By 1913 finances were lacking, and Dean Alvord went into receivership. At this writing (2007) two versions of the future of his home exist. One states that it was sold to a Mrs. Freel of Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn in 1911. The other reports that Alvord’s home was sold to a Mrs. Philomena Curran who would later play an important role in Belle Terre’s history. Mrs. Curran’s maiden name was Freel.
In the 1920’s the Belle Terre Club and much of its land was bought by the Fallon brothers, one of whom made his home on Cliff Road, just opposite Club Road. Immediately the Fallons sold half of the land to the Seaboard Sand and Gravel Company. ** The sale included 100 acres at the Belle Terre point, naturally of interest to a sand and gravel company. As nine holes of the eighteen-hole golf course were included in of the sale, the Fallons were obliged to build nine new holes. Enter Devereaux Emmet, brother-in-law of Stanford White and one of America’s leading golf course architects. To his credit were not only the Congressional Golf Club in Bethesda, Maryland, as well as many Long Island golf courses (Bethpage, Garden City, Old Westbury, the Huntington Crescent Club, and St. George to name just a few), but courses in places as far away as Bermuda and Cuba. In Belle Terre Devereaux Emmet’s nine holes were located within the area enclosed by Cliff and Crooked Oak Roads. They also extended across Crooked Oak toward Long Island Sound. During World War II when these nine holes no longer served as a golf course, the land adjoining Cliff Road, devoid of trees and therefore easily cultivated, was leased for a limited time to the Babski farmers for the purpose of raising produce. In autumn the pungent odor of cauliflower would fill the air.
The Seaboard Sand and Gravel Company wasted no time setting up dredging operations and thereby creating what is today Pirates’ Cove. Long Island sand and gravel were prized for their superior quality. The sizable fortunes being made in this industry did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Curran whose land stretched from Port Jefferson Harbor to Long Island Sound. Toward her ultimate goal she first founded a bogus operation, the Freel Sand and Gravel Company, and then hired a few trucks to remove an insignificant amount of sand from her property. She knew that the 1907 covenant which prohibited business on any land in Belle Terre was due to expire in 1930. In 1929 she sold her property, the former Alvord estate, to O’Brien Brothers, the largest sand and gravel company on the Eastern seaboard. With connections in high places, and owing to the fact that Mrs. Curran had previously established the Freel Sand and Gravel Company before 1930, O’Brien Brothers was counting on having its own business grandfathered in. They immediately began construction of a plant at the end of Anchorage Road whose cement foundations remain today.
The residents of Belle Terre, up in arms, banded together. They were led by Mr. Harry Purvis who lived at the end of Cliff Road and risked finding himself on an island. They took extensive aerial photographs of Belle Terre, photos of its residences, and photos of the devastation caused by O’Brien Brothers’ dredging at Hempstead Harbor. Ladies included, the residents marched to Albany and petitioned for incorporation. Achieving that goal on January 8, 1931, the first mayor Harry Purvis and his trustees immediately wrote ordinances prohibiting business in Belle Terre. O’Brien Brothers, however, persisted with construction of its plant, despite the ordinances. The Village filed suit, and a drawn-out court case ensued, much of which took place in Tavistock Villa, a Tudor home on High Path.
Court orders were issued ordering O’Brien Brothers to cease and desist, but they paid no attention. Finally after an investment of many thousands of dollars the mining operation was scheduled to begin. The superintendent was ready to throw the switch and activate the conveyor belts and screens to separate the sand from gravel. Company officials were there in a gala mood to see the successful compilation of several years’ work and many thousands of dollars invested. Winthrop Taylor, the attorney for the Village arrived and approached the superintendent.
|Attorney:||“Here is a court order. Do not throw that switch.”|
|Superintendent:||“I am sorry, sir, but I have specific orders to throw this switch at 12 o’clock.”|
|Attorney:||“This revolver,” taking it from his pocket, “is loaded. If you put your hand on that switch, I will point the revolver in your direction and squeeze the trigger.”|
|Superintendent:||To the president of the company, “I’m sorry, sir, I cannot throw the switch.”|
Victorious, Belle Terre was thereafter safe from the sand and gravel industry.
1934, however, was a tragic year for Belle Terre. The Club was by now open to the public and in December preparations were being made for Christmas festivities. On the evening of December 16th flames broke out. One witness returning home saw the sky lit up from as far away as Stony Brook. Fire departments from many towns were called, but firefighters were hampered by Belle Terre’s traditionally low water pressure. By morning the Club had been destroyed. Its ruins eventually became an adventure-filled playground that yielded treasures of broken dishes. It was rumored that the fire began because of a short circuit in the clock tower, but the actual cause was never ascertained. Saddest of all was the fact that the insurance policy had run out before December 16th, and the new policy did not take effect until January 1st. Thus, the Club was never rebuilt.
Another loss in 1934 was that of the Neoclassical pergolas at the point. Having fallen into disrepair and become a liability, they were dismantled. In many ways 1934 marked the end of an era.
In the 1940’s Belle Terre numbered about fifty houses and was essentially a colony of summer homes. My grandfather Captain Orth, the Belle Terre constable, had the keys to most of the summer residences and in winter looked after the properties of the absent owners.
- For an excellent account of the sand and gravel operations in Port Jefferson, see The Sands of Time by Fred Bone, available at the Port Jefferson Free Library.