There has never been a shortage of seafood restaurants in Port Washington, from Bradley’s to Gildo’s to Jimmy’s Backyard to Louie’s to Aqua Manor to Augie’s to the Barge and many others. You could have seafood every night for a week at a different restaurant every night! And on any such list, we have to include The Miramar Restaurant, boasting its French & Italian Cuisine and “The home of the famous Scampi”. Some say it was the best scampi in town! Want the recipe? We have it…. but I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even asked you a favor yet.
The Miramar was directly across from the Mill Pond, built on dock pilings, since it hung over the water at high tide. The beautiful postcard above, in the collection of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, is probably from the late 40’s early 50’s. Below is a shot from the 1950’s, taken with a telephoto lens from the Town Dock, showing the pilings that held the restaurant above the tide:
So what else do we know about the Miramar? Let’s take a look at their matchbook, inside & out:
I don’t know about you, but the first thing that strikes me :) is the phone number! “PHONE 1829”. No “Port Washington 7” prefix yet, otherwise known as "PO-7", later modernized to “767”. Next is the long list of delicacies listed on the inside of the matchbook cover, in spite of the torn portion at the top. And how about that line about “Under Same Management” as opposed to “Under New Management”. They were obviously proud of their long standing reputation.
So here’s my problem. I don’t know much more about the Miramar. We didn’t go out to restaurants much when I was a kid in Port, so I went the local history section at the Library, looked under restaurants, and found lots of information about other establishments, but nothing on the Miramar. So let’s fix that. Together. Two more photos and I’ll tell you how.
Here’s a shot taken from the Dodge Homestead, looking across the Mill Pond in the early 1960’s, with the Miramar in the distance:
Here’s a shot taken right in front of the Miramar, looking across the street at the Mill Pond:
And finally, here’s a shot looking across the Mill Pond itself, toward Smull Place (named after local builder Lorenzo Smull), with another interesting building up on the hill (now the Happy Montesori School) a story for another day.
This all leads me to the Scampi recipe, Facebook, and a wonderful concept called crowd-sourcing.
There’s a wonderful place on Facebook called “You know you grew up in Port Washington, NY when”… and if you haven’t gone there, run, don’t walk and check it out. The rest of you know who you are. In fact, just a few weeks ago there was a discussion about people who grew up on or near the Mill Pond. Reading the posts is a fascinating oral history of our town, in a way.
So here is where crowd sourcing comes in: Those of you who grew up in Port Washington (once upon a time called Cow Neck), those who remember the Miramar, those with any stories of the Miramar such as who owned it, when was it built, what was your favorite desert, when did it burn down, etc. Please visit our Facebook page where this View of the Month also lives and chime in with actual stories. Let’s collect the information, and I, as a representative of the local historical society, will compile this information, print it out, present it to the Library for inclusion in the “Restaurants” folder in the local history filing cabinets. One empty slot plugged. It’s a start.
Oh, and the Scampi recipe? Well one of our trustees who will remain nameless (marla), it seems that her parents used to shop at the fish market across from the train station, and asked the proprietor for a good shrimp scampi receipe. He said that he had the best recipe for shrimp scampi, straight from chef at the Miramar. It’s a killer recipe, which we have. If you’d like it, just drop us a note, along with your membership to the historical society at CNPHS, 336 Port Washington Blvd, PW, NY 11050…
What, you thought we were giving stuff away? We’re a little non-profit! Are you already a member? Drop us a note with a contribution of whatever you can afford, and the recipe very well may be yours. Or go to the website (www.cowneck.org) and make an e-donation. We will truly apprecaite it.
Don’t forget to leave your Miramar stories on our Facebook page.
Play Ball! Yes, this week is the opening of baseball season, and I bet that doesn’t make you think about Dunkin’ Donuts. Well, in Port Washington, once known as Cow Neck, it should. But first, look at this winning team of Port Washington’s hometown hitters, decked out in their spiffy uniforms. Do you wonder where they played? Where was there a baseball field in Port Washington in, say, 1910?
