The Coolest Field Trip You’ll Ever Take

When an athletic, thrill-seeking millionaire builds a mansion hideaway on the outskirts of the city, stocking it with a technologically advanced fleet of cars, boats and airplanes along with trophies of his exploits, there’s a good chance he’s either Batman or a Vanderbilt. Meet William K. Vanderbilt II circa 1910.

William K. Vanderbilt II
1903 photograph of William K. Vanderbilt II by Theodore C. Marceau. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Just after the turn of the last century, William (or Willie K.) was heir to the Vanderbilt fortune and all the pressures that went with it. Reeling from a public relations disaster in Lake Success, he diverted his attention to Centerport and created Eagle’s Nest, an idyllic private retreat with space for a public museum housing his collection of marine specimens and cultural artifacts.

On today’s episode we speak with Stephanie Gress, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, the institution formed when Vanderbilt willed his estate be perpetuated as a museum.

Our discussion uncovers Willie K.’s scientific pursuits, his connections to the American Museum of Natural History, golfing with Sam Snead and the probabilities of Vanderbilts in space. We also talk about the challenges of preserving such a unique museum collection and how generations of school kids on Long Island have thrilled to the only Egyptian mummy between Brooklyn and Great Britain.

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Racing the Island


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Photo courtesy of the Marty Himes Collection.
Photo courtesy of the Marty Himes Collection.

Long Island at the turn of the last century was a dream come true for early racing enthusiasts: miles and miles of flat open roads. In this interview, Marty Himes relates the history of auto racing on Long Island, from the early days of the Vanderbilt Cup Races to the post-WWII boom in midget car and stock car racing. Marty is himself a racer, starting the day he rolled his home-made soapbox derby car onto the track at Freeport Stadium. Learn more about the museum he has created to preserve the history of this fascinating aspect of Long Island’s history.

The Himes Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia

tickets
Tickets for the Freeport Speedway.

 

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