It all started with a man and a dream. The man was William H. Reynolds, a young tycoon and New York's youngest state senator at only 24 years old. The dream was to turn an unsung barrier island in Nassau County into the next playground for the rich and famous. Already famous himself for constructing Dreamland - Coney Island's largest amusement park - in 1903, Reynolds purchased Long Beach in the early 1900s and set about making his dream a reality.
Long Beach is a barrier island covering five square miles with a 2.1-mile boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean. It's one of two cities in Nassau County with a year-round population of 35,000. According to history, the crew aboard explorer Henry Hudson's Half Moon first sighted the island in 1609 as he sailed around the south shore. In 1643, Massapequa chieftain Sachem Tackapausha bartered with Hempstead settlers to share the "long white sandy beach." It was named the Great Sand Beach, but it took more than 250 years before permanent settlers arrived.
Playground for the Wealthy
A group of wealthy developers built the Long Beach Hotel in 1870 and the area began to boom, thanks to the development of the railroad and bridge. Unfortunately, the hotel burned in 1907 - but by then, Senator Reynolds had stepped onto the shoreline to begin his dream.
Reynolds designed a 300-room fireproof hotel that was to be the centerpiece of his resort community. According to documents detailing the town's history, famed dancers Verne and Irene Castle opened a nightclub there, and visitors included Clara Bowe, Eddie Cantor, Flo Ziegfeld and Rudy Vallee.