Here’s a related postcard, showing the Central Hotel, owned by the McGirr family, who lived nearby. The sign says that they served “Pure Lager & Ales”, and I bet their “central” location, almost directly across from the relatively new Long Island Railroad Station, where the current Dunkin’ Donuts is located, helped their business. OK, so now you know where the hotel is. Note that the text also says “Entrance to Base-ball Ground”. Behind the row of stores that contain Dunkin’ Donuts is a parking lot, and before there was a parking lot there, there was a baseball field. Look at the photo below, put the hotel where Dunkin' Donuts is today, and imagine our local boys coming from all over town to play “base-ball”.
The McGirr house is shown below, which was on Irma Avenue, behind Bank of America. Nice house! IF this was taken from Irma Avenue, looking east, then the baseball field might be off there to the right.
Below is another year’s view of the team, now sporting a few guys in suits and/or ties. A young Black man in the front has a different uniform, with some letter preceding the "W. Reis”. If anyone recognizes a distant relative, speak up, via email or Facebook.
So drop by that parking lot behind Dunkin’ Donuts this month, and pause for a moment, looking for the history on that very spot. It’s all around you, if you just take a few minutes to pause, remember, or imagine.
Grocer’s on Main Street: As recently as the 1960’s there were numerous grocery stores up and down Main Street, Port Boulevard as well as in Soundview. Grocery stores had grown into chains of stores back in the 1930’s in various parts of the country, with their most explosive growth after WWII. Names such as King Kullen, Kroger, Safeway, A&P, Safeway, Ralph’s, King Sooper, and Piggly Wiggly, dotted the landscape.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the first block of Main Street, across from the present day Frank’s Pizzaria, was Manhattan Foods (top photo, far right). On the second block was Bohack, which later moved to where North Shore Farms is now. Note the sign for “King Korn Stamps”, which were given out to shoppers who later traded them in “valuable gifts”. My mom, shopping at the A&P (where Rite Aid on Port Blvd is today) collected Plaid Stamps, and saved enough to trade them in for a bridge table and chairs (which I still have!). Also note the “Self Service” sign, since markets of an earlier generation had staff that would wait on you.
Across the street is one of those wonderful old markets that has fallen by the wayside: Main Street Market, where the knowledgeable staff would help you find whatever you needed in their small, pre-supermarket store. I remember hearing of their wonderful meat counter...
Across from Knowles Funeral Home this small Budget Food store is like many of the small delis that were cropping up in the 60’s, and not unlike many of the small “convenience stores" on Main Street today.
On lower Main Street, just up from the present Ayhan’s Shish Kebab was Port Washington Market, a food market since the early part of the century.
OK, now let’s look at the same location (Port Washington Market), 40-50 years earlier:
Yes, that’s Will Hyde on the left, Charles Jenke in the middle, and Harry Seaman on the right. How do we know? Because retired teacher & principal Mr. Daly used to give a lantern slide show around town, and he took the time to write down people’s names, identified by elder townspeople. Imagine that! We have no idea whose dog is shown between Will & Charles, but he/she’s a substantial dog! Better yet, let’s take a look at a bill of sale that one of these guys might have written up, from this very market, at this moment in time, July 20, 1916:
Hard to find good mutton these days, isnt’ it? Not really, it’s just an adult sheep (yes, I had to look that up). The bill of sale above is made out to “A. Van Wicklen” which would be Adelbert Van Wicklen, owner of another store on lower Main, winner of an amazing ice boating trophy, resting in peace at Nassau Knolls, and the subject for another day. (Thanks to Helen Morgan Vogt for the receipt above and below)
One other grocer in town, Fred Hults, left behind a bill of sale as well:
$2.59 was probably a substantial amount of groceries in those days.
We don’t have a good shot of the A&P on Port Blvd. Or a shot of Grand Union when it took up the entire block where Let There Be Bagels is today, or the super market on the corner where Blockbuster used to be. Do you have memories of Port Washington grocery stores that no longer exist? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or send us an email (which we may post to our Facebook page).
