Dec 14 2016

Hammond’s History: A 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race Parking Space Ticket at Pratt’s Farm in Westbury

Gary Hammond has written this post on a special piece of Vanderbilia.


Howard Kroplick

The Vanderbilt Cup Race Parking Ticket at the Pratt Farm in Westbury

by Gary Hammond

I was recently given this Vanderbilt Cup Race parking ticket by Pratt's granddaughter. Measuring 7" x 3", it’s printed on cardstock in blue ink (the No. 1075 is in black).

Although it states “at Pratt’s Farm Corner School Street and Old Country Road Westbury, L.I.”, it doesn’t identify who was “Pratt”.   Unfortunately, Pratt’s granddaughter didn’t know much about this side of her family other than her grandfather was Jim and her Dad was William - couldn’t find more common first names!   I first checked the 1906 and 1914 E. Belcher Hyde Nassau County Atlases without finding any information – the area is on the Town of Hempstead and North Hempstead town line (Old Country Road) which many times is a curse, showing property & sometimes buildings, but many times no property owners' names. Howard Kroplick note: This 1914 Belcher Hyde map sindicates that the Pratt Farm was purchased by Charles Crosby.  

The Pratt Farm was composed of 40 acres owned by James Pratt Sr.   Nearly every year between 1887 and 1896 the Brooklyn Eagle listed James Pratt as an exhibitor at the Mineola Fair, exhibiting prize winning heifers, mitch cows, poultry, race horses, pigs or vegetables.    However, two tragic events would change the ownership and appearance of the Pratt Farm – the death of James Pratt Sr. and a major fire.    As reported by the Hempstead Sentinel of March 13, 1902, within a two-week period James would die of pneumonia (February 25th), daughter Rose also died from pneumonia (on March 1st), and Pratt’s wife, Mary, would die of a broken heart on March 6th.    Another daughter, Ollie, was also stricken by pneumonia, but fortunately recovered

  As part of the settlement of the Pratt Estate sons James Jr. and William would take over the farm paying their remaining five siblings for their shares in the property.Hempstead Sentinel, 1906.

In April 1906, the sons placed the Prat Farm up for sale. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 22, 1906

The second tragic event which might actually explain why Pratt rented out parking space on the farm for the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race occurred on December 12, 1909.   About 1:30 in the morning the large Pratt barn was set on fire killing 17 horses, 7 pigs, destroying 100 tons of hay worth $1,200, a large quantity of oats and grain, 2 fully loaded farm wagons ready to go to market, along with all the farm implements, machinery and other material used by the Pratt brothers!   Only six horses would be saved from the destruction.    Worst of all, they had nearly no insurance with a loss estimated at $11,000.    Could this severe financial loss explain the Pratt parking enterprise?   We will probably never know; however, one final question begs to be asked – How much money could one charge for parking during the Vanderbilt Cup Races?    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 13, 1909

As aviation was just beginning to take off (pun intended), the two biggest yearly events on the Hempstead Plains would have been the Mineola Fair, and the Vanderbilt Cup Races.   As the ticket doesn’t list a price, and at least 1,078 tickets were printed (# 1078 is the highest number I know of), what could be charged?   Did the Pratt’s “size you up” by determining what you could afford by your car & appearance, or by what the others were charging?   As the race course would have been right in front of the farm on Old Country Road you would have had a ringside seat.   As others advertised rates between $5 and $25 depending upon location, it could have been very profitable!

So, where is School St., corner of Old Country Road?   The NW corner is now Holy Rood Cemetery, the NE corner is now a gas station & strip mall, when you cross over Old Country Road heading south the road now becomes Salisbury Park Drive, with the SW corner Eisenhower Park, and the SE corner a store.

