Written by John H. Meyer Friday, 23 July 2010 00:00
The Lincoln-style log cabin, in the John J. Burns Park, will be the Massapequa Kiwanis club’s renovation project. The club’s first cabin project dates back to 1985, when the members took title of the run down, former polo club house from Hubert Darrell of Corona. Darrell owned the East Massapequa cabin for many years. The Kiwanis members, with help from Paul Kicherer and his crane, carefully removed the gable end sections of the cabin. Then all of the disassembled wall logs, roof beams and other parts were loaded onto Kiwanian Mike Beato’s flatbed trailer and transported to John J. Burns Park, including the stones from the fireplace. It took many men working together, filling several trailer loads to accomplish the first phase of this giant undertaking. The work was done by a 35-member club, made up of men having very different occupations. After several Saturdays of loading the trailer for the trips to Burns Park, where everything was neatly piled and stored, the men took a break until 1986.
During the first signs of spring 1986, the location for the cabin was selected and a concrete slab was put down so the work of reassembling the walls, windows and roof could begin. New roof shingles were donated by the Fred and Fred Lumber Yard on Sunrise Highway. Eighteen hundred man-hours later, the cabin as it stands in 2010, was completed. However, it was used sparingly and became a storage building for the Parks Department and the Kiwanis Club. Under the leadership of Kiwanis Club President Ted Heim, and a very capable committee, work has begun to install water and electricity in the 100-year-old, former Fred Stone Polo Club Cabin.
The Polo Grounds in Harlem was built for polo and later, both the New York Giants and the New York Yankees played their home games in that off-shaped stadium. The first polo matches were played on Long Island in 1879, on the infield of the racetrack at the Mineola Fair Grounds. In 1928, the United States team won the first Polo Cup of the Americas. Dating back to the late 1800s, this area of Long Island was a major hub for polo. Fred Stone, the original owner of the cabin, also owned a large home on Clocks Boulevard, as did many affluent families. Stone and his two daughters, Dorothy and Paula, gained their fame and fortune with their Broadway act known as The Stepping Stones. Fred Stone and humorist, Will Rogers, who lived in the neighborhood, became very close friends. Later, Stone arranged for Rogers to become a regular with the Ziegfield Follies where he recited the lines, “I never met a man I didn’t like,” “Do something so someone will remember you,” and “All I know is what I read in the papers.” Those lines amused audiences for years.
Weekends were always an open house for the Stone family. Their friends from stage and screen included Tim Mix, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, the dance team of Irene and Vernon Castle, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and the Mexican-born Vincente Orespo, who was the star trick roper for the Buffalo Bill Wild Show. No, Ralph Lauren didn’t play here. However, famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley and the Duke of Windsor, later to become the King of England, did while staying at the Garden City Hotel. In July of 1922, Oakley gave her final shooting exhibition in Mineola. Soon, Stone decided to have the cabin built at the edge of the polo field where his friends could bunk for the night. The house where Will Rogers lived is also on Clocks Boulevard.
The two streets that lead to where the cabin once stood in East Massapequa, were named in honor of Annie Oakley and Fred Stone. During the heydays of polo in the Massapequas, several fields were used for the sport, one in particular was in the area behind the Old Grace Church. In fact, there’s a street named Polo Road in that area. However, the main field and cabin were located to the east of what is present day Nassau Shores, and was known as The Fred Stone Polo Club during the early 1900s. During those busy weekends, several invited local folks made themselves at home at the club. Polo is still a popular sport for the rich and famous. The Meadowbrook Polo Club, the oldest club in the country established in 1881, has a full tournament schedule from May to October with practice sessions every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. Polo is a regular sport on Sundays at the Bethpage State Park beginning at 3 p.m. Recently, the third annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic was played on Governors Island. England’s Prince Harry joined the team that played against Nacho Figueras, the Black Watch polo team captain and model for the Ralph Lauren Fragrances.
History does have a way of repeating itself.