Beginning in 1898, when the Long Island Rail Road extended the line from Great Neck to Port Washington, the town’s business hub started to slowly shift from the waterfront to the rail station. Hotels, stores, and restaurants opened to greet the passengers, and Port Washington and Manhasset started to grow into commuting towns. The terminus at Port Washington started with a small shack of a building, soon to be replaced with the structure below.
The view below shows the station at the left as well as the new Hotel Victoria behind the trees, on the corner now occupied by Starbucks. For many years, horse drawn carriages mixed with the new auto-mobiles.
This view, from the west looking east, shows not only the station on the right, but the Fleming Building on the left, which suffered a major fire in early 2013. Beautiful cars stand at the ready, alongside the station.
Above, the Morning Express, soon to be bound for New York City, sits ready to pull its three passenger cars. The travel time in those days was approximately 35-40 minutes, about the same as it is today.
Below are many of the local businessmen, landowners, and dignitaries who helped to make this extension of the railroad a reality.
Lastly, a snowstorm on the night of Tuesday, January 21, 2014, blanketed the town with 10-14” of snow. The station has been rebuilt a few times over the years, always keeping the original style that has served it well for 100 years.
You may know this building as Diwan, the wonderful Indian restaurant next to the Mill Pond. For more than 125 years and through many changes of ownership, this beautiful building with the cross gambrel roofline has sat sentry over Manhasset Bay. For many decades it was a hotel, welcoming diners and lodgers alike, before the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road started the transformation of Port Washington into a commuting town. We have many views so take your time to peruse all of them below:
The 2013 view above, from Sunset Park at low tide hasn’t changed much in 100 years. In dozens of early 20th century postcards, the unique roofline can be spotted. See if you can spot it in this card below, circa 1910:
An entire evening could easily be devoted to this one card (above). Originally believed to be built as the Grapevine Hotel, the building can be seen at the far right side of the image above, blocking most of the view of the Mill Pond. Directly behind the building, on the other side of the pond you can see sand mining operations in full force, one of the many locations of this industry that dotted the peninsula. On the hill in the background at the far left, overlooking the Mill Pond, is the Down Neck School, which replaced the old school up on School Street (which we featured a few months ago). This photograph must have been taken from a ship’s mast, since that’s the only place where one could have reached this lofty perch.
Below are a few more views where a careful observance can pick out the Hotel Renwick (formerly Grapevine Hotel).
Featured below is easily one of the finest postcard views of early Port Washington, which you ALL KNOW used to be named Cow Neck… right? :) It was probably photographed by John Witmer, showing the Hotel Renwick at the center, and the bustling life encircling the Mill Pond circa 1905. The hotel has a nicely hand painted orange roof on this postcard, and to the right you can see sand trestles and actual sandbanks, which stretched all the way north to where Sousa School stands today. This view was taken from up on the hill at the Down Neck School (later Sands Point School), shown three cards above this view.
Those growing up in Port Washington in the 50’s, 60’s, or early 70’s knew this as Gildo’s, a popular family restaurant. One of their ashtrays (shown) is now in our PW Local Business Memorabilia collection.
We heard from former Port Washington resident David Smith, who reported that "before it was the Renwick, it was called the Grapevine Hotel, run by my Great Grandparents Henry and Emma Smith as early as 1870. Henry became ill in 1899 and Ren Smull took it over. There was a fire in 1901 and it was referred to as the Renwick in the NY Times and the Grapevine in the Brooklyn Eagle, so the name had to have been changed about that time. There are articles in the Eagle referring to the Grapevine thought the 1890's."
Here is an incomplete list of the names of this long-standing Port Washington institution… Send us your memories, send us additional names, tell us what YOU know about this place (either via email or on our Facebook page):
The Grapevine Hotel
The Renwick Hotel
and in no particular order:
360 Degrees Grille
Port Seafood Grill
Iavarone's Prime View
Wreck Chowder House & Clam Bar
Louis & Marxx All American
[ Did we miss any? Thanks to Art for
researching the names and sending them in! ]
Diwan Indian Restaurant