William H. Moffitt
William H. Moffitt, a real estate developer, familiarized himself with the Bay Shore area as a member of the Olympic Club. His company, W. H. Moffitt Realty Corp., located in New York City began purchasing large properties along the south shore of Long Island in the early 1900’s with the intention of selling it off as subdivided plots.
Unlike Daniel D. Conover, who developed much of the shore areas in the towns of Islip and Bay Shore, Moffitt purchased properties further inland from the Great South Bay. One of his first purchases in 1901 was known as Bay Shore Manor and included 55 acres of land located between Clinton Avenue and Park Avenue and north of Bay Shore Avenue (now Sunrise Highway). Each plot had a 25-foot “frontage” on roads built by Moffitt, was 100-feet deep and less than one-tenth of an acre. It is believed that not many homes were built on the land at that time. However, some of the side streets exist to this day.
In 1906, realizing that in order to be more successful he would need to remain closer to the shore, Moffitt purchased what he called Willow Brook Park, Saxon Park and Olympic Park. Willow Brook, located north of the railroad tracks in Islip was 160 acres and home to the Islip Driving Park which Moffitt later renovated into a race track, known as the Willow Brook Driving Park. Saxon Park, located to the east of Willow Brook, along the south side of the railroad tracks to Saxon Avenue was purchased from Conover’s estate for $40,000 which at the time had been the largest amount paid for property in the town of Islip. The worthiest property, Olympic Park, was located south of South Country road between Orowoc Creek and Saxon Avenue and was the only one with access to the Great South Bay. Moffitt purchased it for $65,000. Moffitt also built five new roads through this property, Kempster, Wenman, Gree, Mallar and Boyd, that ran from Saxon Avenue to Orowoc Creek. Over 900 acres of land along the Great South Bay had been purchased by Moffitt’s company at that time, however, very little had been sold.
Moffitt also bought himself property around Orowoc Pond, in the area north of South Country Road between Saxon Avenue and Grant Avenue on which to build for himself. His home, constructed of steel and concrete in 1910, was said to have cost over $100,000 and contained 21 rooms. It was described as “one of the most artistic and modern homes on Long Island” at that time. In addition, he owned homes in Staten Island and Connecticut, a mansion in New York City and property in New Jersey. That same year he became owner of the Bay Shore Independent, a newspaper company, and a year later was elected commodore of the Bay Shore Yacht Club.
By 1914, Moffitt was said to have been worth over $2 million and had bought and sold over $20 million in property. He had become a distinguished businessman whose company and accomplishments had been praised in the papers. However, the real estate industry began to decline and Moffitt found himself so greatly indebted he sold his home on Orowoc Pond to Walter G. Oakman, (who in 1918 sold it to George Graham, a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives) in order to pay his mortgage. Moffitt was also forced to sell a factory he owned in Bay Shore and continued to sell off his assets for the next three years to make ends meet.
Unable to pay back creditors, Moffitt fled to California and then became a fugitive. He had been indicted back in New York with a grand larceny charge as a result of real estate deals totaling $4 million and chose to not appear. Moffitt also spent time hiding in London but did come back to the United States where he was finally arrested and investigated. Eventually, Moffitt was able to pay back his creditors and returned to California where he established another real estate business in the 1920’s. All that was remembered of Moffitt however back in New York was Moffitt Boulevard located in Bay Shore.
Above excerpted from - Along the Great South Bay - From Oakdale to Babylon - The Story of a Summer Spa 1840-1940" - Harry W. Havemeyer, 1996.