May 30 2008

What was the Long Island Automotive Museum?


The Long Island Automotive Museum was founded by the prominent automobile collector and writer Henry Austin Clark Jr. in 1948 in Southampton on Long Island. The museum featured many unique cars including the Thomas Flyer car that won the 1908 Paris-New York Race. In the 1950s, the museum employed Joe Tracy, who participated in the 1904-1906 Vanderbilt Cup Races. Sadly, the museum closed its doors in 1980 and the collection was sold off. Today, I went to Southampton and found the main building structure in ruins as shown in the above image.


Index to posts on the Long Island Automotive Museum



Comments

Jun 15 2008 Joe Romano 11:12 PM

Howard - I was at your presentation in the Smithtown Library last week and really enjoyed the info you related to us.  Thanks.

Re the Long Island Automotive Museum above, I remember my parents taking me to the museum a couple of times when I was probably 8 - 10 years old.  I will be 61 on 6/27/08.  I remember going for rides in an early 1900’s fire engine and sitting up alongside the driver while I cranked the handle on the manually operated siren.  As I recall, the fire engine was driven down dirt roads in the rear of the museum.  As a kid of that age, I had a ball!!!

I haven’t thought of that in many years.  It brings back good memories.  Thanks for the reminder!

Regards,

Joe Romano
Smithtown, NY

Jun 16 2008 Williiam Ames Hayes 11:41 AM

My father was a Ham Radiio operator (W2BSP) and back in the 1950’s when I was just a kid he took me out th see Austin Clark’s Automotive Museum.  Clark had been a ship’s radio operator and knew dad.  The Museum was a glorious experience.  Like yourself I was in the area in more recent times and was saddened to see a banner across the sign in front in the weed infested parking lot and the delapadated hut that once housed those wounderful automobiles.  I noticed a dirt road along side the site and feeling adventurous found it led to a back enterance onto the property.  The big door was open and serveral men were inside trying to start one lone old 1940ish Lincoln.  One man stepped out and very sternly asked me what I was doing there.  It was none other than Austin Clark himself.  I told him my story and he opened his heart to me about how the local government would not let him use billboard signs to advertise his Museum and how his famly lost interest in the work it took to open each season.  He gave me some post card pictures still there in the little store.  The ceiling of the building showed signs of leaking and what remained in the storage racks were falling into decay.  It was sad but a privlage to have met this early historian of American Automobiles.

Jun 16 2008 Walter McCarthy 5:52 PM

Hi Howard,  Thank you for sending me your wonderful web site information.  I will have to go through my stuff and see if I have any other items and photos with related to your interests. I knew Austin Clark for many years and he was a great help in some of my automobile restorations through the years. In the interest of historical accuracy you might want to change your L.I. Automotive Museum article to owner Henry Austin Clark Jr. He would always say “Mr. Clark passed away” when people left off the Jr. 
      Keep up the good work!
Regards, Your friend, Walter

Jun 16 2008 Sal Grenci 9:25 PM

I never visited the Museum while it was open, but I visited several times after it closed for what was called an “Iron Range”, sales conducted to dispose of the various parts still in the buildings. I was invited by Les Cutting, of Huntington who was very well known in the hobby and Wally could tell you lots about. I collected a pile of parts and collectable items and asked Mr. Clark for a price when he was closing down for lunch. He did not want to sell me some items, sign and pictures, etc. he said they were not for sale and I said I was told everything was for sale. Within a few seconds, he would not sell me anything, and then Les came over and stated I was a fine young man and not a dealer and the he said I could have the stuff, so I asked for a price, he just gave me the stuff. I still have it all today. I also attended and “Iron Range” run by Walter Kraft for his estate. It was still a great place to visit even with out any cars.

Jun 18 2008 Howard Kroplick 10:13 PM

Joe, William, Wally, and Sal:

Thanks for your stories concerning the Long Island Automotive Museum. Hopefully, someday we can build a new automobile museum here on Long Island.

Enjoy!

Howard

Dec 06 2008 Robert W. Lovell 10:25 AM

Yowza All,
  I collect/restore old vehicles and cam across an article in Speed Age circa 1953 on the Museum.

  I hit the Web to see if possibly this place still existed, unfortunately not, but somehow the land hasn’t been developed after all these years.

  If memory serves me correctly the Harrah Collection bought the Thomas Flyer from the famous race and it was left as original as possible because of it’s historical significance. My only hope is whoever ended up with it did not do a full body off restoration as it would be criminal.