Although after the time period of this ticket, I feel mentioning James and Elizabeth’s son’s story which is an interesting one.   William J. Pratt was born June 14, 1911, after his father had died.   In 1940 he would marry Mathilda C. Hoeffner, daughter of Andrew and Elizabeth Hoeffner.   The 1915 N.Y.S. Census listed Andrew as a Hotel Keeper, living on Newbridge Ave., in East Meadow.   Of course, later on the Hoeffner name became synonymous with both the Construction business, but also its location – the corner of Prospect and Newbridge (now renamed East Meadow) Avenues.   This spot is now a Town of Hempstead swimming pool and park, but about 175 years ago was the site of a tavern or inn, best known under the ownerships of John H. Noon / Heinrich Schultze / and finally the Hoeffners.

  In 1963, when the Town of Hempstead acquired the site for the park, it gave the old Inn / Tavern / Hotel building to the County of Nassau, which totally disassembled the structure (it was unstable enough to prevent moving intact), and moved it to Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR), where it is restored to the period of circa 1850 when owned and operated as an Inn by Noon.   Specifically built as an Inn, as opposed to many such structures which were converted homes, the first floor included a bar room, with trap door in the center of the floor leading to a circular brick “wine cellar” underneath.   Although never seen by modern day visitors this feature was reproduced at OBVR during the building’s restoration.

Once again an interesting story out of  a little piece ephemera, meant never to survive past October 1st, 1910!


Dec 15 2016 Joe Oesterle 3:49 PM

Great post.  I love your work.  And completely enjoy your website.
Thank you.

Dec 16 2016 Michael Appice 2:45 PM

I lived on Old Country Rd. and Bert Ave . I knew James and William ” Willy” Pratt. They owned the construction Co. Pratt Bros. where Burger King and Shiro of Japan is today. James lived on Carle Rd. South of Old Country Rd. and Willy lived off of Glen Cove Rd. James’ house was torn down years ago. Their office was where Burger King sits today and they stored and fixed their equipment in an old barn were Shiro is today. I don’t know who owned the farmhouse and barn but it may have been the Hoeffners..

Great post I didn’t know their previous background on that they owned a farm.

Dec 18 2016 Walt Gosden 8:36 AM

Gary, this is a great post and history, all developing from that parking ticket. Your research and documentation are excellent and the story gave all of us a great insight into an important but often overlooked aspect of the Vanderbilt Cup Races. Thanks so much.

Dec 18 2016 S. Berliner, III 6:37 PM

Not sure I understand which corner; if it was the south-EAST corner, it belonged to Chas. Crowley, NOT Chas. Crosby.  [As an unrelated aside, note the proximity of Mme. Le Boudy’s {sic} property to the French Aero Station.]  Sam, III

Dec 18 2016 frank femenias 11:22 PM

Good point Sam. Was scratching my scalp on this one as well. I’d first guessed 40 acres was likely the NE corner that extended north beyond the RR tracks, than the smaller NW portion; both judged by the street lengths indicated on the map. Tricky stuff. 
It’s amazing how history can be resurrected by a mere parking ticket, meant to be discarded and destroyed soon after distribution. This is history as good as it gets. Thank you Gary for sharing this gem, and to the Pratt family for retaining this artifact for so many years.

Dec 21 2016 Donna Pratt 11:11 AM

Wow, nice blog Gary.  I’m happy they think the ticket is so special.  I think there was a whole box of them but I don’t know what happened to it.  Long gone.

Dec 31 2016 J. Van Gasteren 8:07 PM

I grew up and still live about a quarter mile from “Hoeffner Corner,” the original sight of the “Noon Inn.”  I remember as a kid playing with family and friends around and even inside the inn, which I believe no longer had its front porch and had construction equipment out back.  Until now I had never seen photos of the building on its original sight and always wondered whether any existed.  Thanks for posting!
From Howard Kroplick:
John, I was raised on Hemlock Avenue in East Meadow. My friends and I always thought the building was haunted!

Oct 29 2018 Catherine O'Rourke 12:46 AM

Hi I am very interested in your research in this article, if you can contact me I have some questions that maybe you can answer. Thank You!

Jun 22 2019 Luis 11:22 AM

My name is Luis, and I have in my possession a 1906 Syracuse Herald newspaper depicting the Vanderbilt Cup entrants. I’m looking to sell this item because I have no use for it. I came across your blog and thought that this would be the best place to reach people interested on it.

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