ROTHMANN’S STEAKHOUSE – EAST NORWICH, NY LANDMARK

Rothmann Restaurant

 

 

Rothmann’s Restaurant is a famous landmark in the small town of East Norwich, NY located at the corner of Route 106 and Route 25A. It was originally established in 1907 by the Rothman family of Oyster Bay, NY.

 

However, its long history went back to 1851 when it was built by Andrew C. Hegeman and called East Norwich Hotel. The East Norwich post office was located there at one time, then it became the Town of Oyster Bay meeting place.

 

After the Civil War, the hotel was sold to Halstead Frost and Richard Downing who renamed it the Osceola Hotel. In 1887, they sold the hotel to Henry Acker who changed the name back to East Norwich Hotel. In 1891, it was sold to James Hurrell of Brooklyn and changed the name to Hurrell House. In 1897 Hurrell returned to Brooklyn and sold it to John Nurnberg and changed the name back again to East Norwich Hotel. Nurnberg operated the hotel till March 1906 when he sold it to Peter Hoffman. Hoffman sold it to Charles Rothmann in August 1907.

 

Charles and Franziska Rothmann invested their life saving and opened Rothmann’s Restaurant in East Norwich with Franziska doing all the cooking. They lived on the second floor with their six children. After the first World War, the three oldest boys, Charles Jr, Paul and Peter joined the business and continued the tradition of serving fine food and drink in a setting that was both comfortable yet felt pampered. Their reputation spread beyond East Norwich and celebrities were seen dining there. They attracted a loyal following of notable politicians and well-heeled socialites. Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president used to dine there when he was in town.

East Norwich Inn by TripAdvisor.com

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com

 

After the three boys passed away, the wife of Peter together with the nieces took over. The Rothmann’s family owned the place till 1970 when they sold it to Burt Bacharach, the singer, and his wife, actress Angie Dickinson who began running the inn. They built East Norwich Inn, the only hotel in town that sits behind Rothmann’s Restaurant. There were plans to open a small shopping mall behind Rothmann’s and close the East Norwich Inn. Luckily because of the economic downturn at that time, that plan was put on hold.

 

Burt Bacharach owned Rothmann’s for a few years and then it was sold several times and the façade was changed. The 1851 building was razed in 1995 to build a western style steakhouse. Then a Greek Restaurant emerged. That did not last long either. It was sort of not in keeping with the tradition. Then it changed hands again and another renovation took place. All through these changes, Gloria O’Rourke, one of the Rothmann’s children who was the Editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian, a local paper, kept watch and wrote something about the good times at the Old Rothmann’s.

 

The new Rothmann’s sported a cupola which the old Rothmann’s did not have. However, the food is still excellent as ever though a little bit on the expensive side. I took my children there for their birthdays while they were in high school and broke the bank but it was all worth it. In 2007, while working as a real estate agent at Century 21 Laffey Associates, I won a dinner for two on a For Sale by Owner Contest. I took my husband there. It was a very special dinner and cost my office $160.

 

I remember my mother-in-law used to take my husband and me to Rothmann’s every Sunday night during the summer in the early 70s when she was residing in town. She wintered in New York city. Since we were a regular, we sat on the same table at the corner across from the bar every Sunday. We had this German waiter who used to work at LaGrange Inn in West Islip and attended to us every week. He knew our names, where to sit us, what drink to serve us and what to order. We ate the same thing every Sunday. My mother-in-law gave generous tip to the waiter and always paid cash. She did not own a credit card and did not want one.

As Gloria O’Rourke would say and it was her favorite expression, “Those were the days.”

Sources:

Oyster Bay Remembered by John E. Hammond

www.activerain.com

 

Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.

Rosalinda Morgan

 

 

East Islip – The Hollinses, The Knapps and The Morgans

This is a continuation of East Islip History. Part 1 was posted a couple of weeks ago. Click here to read East Islip, Suffolk County – Early History.

 

Long Island Beach

When the glaciers melted during the Ice Age, it creates a difference between the North Shore beaches and the South Shore beaches. The North Shore beaches are rocky while the South Shore beaches are crisp, clear and outwash sand. The beauty of the beach and the proximity to the barrier island enticed some New York city residents to settle on the South Shore. South Shore communities are built along protected wetlands and contain white sandy beaches of barrier islands fronting the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Most descendants of late 19th and early 20th century immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and black migrants from the South liked the landscape of Long Island South Shore. Other ethnic groups followed, although Nassau County is more densely developed than Suffolk Country and has pockets of great wealth with estates covering huge acreage within the Gold Coast of the North Shore where wealthy industrialists during the Gilded Age built lavish country homes.

 

East Islip, like some hamlets along Long Island’s south shore, was once an enclave for some of the nation’s wealthiest families. Its estates at one time included the Hollins, Gulden, and Knapp estates, among others.

