Historical Society
















Bethpage State Park - A History and A Vision

On August 10, 1935 when the Bethpage State Park clubhouse officially opened, Robert Moses, the master builder, proclaimed it “the most elaborate and complicated structure ever built with relief moneys and labor.”  It was indeed a one-of-a-kind structure, particularly for a state park, at a cost of $500,000.  This clubhouse is the focal point of a state park located on land having a history spanning several hundred years. 

Bethpage State Park is a 1,476 acre “playground” on land once belonging to three Indian tribes – the Massapequas, Matinecocks, and Secatogues.  In 1687, Englishman Thomas Powell purchased a 15 square mile plot of land from these three Indian tribes, which encompassed the future parkland, for the handsome sum of £140 (British pounds sterling).  It is believed that Thomas Powell named the area Bethpage after a biblical reference in the book of St. Matthew. 

Two-hundred and thirty five years later, in 1912, a wealthy railroad and banking executive from Texas named Benjamin Franklin Yoakum purchased 1,100 acres of the original tract for an estate.  As a sign of things to come, Mr. Yoakum had a golf course designed on the estate in 1923 by Devereaux Emmet.  The facility was known as the Lenox Hills Country Club, after his estate, “Lenox Hills.” 

When Yoakum died in 1929, a battle ensued regarding the sale of Yoakum’s estate, as the The Lenox Hills Country Club was operating a private golf club on the property and wished to prevent the sale of the land.  In the end, Yoakum’s heirs agreed to sell the land in 1934 for the sum of $1,000,000, payable in $900,000 in bonds issued by the Long Island State Park Commission and $100,000 cash provided by the New York State Comptroller.  The president of the Long Island State Park Commission and chairman of the Bethpage Park Authority was none other than Robert Moses, who had a vision for an all-year-round recreation area that was not located on the south shore of Long Island.  Moses’ other gem, Jones Beach, already occupied the south shore. 

The land then underwent a monumental renovation to construct a clubhouse and three golf courses, under the supervision of A.W. Tillinghast.  The work began in 1934 as a federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that employed 1,800 men at the height of the Depression. 

When the clubhouse opened in August 1935, with much fanfare, the Colonial structure was truly the pride of Robert Moses.  The main dining room was decorated in a manner to suggest a Chinese influence, containing Chinese Chippendale chairs, and red, black and brass lighting fixtures meant to resemble pagodas.  The two-story high ceiling was painted a light powder blue; the walls were painted antique yellow.  At either end of the room, was a Dutch-tiled fireplace.  As elegant as the clubhouse was, all the furniture in the building was fabricated by relief workers in a factory leased for the purpose in New York City.  With few exceptions, everything in the clubhouse was made by relief workers.  Park officials estimated that this construction had the highest efficiency rating of any relief project.      

The Red and Blue courses opened, along with a revised Green Course, on August 10, 1935.  The famed Black Course opened in 1936; the Yellow in 1958.  The park logo encompasses the colors of all the courses: a caddie wearing black shoes, yellow socks, blue pants, a red shirt, and a green hat.     

Prior to hosting the 2002 U.S. Open, the Black Course was given a facelift by renowned architect Rees Jones.  As the first public golf course to host a major championship, it provided a formidable challenge to world class golfers.  Ultimately, that year’s Open was won by Tiger Woods.  Farmingdale and the Bethpage State Park Black Course will play host to the U.S. Open again in June 2009. 

Although Bethpage State Park is most well-known for its golf courses, the park provides a host of year-round activities.  Spring, summer, and fall bring people of all ages to the hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, and bridle paths.  In the winter, areas of the park are used for sledding and cross country skiing.  Bethpage State Park’s polo field is also home to the famed Meadowbrook Polo Club, where spectators can watch matches on Sunday afternoons from May through October. 

Even though Bethpage State Park has undergone a series of renovations over the years, there is little doubt that Robert Moses would recognize it today, for it still represents his vision of a park that can be used all year round.




Inside Lenox Hills Country Club Clubhouse.JPG (610658 bytes)

Inside Lenox Hills Country Club Clubhouse

(Photo credit - Bethpage State Park)

Lenox Hills Country Club.JPG (715416 bytes)

Lenox Hills Country Club

(Photo credit - Bethpage State Park)

Sledding At The Golf Course.JPG (536452 bytes)

Sledding At The Golf Course

(Photo credit - Bethpage State Park)

Golf Course Historic Sign.JPG (1508898 bytes)

Golf Course Historic Sign

(Photo credit - FBHS)

Bethpage Park Logo.JPG (1872274 bytes)

Bethpage Park Logo

(Photo credit - FBHS)

Finishing a Round.JPG (2468751 bytes)

Finishing a Round

(Photo credit - FBHS)

Approaching The Greens.JPG (2340889 bytes)

Approaching The Greens

(Photo credit - FBHS)

ê²°09 Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society - All Rights Reserved