  Anybody who has knowledge of the actual people who restored the cars at Harrah’s or possibly owned or currently own one please contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Interesed in doing an article on the quality of Harrah’s restorations as they hold up amazingly well from the examples I’ve seen in the flesh.

        Good Health, Bob Lovell

Dec 16 2008 Howard Kroplick 9:36 PM

Bob:

Best of luck with your research!

Enjoy,

Howard

Jan 04 2009 Paul Fitzpatrick 7:01 PM

I first met ‘Austin’ at one of the many car shows he was a fixture at around the Island.

One memorable one was typical of him. My wife and I were sitting in our Austin 10 having lunch during the 81 Glidden tour. Austin walked by and we offered him a glass of wine. “No thanks” he replied, “I’m on booze”. Later I looked in the back of his Lincoln Touring and the entire back seat was taken up with the largest cooler I had ever seen ... and it was full of various brands of “booze” bottles, ice bucket and glasses. 

I only went to the museum once when it was open, but then after the museum closed to the public in what I remember was 75, to several of the Iron Ranges there after with Walt Gosden.

I can remember one day spent doing a “dig” in a three foot high mound of dirt that had been a pile of old parts out in the yard behind the main building. Found quite a few small fittings still usable. Another time I was upstairs looking through parts shelves when all the lights suddenly went out and I was in near total darkness.

Austin would kill the lights, no mater who was where in the building, then yell “lunch” and start out the door to fire up the 20’s bus. He used it to drive all who would fit in it to lunch at John Ducks via the cemmitary next door to pay his respects. I was told it was the grave of his friend, the actor Gary Copper. Don’t know for certain,as the grave was only marked by a big rock.

After lunch it was back to the museum to try and .... I say try ... to buy any parts found because like Sal above found out, Austin wasn’t always in the mood to sell things. I learned that when turned down, you had to then hide your finds and at the next Iron range “re-find” them, then ask again. It was not uncommon that it took three or more tries to get Austin to agree to sell .. and when he finally did it was usually very cheap.

Fun times !!!! 

This has been another flash back for me because Wally McCarthy above gave me my first ride in a gas/brass era car buncing across Warren Krafts lawns in the front seat of Wally’s Locomobile.

Hey Wally - still got the Loco ?

Paul Fitzpatrick
Formally of Amityville

Mar 15 2009 guy 1:35 PM

Great stories and comments. I was racing at The Bridge when I first met Austie as the Commendatore (bartender, too) of the Circuit Club and later as the fun one at Chowder for many years after the raacetrack’s agonizing demise. It’s about time for someone to do his biography. He was truly a man for all seasons who led a richly diverse life and was always a wonderful mix of joy and grumpiness. I recommend Wade Hoyt.

Jun 05 2009 Rob Friedman 9:30 PM

I went to the museum when i was around 10 or so,. abt 1965 (we lived in Freeport)
and yes I remember the firetruck and the thomas.
  Several years later.. my wife and i were in Newsday (we werent married yet) regarding the LI Motor Parkway (it was one the earliest Newsday “A View From) and afterwards we drove out to the Museum,.. and met Austin who recognized us from the article. We talked about 2 hours.. and he invited us to a bar in town (we declined)
About a year later we went to a Vanderbilt Cup car show in Bethpage .. and had to park wayyy away from the main part.. after tursging around and looking at all the cars we were starting back when austin spotted us and stopped to talk.. then offered us a ride back to our car… in his.. a hugs old simplex.. what a thrill driving by all the onlookers with Austin in this huge antique and gorgeous car.

he is very missed

0

Jul 09 2009 BURT TANKEL 12:29 AM

Checking to find out if you still have the color
post cards of antique and classic cars that I have been seeing advertised in my earlier dates of Old Cars News and Weekly Marketplace newspapers.If so, please,“snail-mail” me your listings together with
your current prices.These ads were in the early to mid-1970s withbdcame56 a price of 20 cards for $1.15-a price that, I’m certain, is obsolete at this time!

Aug 03 2009 Donald G Pennell 8:10 PM

I remember well visiting the Long Island Automotive Museum with my father and a friend in the early 1950’s.  We drove in our 1952 Chevy all the way from Madison, NJ and my friend became car sick.  Fortunately we were near the water on Long Island, so my father was able to clean up the car’s back seat.  I remember the Thomas Flyer well and have seen it since, but not sure where it is now.  Yesterday I was at the Meadow Brook Concour’s in Auburn Hills Michigan and Austin Clark’s name was mentioned several times, which lead me to check the web to find out “whatever happened to”.

Aug 10 2009 Howard Kroplick 9:33 PM

Thanks so much for the memories of Austin Clark and the Long Island Automotive Museum.