 

Knapp Home Photo

The original estate mansion, Brookwood Hall, owned originally by the Knapp family has passed from its last private owners, the Thorne family.

The three-story, 41-room mansion with French and Greek influences was designed by the renowned New York architectural firm Delano & Aldrich, whose portfolio includes blueprints for the Vanderbilt and Whitney families’ homes. It was built in 1903 for the affluent Knapp family before it was sold to financier Francis B. Thorne in 1929. It was later used as an orphanage before the town purchased the 44-acre property in 1967. Now, it houses its parks department headquarters as well as the nonprofit Islip Arts Council.

 

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Brookwood Hall under renovation. Check Newsday article.

https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/islip-owned-brookwood-hall-to-receive-additional-renovations-1.12769093

 
BrookwoodHall    Bob and Matt at Brookwood Hall

Here is an undated photo of the portico of Brookwood Hall. On the right is a photo of my brother in law, Robert W Morgan and my husband, Matthew Morgan (with blond hair) on the steps of the portico taken in the 1930s on their visit to their aunt Hildegard who was then married to Francis Thorne, the owner of Brookwood Hall.

 

Other big estates at that time is the Sullivan estate which would become the home of the Hewlett School, an old private boarding school. Some estates and early farmlands were donated to the Roman Catholic Church and would make up the current grounds of St Mary’s Catholic Church of East Islip, which includes a private elementary and middle school, in addition to church and other parish buildings. There was also the original Westbrook farm on the boundary between East Islip and Oakdale, near the Bayard Cutting Arboretum.

 

East Islip borders four other hamlets: Islip is to the west, Islip Terrace is to the north, North Great River is to the northeast, and Great River is to the east. The Great South Bay is to the south.

 

In 1880, Harry B. Hollins purchased a large property in East Islip located south of the South Country Rd. and running to the bay on the south and to Champlin’s Creek on the west. It was known at the time as the Mainwaring Farm and could be reached by Pavilion Avenue. It was several hundred acres in size and would be called Meadowfarm. He built a large country home with several outbuildings including the usual stables and carriage house.

 

When the Hollins fell into hard times, Charles L. Lawrence bought the main house along with 116 acres bordering the Great South Bay and Champlin Creek. My husband’s Grandma Morgan bought the stables and clock tower together with about 15 acres. They are still in existence today but are now located on 37 Blackmore Ln. Blackmore was named after the Mr. Hollins’ estate manager. My husband said he and Harry III were the vain of Mr. Blackmore’s existence when they were in their teens. Matt and Harry III were best friends and neighbors.

 

The Hollins renovated one of the farmhouses on the northern portion of the property approximately 480 acres remaining to which they relocated. When my husband family lived on that street, there were only 5 houses in the whole street with Charles Lawrence family at the end of the road having the biggest property. First house you see as you enter Meadow Farm Rd was Mr. Harry Knapp’s, then my husband’s parents’ home, then Mrs. Harry Knapp’s (The Creekside). They got divorced and Mr. Knapp built the other house. After Creekside, my husband’s Grandma Morgan’s house and then Mr. Charles Lawrence’s house at the end.

 

Nowadays, you won’t even recognize the old Meadow Farm Rd. Several houses were built during the last 30 years. When my husband took me to see his old place in the ‘70s the place was still intact. New development had not invaded the area yet. It was a quiet street with lots of trees. The hemlock tree he planted when he was six years old was still in front of his house. It’s most likely been cut down when the new development began construction.

 

Harry Knapp's Driveway

Creekside’s driveway between my husband’s parents’ property on one side and his grandmother’s property on the other side.

 

The Creekside 70 Meadow Farm Rd

The Creekside’s backyard on Meadow Farm Rd. owned by Harry Knapp Jr. His son, Harry Knapp III was my husband best friend and my husband spent a lot of time in this house when they were young boys. At the time my husband was growing up on Meadow Farm Rd., there was no number on the street because there were only five houses on the whole street. I could not find a photo of my husband’s house on the internet. We have no copy of the pictures of the Morgan’s house. We gave all the photos of the house from the time it was constructed to later years to Robert Entenmann of Entenmann’s Bakery when they bought the house from Mrs. Robert Pinkerton of Pinkerton Detective Agency who bought the house from my in-laws. We should have kept the album. My husband said at that time, “What for? We don’t own the house anymore.” Now, we are sorry we gave them away.

 

88 Meadow Farm Rd.

This is the aerial view of the Meadow Farm Rd and the creek behind it. It’s most likely part of the Lawrence estate which is the biggest parcel of land at the end of the street.

 

During the summer months in the 1920s, plenty of notable people visited East Islip including Charles Lindbergh and a high-ranking person on the world’s stage, the Prince of Wales. In September 1924, while he was a houseguest of Mr. & Mrs. James Burden of Syosset (she was a niece of William K. Vanderbilt), the Prince of Wales would often “disappear” with his two equerries, during a party and paid a visit to the Hollinses at Meadowfarm in East Islip. He would not return to the Burdens until the next day.

