Tour guides needed for Connetquot State Park
South Side Sportsman’s Club at Connetquot State Park and Preserve.

Photo courtesy of Brian Link

Tour guides needed for Connetquot State Park

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
9/6/2018


OAKDALE—Connetquot State Park needs docents to give guided tours of historical structures on the preserve, according to New York State Park officials. 

Regional commissioner Richard Remmer, a longtime Oakdale resident, says no experience is necessary. Volunteers would be trained to give guided tours of the main building and the Grist Mill. 

The main building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, is currently home to the Long Island Environmental Interpretive Center, which hosts numerous educational programs for students, campers and scouts. 

But its historic importance centers on its time when the building was the South Side Sportsman’s Club during the 1870s, the gathering place for Long Island’s wealthy class during the Gold Coast era. Its main focus was hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities to promote “social intercourse among its members.” Its prominent roster included U.S. presidents Grover Cleveland, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as Andrew Carnegie. William Bayard Cutting, who had his own mansion built across the road in Great River, as did William K. Vanderbilt, who created Idle Hour in Oakdale, were regulars as well. The men would discuss issues and politics in the club’s rooms, which included a dining area, billiards room and library, and bedrooms for overnight stays.

The main portion of the club’s building was originally Snedecor Tavern, built in 1820 by Eliphalet Snedecor. In 1886, the clubhouse was enlarged and designed by Bradford Gilbert, best known for designing the Tower Building, which is considered to be New York City’s first skyscraper. 

The Grist Mill, constructed in 1750, is the only surviving “tub wheel” mill on the East Coast. The structure, which operated on an underground water system, used to reside on a busy roadway, known in those days as Old Montauk Highway. 

George Washington also visited the mill during his 1790 tour of Long Island. 

Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve, a nonprofit organization, recently restored the Grist Mill to its former glory. The approximate cost of the project, according to Remmer, was $700,000. 

Remmer, who was also involved in the reopening of the park’s trout hatchery in 2016, has been working with New York State Parks for almost 30 years. He also served as chairman of the Long Island Regional Board for nine years. 

As for docent qualifications, “all you need is a genuine interest in the history of the park and a desire to share it with others,” Remmer said. 

For more information, please call 631-581-1072.