intact," North Hempstead Town Historian Howard Kroplick said. "It needs some loving and care."

Just eight of the 65 bridges built above the parkway, which ran 44 miles between Queens and Lake Ronkonkoma, remain. The rest are long gone.

Other intact bridges are at Old Bethpage Village Restoration and in Melville. The others are in Queens.

The parkway closed in 1938 as plans for the Northern and Southern State parkways developed.

Gosden, a member of the Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society, said the parkway, with poured concrete, was "totally unheard of anywhere in the country. It helped establish the economy."

Nassau County officials last year introduced plans to make a section of the parkway in East Meadow a trail for hiking and riding bicycles. The final 13-mile stretch of the parkway is now Route 67 in Suffolk County.

While graffiti covers much of the inside of the Manhasset Hills bridge, clear is the year "1909," etched twice onto each side of the concrete walls.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said if the bridge is preserved, the town will pursue grants to renovate it.

If landmark status is granted, the bridge would become North Hempstead's 18th landmarked site or district. Other landmarks include the Schumacher House, a 1700s farmhouse in New Hyde Park, and Shelter Rock, Long Island's largest boulder.

Hazel Kaufman-Pachtman, 92, of New Hyde Park, has advocated its preservation to Kroplick and Bosworth.

Adding a landmark designation brings a "very pretty addition" to the town, she said, recalling trips with her son to the bridge when he was a boy.

For Bosworth, seeing the bridge is "like pulling back the weeds from an old civilization and finding it hidden away on an old busy road."

Town historians are taking steps to preserve a 106-year-old bridge that stood above the former Long Island Motor Parkway built in the early 1900s. The Old Courthouse Road bridge in Manhasset Hills is one of 65 bridges built above the parkway, which ran 44 miles between Queens and Lake Ronkonkoma until it was shut in 1938. Only eight bridges remain; the rest are long gone. (Credit: Ed Betz)

Link to a video on the Old Courthouse Road Motor Parkway Bridge.


Mar 21 2015 frank femenias 1:37 AM

I’m lovin’ it! Not McDonalds. I’m lovin’ it, rightfully so. Thanks to SamIII too.

Mar 21 2015 Howard Kroplick 1:39 PM

From Laurence C:
Just a quick hello and congratulations about the informative write-up featured in today’s Newsday….. about the old bridge overpass/ Motor Parkway

Mar 21 2015 Howard Kroplick 2:06 PM

From Ron Ridolph:
  I hope to hear and see that some thoughts and efforts are to PSEG and the neighbors on a plan for restoration and beautification of the bridge and area.  Could there be a possibility for entry by pedestrians to see it and photograph it ????  I am in the hopes of the LIMP Preservation Society that it has custodial care and love it to the hilt !!!!!  I am sure all of the above has crossed your minds
by now and previous to the announcement…...  This would be a first of its kind as the usual is a piece of land or a building.  You all are going to make a new inroad to and for history !!!!  My blessings !!!

Mar 21 2015 Walt Gosden 6:19 PM

If you read the Newsday article online there are a lot of comments by people who have absolutely no clue as to what this effort to preserve the bridge is really about. One word , one syllable comments that are just down right stupid. Everyone has the right to their opinion , but one should also think that you would at least do a minimum of research to lean the facts to comment with some intelligence.

Mar 22 2015 James & Gram Spina 1:56 PM

One of our favorite bridges! Such a “secret” place to wander just steps from modern civilization and a stretch of our beloved parkway that truly functions as a stroll back in time. I this piece of history is ignored or, even worse, destroyed Long Islanders will basically cut off a path to their own heritage.

Mar 22 2015 Artie Finnegan 3:56 PM

Great job getting this far on the bridge.  I have taken pictures over the years and to think it would be demolished is unheard of.  I will e-mail our Town officials to keep them interested.  I had walked that parkway many years ago and the rabbits, and quail were abundent .  Thanks great job.  Artie.

Leave a Comment