 

Sources: Hometown Long Island, Along the Great South Bay by Harry W. Havemeyer, Personal conversation with Matthew Morgan, Wikipedia, New York Times, Newsday

 

 Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring Long Island.

Rosalinda

 

 

Leaves of Grass – A Special Edition

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While looking for something to read next, I came across a signed copy of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman published by David McKay (Copyright 1900). On the front matter, there is a picture of him with a handwritten note on the bottom “David McKay from his friend Walt Whitman”.

 

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I browsed through the book and a page was earmarked and there was the poem “O Captain! My Captain!”, one of the favorite poems of our class in Literature in high school. I didn’t know who Walt Whitman was at that time. I was thirteen and English was not my favorite subject. For me I like Math the best. I had no idea why the class loved the poem so much except for the fact that our English teacher, Mrs. Brual, read it to us with so much emotion that we began to like it. She was the principal of the school and the best English teacher we had. Little did I know that someday I would be living in Long Island in a town very close to where Walt Whitman lived and finding out that he was one of the best poets in the U.S.

Read on. It got interesting later.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain, our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

 

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

The arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

 

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen Cold and Dead. 

But that’s not all. Inserted or rather attached inside the book are onion skin papers (three of them) with Biographical Note of Walt Whitman written in his own handwriting from May 31, 1819 to 1888 where he wrote “Mr. Whitman is now in his 70th year”. The paragraph ends with “He resides in Mickla St, Camden, New Jersey”.

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There is another piece of paper attached somewhere in the middle of the book where he addressed sending a couple of copies to David McKay’s children.

Few years ago, I took the book to an Antique Roadshow in Charleston. We had the ticket for the late session. When I showed it to the appraiser, he took one look at the book without opening it and gave me $10 for the book. I was very disappointed to say the least. He must be so tired and in a hurry since they were doing the appraisal since early in the morning. It was a long day for them and there was still a long line and it was almost closing time. At that time, I was not aware of the handwritten notes inside. The book has a rough edges and if you flip the pages, it does not really come out unless you go page by page individually. It somehow clings to the other pages. It’s really hard to find it right away. I had to be careful and thorough. I did not see the biographical note till today. I saw the note about the copies to the children a week ago.

When we went to the Antique Roadshow, I did not know what to bring. We have so much antique in the house so choosing one which is easy to carry is what we wanted to do. I just saw the book in one of the bookshelves and since it was an old book and Walt Whitman was a famous poet, I decided to bring it over.

I only discovered the notes recently. There must be a value to it since it looks like this is a special copy intended for his publisher with all the written notes in Walt Whitman’s own handwriting. I’m intrigued and would like to find out if it is worth anything. If not, I still have a special book signed by a famous poet.

 

Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.

Rosalinda Morgan

Some Prominent People from Long Island

Long Island has its own share of prominent people who have called Long Island their home. Here is a list of those people who had made a name for themselves and have lived in Long Island for most of their lives or part of it.

Gone but not forgotten:

Oleg Cassini

Oleg Cassini – Couturier most notably for First Lady Jacquiline Kennedy. (Oyster Bay Cove, NY)

William Floyd

William Floyd – Signer of the Declaration of Independence. (Brookhaven, NY)

Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintock – Winner of 1983 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for her work on the genetic structure of maize. (Huntington, NY)

Robert Moses

Robert Moses – Master Builder for building major buildings, roads, highways, bridges, parks, etc. which change the face of New York state. (Summer Home – Gilgo Beach, LI)

Jacquiline Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – Former First Lady of the U.S. (Southampton, NY)

Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt – 26th President of the U.S. (Oyster Bay, NY)

Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany – Stained Glass artist. (Laurel Hollow, NY)

William Kissam Vanderbilt II

William Kissam Vanderbilt II  – An avid collector of natural history and marine specimens as well as other anthropological objects for his Marine Museum. (Centerport, NY)

Consuelo Vanderbilt

Consuelo Vanderbilt – Vanderbilt heiress whose mother Alva married her  to indebted, titled Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough, chatelain of Blenheim Palace for the royal title in exchange for a marriage settlement of $2.5 million (approximately $67.7 million in 2015) in railroad stocks. (Southampton, NY)

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman – Poet of “Leaves of Grass”, “O Captain, My Captain” and others. (Huntington, NY)

 

Still living with us:

Billy Joel

Billy Joel – Entertainer (Centre Island, NY)

One of his songs is titled “Rosalinda” (not me, his mother).

 

Mort Kunstler

Mort Kunstler – Civil War Painter (Oyster Bay Cove, NY)

I love his paintings. I have two books about his Civil War Arts and own two of his prints shown below:

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Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring.

Rosalinda