Daniel D. Conover
During the 1880ís advancements in the Long Island Railroad and the construction of summer resorts and luxury hotels along the south shore of Long Island led many prominent New York City and Brooklyn families to vacation in this area known at that time as the Great South Bay. Eventually, many of these families acquired property to build their own summer homes, as did one man, Daniel D. Conover.
Daniel D. Conover, born in 1822, was an influential resident of New York City and actively involved in national politics, various clubs, as well as the volunteer fire department. In 1857 he was appointed New York City street commissioner and gained further prominence as a promoter of the New York City street railways and trolleys. He was also a member of the Olympic Club and was first introduced to the south shore of Long Island when the club moved to Bay Shore in 1856.
Conover extended his influence onto Long Island when he acquired property in the towns of Bay Shore and Islip. One of his first purchases was property on Saxton Avenue where he built a Victorian style cottage for his family. He continued to purchase land and eventually built similar cottages that would rent for $100 to $1,000 a month along Saxton Avenue, Awixa Avenue and Main Street. However, before these cottages could be built, investments that were both risky and expensive were needed to further develop the area and attract residents.
Conover was the first to take financial risks by investing in undeveloped land and making costly improvements to it. These projects helped the development of beautiful waterfront properties, some which still stand today, along the shores the Great South Bay. One particularly expensive undertaking included dredging the creeks. With the use of a steam dredger, Conover deepened and widened the channels of Awixa Creek, Champlinís Creek and Orowoc Creek, to allow for the navigation of larger boats. The east end of Awixa Creek was cutoff, dredged from its mouth northward toward South Country Road, and a freshwater lake was built. Conover also intended to build a road connecting Awixa Avenue to Saxton Avenue over this lake, however, that project was never completed. Champlinís Creek was given a 90-foot-wide channel and Orowoc Creek was dredged and itís surrounding land was filled creating additional sites for building.
Conover used his expertise on public transportation and became known for his great roads, particularly the South Country Road, a public highway, and what would eventually become Moffitt Boulevard, north of the LIRR tracks. His roads at the time were described as ďof full width, flat surfaces, and composed of clam shells and in equal partsĒ that would ďstand all seasons,Ē and could have been an enormous improvement to the dirt roads of that time which required a sprinkling of water to keep the dust down. However, despite complaints and pressure from the townspeople, not much was done during those years to improve road conditions in the area.
The town of Islip benefited tremendously from Conoverís accomplishments and led the way for other developers. One of his properties, Orowoc Pond, had even become famous as the site of the fishing expedition that took place in 1889 and hosted former president Grover Cleveland.
Conover remained at his home in Bay Shore until his death in 1896. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Bay Shore, as was his wife Catherine, four years later. His Saxton (Saxon) Avenue home did not remain with the Conover family. In 1912 it was purchased by Franklyn and Edna Hutton who resided there until 1921. Philip B. Weld purchased the home for $100,000 that year and again it was sold in 1929 to H. Cecil Sharp. In the next few years Sharp acquired additional property surrounding Conoverís house and by 1933 had built a completely new home. The original Conover house was removed, however the barn and windmill were not and remain to this day.
Above excerpted from - Along the Great South Bay - From Oakdale to Babylon - The Story of a Summer Spa 1840-1940" - Harry W. Havemeyer, 1996.
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