THE HISTORY OF OLD CHESTER HILLS
The land that was developed into what is now known as "Old Chester Hills" was sold by Walter and Margaret Beh to the original builders, Wade & Wichard on May 18th, 1954.
Walter Beh was born in New York City in 1882 and Margaret Buser Beh, a native of Haardt, Germany. Margaret came to the United States at the age of 11 months on July 5, 1898. They married in Brookly in 1916 and moved to Long Island in 1935.
Mrs. Beh, a horse lover, wanted property that could accommodate horses. They found such a place in what was then called Greenlawn. The property originally 110 acres, which later grew to over 300 acres, had a 15 box stall stable, a large barn, a brood stable and a mile turf racetrack.
Mr Beh was not a horse person but Mrs. Beh was an accomplished polo player and was captain of the Long Island Women's Polo team. She also played for many years in Florida. According to her son Bruce, there were as many as 15 horses in the stables. These included hunters, polo ponies, trotters, pacers and work horses. Horse drawn mowers were used to cut the lawn in the front of the house.
At one time, before homes were built, there was a 20 acre hay field with a practice area for "stick and balling". The hay was mowed and rakes with horse equipment, loaded onto hay wagons and stored in the loft of the barn.
"Chester" was a hunter that Mrs. Beh competed with at the National Horse Show in old Madison Square Garden. She and her son Bruce, were members of of the Meadowbrook and Smithtown hunts. Hounds met from time to time on the front lawn and ended there and tea was served afterwards. The Smithtown Hunt Club was organized in 1900 and is now the only hunt surviving on Long Island.
Walter Beh was the founder of a wood houseware manufacturing business with a factory in upstate New York. Among the products his company made was the "curtain stretcher", used to dry lace curtains.
Another interesting property in Old Chester Hills, contributing to its history, was known as Dumpling Hill during the 1700's. The original owner was Michael Remp. The Michael Remp House is listed on the National Historic Registry as well as a Huntington Historic House. Title passed to Michael Remp's son Joseph in 1801 and eventually to his great-grandson, Joel, who lived in the house from 1850 to 1903. In 1903 Joel traded the farm for three houses on what is now Smith Street in Greenlawn. After the trade it was owned by the Oswald family. It was later owned or occupied by several parties and tenant farmers until 1950 when it was acquired by Allen L. Woodworth. The Woodworth Farm had guinea hens, bantam chickens, white pigeons and sheep. Many original owners in Old Chester Hills can remember seeing the sheep grazing on the front lawn. The exact acreage of the farm is unknown, but it extended west along Little Plains Road to Broadway and some distance south.
The last of the three estates on Godfrey Lane to be developed was the 10 acre estate of Mr. & Mrs. A.T. Wilder.
Mrs. Louise Wilder, a Rhodes Scholar, was a grandchild of Samuel Gardner Wilder, one of the first missionaries to go to Hawaii. The missionary family in the book Hawaii by James Michener, was based on Samuel. Mr Wilder cultivated roses on his property on Godfrey Lane and had 900 rose bushes growing on the estate.
Louise Wilder was a driving force in Town civic matters, starting with the creation of the original zoning map for the Town of Huntington. Another of her many lasting achievements was the acquisition of single separate properties along Manor Road and the south border of Old Chester Hills creating a "picture frame" of undeveloped natural woodland known as Berkeley Jackson Park.
Old Chester Hills Civic Association, Inc. is a New York Domestic Not-For-Profit Corporation filed September 28, 1956.
Huntington, NY 11743