Feb 27 2016

George Robertson: The Vanderbilt Cup Race Driver Who Helped Beautify Roslyn

While working on a Town Historian project last week on the history of Gerry Park, I discovered that George Robertson, the winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race, played a major role in the development of the park.

Here is the surprising link between the Vanderbilt Cup Races and Gerry Park, a Town of North Hempstead park in Roslyn.


Howard Kroplick

The Roslyn Pond

In 1906, the property surrounding the three Roslyn ponds were privately owned.

On March 23,1913, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Roslyn residents wished for the Town of North Hempstead to purchase 11 acres  that would clear up a mosquito-breeding swamp.

After the Roslyn Park Committee encouraged qualified women to vote (they  were required to own property), the Town of North Hempstead purchased 11 acres for the park in 1913.

George Robertson to the Rescue

From 1913 to 1929, the property purchased by the Town of North Hempstead remained mostly a marshy swamp due to lack of funding.

In the summer of 1929, George  H. Robertson, winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race, became head of North Hempstead Press and publisher of The Roslyn News, The Nassau County Sun and The Williston Post. While viewing the swamp, he remarked it was "an ideal spot for a public park” and started a fund-raising campaign.

Robertson  discovered that former Roslyn resident Alice Hicks had established a trust fund for a memorial center for Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  He convinced the Hicks’ executor that the “memorial centre” be built in Roslyn Park rather than New York City. Robertson also  “corralled officials from the Town of North Hempstead and local organizations” to pay for the other elements of the park.

 Work soon began on the park as part of the memorial center.

In June 14, 1934, The Roslyn News wrote: Major Robertson long since has left Roslyn for other fields, but the community takes the greatest pride in his work. The average resident throws back his shoulder and swells his chest as he exhibits the Park to out-of-town friends and points to the inscription on the bronze tablet: That we all may enjoy".

Letter courtesy of the Bryant Library.

The Roslyn Park was renamed Gerry Park in 2001, in honor of Dr. Roger and Peggy Gerry, founders of the Roslyn Landmark Society.

As shown in today's post, the effort to beautify the park was begun by a Vanderbilt Cup Race winner over 85 years ago.


Feb 28 2016 James Spina 6:55 AM

Easily a cornerstone of my whole life on Long Island. I was always heading to “that park in Roslyn” for a spell of rest and relaxation.

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