Friday, December 12, 2008

More from the North Shore Land Alliance

More information on the Thomas Hitchcock estate provided by the North Shore Land Alliance:

For more than a decade, the Catholic Archdiocese of Rockville Center, the property’s owner, has been petitioning the village of Old Westbury to turn 80+ acres of the 100-acre site into a cemetery. Approval of the application is close at hand. Our community cannot“save them all” but we should pay tribute to a place that helped define the character of Old Westbury for generations.

Thomas Hitchcock was a key figure in developing the sport of polo in the United States. In 1877 he and his friend August Belmont, Jr. were part of the group that organized the first ever polo matchon Long Island played on the infield of the racetrack at the Mineola, New York Fair Grounds. One of the first 10-goal players in the U.S., Hitchcock’s efforts resulted in the 1881 formation of Long Island’s Meadow Brook Club. In 1886 he was a member of the United States team in the first International Polo Match that played for the Westchester Cup. A polo player herself, and the founder in the year 1916 of the Aiken Preparatory School, Louise Eustis Hitchcock had her sons playing polo as soon as they were old enough to swing a mallet. She also helped family friend Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney tolearn the game. Son, Tommy Jr., would become a polo player who is considered by many expert observersas the greatest to have ever played the game.

The following is an excerpt from The Sportsman magazine, dated August 1929 by Guy H. Lee titled, “Estates of American Sportsmen",
'In 1685 a pioneer by the name of Titus bought from the Indians on Long Island a plot of land “as large as he could ride a bull around between sunup and sundown,” or so the story goes. The bull must have been of a fast-stepping breed, for the tract of land purchased covered much of what is now the township of Old Westbury. During the course of two centuries, the place has been divided up among the Titus descendants, the present “lanes” being laid out between the parts of the property inherited by the heirs of various generations. In 1890, Mr. Hitchcock purchased the original Titus homestead with the old house still on it. The present house was built by adding to the old one, and the additions, largely designed by Mrs. Hitchcock, have been carried out in such a way as to preserve the old feeling of the architecture. The resulting house is one of the most reposeful, inviting and altogether delightful on Long Island, sitting among ancient silver maples and locusts, smiling out over the broad expanses of hay land on which Mr. Hitchcock raises the hay for his many race horses, and in which he has built his race track, steeplechase course, polo field, schooling jumps and other facilities for exercise and training. The house itself has great architectural charm. The woodwork of the older portions especially is very good, and the old peg construction and the wrought-iron nails pinning the big old-fashioned shingles are noteworthy. About both the house and the general arrangement of Broad Hollow Farm is the atmosphere which only age and old trees can give but there is also clearly expressed the taste of the owner for sport of all kinds, but especially for those connected with the horse.'

North Shore Land Alliance has been working with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, Richard Lundgren and others to request that the village protect the most historic barns and consider an equestrian or agricultural use for the remaining 20 acres.

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