I have obtained films of the museum from Walter McCarthy and the Long Island Old Car Club. I hope to post them sometime this month.

Enjoy,

Howard

Aug 12 2009 Kate Henlay 8:18 AM

It is a sad view to see a museum in such condition, as a car collector myself I’ll visit Long Island Automotive Museum and will see if it can be reopened so that it can bring back memories for people who once visited there with their loved ones.

Sep 25 2009 Howard Kroplick 8:22 AM

Kate:

This film shows the Long Island Automotive Museum on it opening day on August 27, 1948 and in the early 1950s:

http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/index.php/blog/article/friday_september_25_2009_film_the_long_island_automotive_museum

Enjoy,

Howard

Apr 28 2010 Lou Gabrielson 9:15 PM

I recall that when i was a child we went there in the 1950’s a lot. i remember there was a vintage fire engine that would take us on rides on a dirt road through some woods. those were better days for us long islanders.

Apr 30 2010 Howard Kroplick 3:53 PM

Hi Lou:

As Bob Hope said “Thanks for the memories!”

I have added a photo of the Sandy Hook Fire Department truck at: http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/index.php/blog/article/tuesday_september_29_2009_more_on_the_long_island_automotive_museum

Howard

May 25 2010 Goodsport 12:43 PM

A group of us from Boston went on a tour in the mid 70’s and met up with a group of old car people from the island.  Henry was a member of the group.  That was the only time I met Henry who was a perfect host.  On the Saturday of our tour, he took us by the museum and gave people whatever parts they needed.  That evening we visited his home in Southampton before going to John Duck’s for dinner.  That was a weekend I’ll never forget.  God bless you Henry wherever you are.

May 28 2010 Pierre 9:05 PM

I have a set of picture post card size vintage long island automotive museum picture cards set of #1-40 (missing card number 5,12,27). On the back are descriptions of different cars for each card. The front shows the picture of the cars.

Jun 14 2010 richard sargent 9:37 AM

i have the complete set.I like to know more about them….. year printed; value etc. Some are color , some are blk. and white.

Jun 14 2010 Howard Kroplick 11:43 PM

Hi Pierre and Richard:

Here is a link to information on the Long Island Automotive Museum’s postcards:

http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/index.php/blog/article/tuesday_june_15_2010_postcards_from_the_long_island_automotive_museum

Howard

Jun 29 2010 Bob Coiro 10:57 AM

Back when I was a kid, my Dad would commemorate the coming of every spring season by taking our family out to the Long Island Automotive Museum.  For a car-crazy kid like me, this was the equivalent of Howard Carter wandering around inside King Tut’s tomb.  The collection was enormous, probably the largest on the East coast.  Virtually every year from the dawn of automotion was represented at the museum.  The collection went so far back in time as to include turn-of-the-century, light-weight, bicycle-wheeled contraptions with tillers instead of steering wheels. 

  Some of the cars in the museum were restored to pristine condition.  Others were well preserved, unrestored specimens found in the proverbial barn somewhere.  The paint would be faded to a dull patina and some of the leather upholstery dried out and cracked.  To go ahead and do a sparkling mint restoration on these perfectly intact antiques would rob them of their history, so they were simply displayed ‘as is.’  Over the decades, these cars were always parked in exactly the same spot, so I assume they were never driven.

  I’m told, when some of the cars were discovered, they were such a rusted, wet-rotting shambles, there was no choice but to dig in, take everything apart and use the old parts as templates for the creation of new ones—and occasionally replace non-operational extinct equipment with modern replacements that could be hidden behind something.  The resulting ‘driver’ automobiles may not have been 100% original and their level of restoration would be something less than immaculate, but these were the cars that lived and breathed, exhaling blue smoke as they were driven in parades or just exercised for their health. 

  One such living vehicle was the museum’s fire engine.  This machine was a real blast because it was used to give rides to us kids on the winding dirt trail behind the museum buildings.  We young ‘uns would take turns clanging the bell while that beautiful, dusty, faded-red, retired hero would belch gobs of smoke like an uphill freight train and chug-chug-chug its stalwart, ancient heart out for us, siren wailing like a London air raid.  For the aforementioned car-crazy kid, few things were as much fun, and aside from holding the hand of a certain young lady by the name of Julianne during school recess, this remains my happiest childhood memory.  It was a terrible pity when the museum closed its doors back in the 1980’s and auctioned off its collection, but in its day there was nothing else quite like it—at least, not nearby.  When I last saw them a few years ago, the empty, derelict museum buildings were a pitiful sight.

