Did You Know?? The Long Island Motor Parkway was built as a racetrack and road for the rich..Also known as Vanderbilt Motor Parkway it was the first concrete road constructed for automobile use only in the USA. It was opened in 1908 as a “toll road” another first.The idea of William Kissman Vanderbilt and avid racing enthusiast. He wanted a toll to be paid as he would state “To keep the Riff-Raff out” The first 10 mile section section from Queens New York to now Bethpage opened to racing and public use in 1908. Vanderbilt created the “Vanderbilt Cup” but in 1904 it came under fire after several racing deaths. He wanted a road course free of dust and dirt from horses. Construction began in 1908 and the first 10 miles were opened in October 1908.
The original plan was a 70 mile super highway from New York City to Riverhead. The historic road settled on being only 45 miles long stopping in Lake Ronkonkoma when completed in 1911. This road would make Lake Ronkonkoma a playground for the weathy up till the 1950s. Construction cost for the very rich Vanderbilt was a very high(at the time) $6 million dollars. It was said that Vanderbilt “floated” one of his companies to pay for his racing paradise..
In the 1920s improvements in road construction and the building of The Northern State Parkway by Robert Moses the road was deemed obsolete by the critics of the day. Besides the Northern State was free to travel on and would let even “Riff-Raff” drive on it. That Riff Raff would become Long Islands middle class..
The plan was to make Motor Parkway part of the New York parkway system. But high cost of upgrading it was deemed to costly..A known fact at the time was Robert Mosses was no fan of Willam Vanderbilt and did not want to do business with him. The completion of the Northern State would signal the end of the glory days of Vanderbilts private road.
In 1938 the road would be taken over by New York State for unpaid taxes in the amount $80,000. They would close the road. The years that followed Motor Parkway would be re-opened a section at a time. Portions of it are on the U.S National Register of Historic Places. Still up to the mid 1960s it was the only major road to go as far as Lake Ronkonkoma in Long Island.
In the years that followed the Long Island Expressway pushed more east eventually ending in Vanderbilts original ending point Riverhead. The road would become the bypass of suburbia and industry. Sadly current generations take for granted the piece of history they drive on everyday. Firsts of Motor Parkway were..First concrete road,under passes and tolls..A few scarce sign posts and markers still exist. Gone forever is the glory days of road racing on Long Island. Gone is simpler times when one man vision could make a difference..Did You Know??