Bob

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Jul 05 2010 Roger Price 12:52 PM

Howard,
Thanks for the memories.  I remember driving out to Austin Clark’s museum many times during the ‘60s.  I used to get a kick out of seeing Mr. Clark in his coveralls working on the cars.  Most people thought he was just a worker at the museum.  He always treated me nicely. 
I always bought something from his gift shop and still have a small collection of postcards with photos of his collection. 
The auctions were fascinating and high spirited.
Looking at those photos of what the building looks like now make those who knew the museum very sad.
Bevery Rae Kimes, who was a good friend of Austin wrote a great article about him in Automobile Quarterly.  If memory serves, I think it was in Vol. 38, number one.  If that’s not correct, it’s close.
Again, thanks for the memories.
Roger Price

Jul 27 2010 Peter James Morris 7:52 PM

Austie took my kids for a ride on his fire engine.
Many years later at a “Chowder” meeting, I gave him the photograph that I took.  In the photo he was still young and handsome.

Sep 01 2010 Charles Ray 12:13 PM

Sad picture.
Back in the ‘60s my family lived in Hauppauge.
My father would take my brother and I out to watch the races at Bridghampton and to the Auto Museum once a year. I always remember those days as some of the finest ever.

Sep 12 2010 Peter D. Ruppert, P.E. , Long Island, New York : A 7:07 PM

Thank you for posting. I see the ruins of the building when I pass there. I also remember the museum when it was in operation. As of 1961 I remember :
They gave us a fire truck ride through the back lot area.
There was an unrestored Packard Roadster sitting on the open area of the yard which I sat in. I remember the “pull daily” lubricating handle on the lower left.
A set of Fifth Avenue Busses.
recently acquired 1909 Thomas Flyer
1929 Maroon Pierce Arrow roadster
1933 Silver Pierce Silver Arrow
A 1911 Brush Truck
The Camp Devens Express truck
A curved dash runabout above the front entrance
An Hispano Suiza roadster
A Stutz racer
A Mercer racer
and more..I still have the stack of post cards. We bought a model of the 1912 Packard Landaulet, and I have two post cards of it, a photo and an artist’s rendition. They also sold artists renditions of various cars. The renditions can still be acquired on Ebay, and some are reproductions which are worth having. The interest in the cars is present in those works.

This was a different age. When you entered the museum you knew it was managed by people who knew what to collect and how to display it. The time was the recent past they were displaying, so the experiences of those people were fresh, and clear and present in the museum. What can we enthusiasts do to save the old building? I would be willing to contribute.

Sep 21 2010 Bill Gannon 8:39 AM

I visited the automotive museum with my family during a vacation in Hampton Bays in 1961, and I still recall the experience fondly. I loved the exhibits, and recall the fire engine ride through the adjoining woods. It is a shame that the facility closed.

Sep 22 2010 Andrea (Schoening) Novakowski 6:16 PM

This week I was going through old letters that my father had in a desk drawer and found a letter from Harry A. Clark, Jr. to my grandfather thanking hime for two old dusters my grandfather had dontated to the Museum in August of 1953.  In return for the donation, was a Patron’s Pass which was good for permanent admission to the Museum for my grandfather and one other person.  They were only given out to people who helped the Museum without personal benefit. 

My family was planning a trip to Sag Harbor in October and thought this would be an opportunity to check out some of our history. 

Sad to see the Museum was closed.

Nov 09 2010 Howard Kroplick 6:07 PM

Thanks to all for their memories of Henry Austin Clark, Jr. and the Long Island Automotive Museum!

Enjoy,

Howard

Nov 14 2010 John Cannon 4:43 PM

I remember two things about the museum as a kid.There was a (yellow ?) W.W.One water wagon that was just a huge conglamoration of cast iron. My father, he was 45 when I came along, was inducted at Ft. Dix during W.W. I and learned to drive on just such a truck. He later went on to become a chauffer and drove some of the finest cars ever made, including a Rolls Phantom Two American town car (body by Brewster).

The other memory is of a Waverly electric car which appeared to be a china closet on wheels.The remarkable thing is, as I remember, is that it was complete with the original charging board. I lived just up the hill from Les Cutting ,as a young driver, and sold/ gave him my ‘38 Buick six wheeler after the clutch “froze ” together after sitting for a while . My father, the chauffer said they used to put a stick between the seat and clutch peddle to keep the clutch faces apart.I said to my father ” Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”.

As a kid I remember riding up New York Ave from the American Legion Hall toward Huntington in the Rolls. I must have asked something like how fast are we going?, because in my mind’s ear (as in mind’s eye ) I can still hear my father saying” This ais what it is like to go 50 miles an hour.” There was less traffic and no stop lights in those days.( I was born June 19,1940 in Huntington Hospital)

Dec 08 2010 Tom Osborn 5:28 PM

Does anyone know what happened or the wherabouts
of Austin Clarkes fire engines?? I remember riding on it as well, as a youngster.  I remember that he had more
than one.

  (also searching for early American LaFrance headlights.  Thanks 4 the memories

Dec 19 2010 Howard Kroplick 9:26 PM

From Tyrpaul:
“I remember the museum, my Uncle Lou had 2 homes out there and we would visit the museum when ever we were out there. Austin gave us a ride in a fire engine he had. Good times then, sorry it is gone. “

Jan 03 2011 Eric L GIbson 9:28 PM

I am the owner of the 1920’s bus that was in the museum. It’s actually a 1912 Autocar chasis with a bus body made by W T Smith, in Cortland, NY. IF any one would like to share memories of this bus, please contact me. It was also used at Hershey in the early 1980’s.
Thanks.

Eric Gibson
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Jan 15 2011 GENE MARTIN 8:08 PM

On page 29 of the`1952 Bridgehampton Road race program me and Austie Clark are in the 1911 mercer race car.We had that car over 85 mph in that run around the track.Not bad for a old car huh?? I worked for Austie before he opened the museum. He was truly a great guy and very knowledgeable of old cars and had a very extensive collection of reference mags. The cars he had were all actioned off.The place now is really run down and the main building is rusting out.If you need any info I have email me. I worked for him in !948 to 1951

Jun 19 2011 Artie Perkins 8:53 PM

Hi everyone,

My Uncle Henry recently passed, and while cleaning out his personal treasures from his home, I came across a wonderful old artifact.  As a youngster, Uncle Henry took us on quite a few day trips throughout Long Island.  I vaguely recall our visits to the Long Island Automotive Museum in Southhampton situated on the South Fork of Long Island.  The artifact I came across is a never used Souvenir Ashtray.  This Ashtray has a picture which depicts a “1910 White Opera Coupe.”  This Square Ashtray is quite large as it measures 7ΒΌ inches in each direction.  This Ashtray is 1 inche thick and is made of a ceramic type of material.

On the bottom of this Ashtray has the following identification, “AN AUTHENTIC REPRODUCTION FROM THE LONG ISLAND AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM COLLECTION OF SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.  DECORATED BY FREDERICK STUDIO WALTER CROWELL COMPANY NEW YORK, N.Y.”

I was preparing to list this Ashtray on eBay but came across this Website prior to doing so.  So if anyone has the desire of purchasing this very rare collectible, contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I will email you as many pictures as you’d like.

Uncle Henry was not a smoker, so this Ashtray was purchased as a decoration rather than an object to hold lit cigarettes and collect ashes.

This is a nice piece of Long Island’s Automotive History.

Please don’t wait to long as I need to find new homes for many of Uncle Henry’s personal treasures in a limited amount of time.

Thanks for creating a very interesting website.

With anticipation,
Artie

Oct 03 2011 Anne Crooks 2:58 PM

So sad to hear about the museum.  Was just going through scrapbooks of my childhood vacations and found postcards that I had gotten on a visit to the museum in 1969.  Lived in Lynbrook at the time and some of the best times as a child were to places like the auto museum with my parents and brother.

Feb 18 2012 susan mcavoy 4:15 PM

I am remembering the calliope from the museum in the July 4th parade every year….I can’t remember the name of the older gentleman who played it though….any info?  I think he was referred to as “Mr Southampton”

Feb 19 2012 Howard Kroplick 11:22 AM

The Calliope can be seen in this film.

Feb 25 2012 john farina 10:17 AM

I became acquainted with HAC III in the late sixties and visited the museum many times. I think at the time I did not have sufficient knowledge to appreciate every aspect of the museum but I remember well a Mercer Runabout that was magnificent. Henry was the most gracious person I ever met in the Hamptons and even invited me to stay at “Peeling Manor” so I could stay over for the races. As an aside, I will never forget a midnight ride down Werewolf Road with Vitor in his race prepped TR-4A complete with a Super Oscar and Marchals blazing. All my best to Henry and family.

Nov 19 2014 gene martin 5:14 PM

i worked at the museum before it opened and until 1951 and i don’t think joe tracy worked there at that time

Nov 19 2014 gene martin 5:23 PM

henry a clark had 2 curved dash olds,one atop the entrance and a good one on display inside the big building very close to the rear door on the east side.it never ran when i was there

Leave a Comment