Jones Beach State Park, one of the State Parks under the jurisdiction of the Long Island State Park Commission, is located near Wantagh, on the South Shore of Long Island, thirty-three miles from New York City. The beach is easily reached by automobile, train or bus, making it the most popular and heavily visited beach on the East Coast, with an estimated six million visitors per year.
The park opened to the public on August 4, 1929 with many of its buildings featuring Art Deco architecture. These old pictures of Jones Beach were taken from postcards created in the 1950’s, and reveal how Jones Beach looked at its prime, when mornings on the beach turned into nights dancing at the ballrooms on the boardwalk.
Greetings from Jones Beach
“This is a beach for the Empire city – not the little beach that you slip away to from a country village, but the monumental beach that you make a long and formal approach to from the great city.”
Aerial view of Jones Beach State Park
Robert Moses originally planned for the traffic circle in front of the water tower to serve as the end of the Wantagh State Parkway. The tower serves as a central decorative feature while also supplying water for the entire park, including the theater, swimming pools, restrooms and bathhouses.
Jones Beach and Boardwalk
This is how the Saturday Evening Post described Jones Beach in 1941,
“Flowers, lawns, shrubs greet you, instead of papers, lunch boxes and dirt. Nothing is crowded, the sidewalks are wide, the buildings are low and attractively designed.
The beach is apparently endless.”
Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Long Beach
Jones Beach so enamored the public imagination that it was chosen as the setting for the feature film, “The Girl from Jones Beach”, starring future President Ronald Reagan.
West Bathhouse and Beach, Jones Beach State Park
Jones Beach was not only a daytime attraction, but also hosted dances at night. After a long day at the beach, guests would freshen up in the Bathhouse before spending the night dancing away.
Water Tower and Central Mall
The brick and limestone water tower at Jones Beach houses a 315,000-gallon tank to store water from three 1,000-foot-deep wells. Built in 1930, the water tower was modeled on the campanile of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice and supervised by Robert Moses, then the president of the Long Island State Parks Commission. The tower has never been open to the public.
West Bathhouse and Marine Dining Room
As of 2015, there were plans to renovate the West Bathhouse and recreate a restaurant similar to the Marine Dining Room. In the Long Island Herald, George Gorman, Jr. deputy regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, said,
“Upstairs we have something very special planned. It was once the Marine dining room. Robert Moses had his office up here and there was also this nautical style dining area. The views from there are spectacular.”
Although are no designs in place, the space will have a theme that will include “sand and sea.” The renovations are scheduled to finish in 2017.
Pools at West Bathhouse
Robert Moses’ plan originally included two swimming pools available for public use at Jones Beach: The West Bath House pool and the East Bath House pool. While the West Bath House pool has remained open, budget constraints forced the closure of the East Bath House pool in 2009.
As part of a $65 million refurbishment of the park announced in 2014, the West Bath House will receive $7 million in improvements; state officials have announced their desire to eventually rehabilitate the East Bath House as well.
Boardwalk and Beach, Jones Beach State Park
The boardwalk cafe regularly featured orchestras and marimba bands to entertain guests. The boardwalk was and remains a central feature of the park, connecting guests to all the Jones Beach has to offer.
Zach Bay Stadium at Night, Jones Beach
Zach Bay Stadium was originally completed in 1952 and held 8,200 spectators in a moon-shaped amphitheater that faced a large semi-circular stage constructed in the bay. An underwater tunnel provided passageway between the stadium and the stage, and had elevators at each end.
Fireworks at Jones Beach State Park
Zach Bay Stadium was once home to the Jones Beach mermaids, the Magic Water Ballet, which made rhythmical patterns in the water under the stars, and a thrill show featuring aquatic acrobats who would careen dizzily past the crowd on water skis. The 76-foot revolving stage and tall towers were fitted with three tiers of diving boards, making it possible to host combined aquatic and stage productions.
The annual 4th of July fireworks remain a time honored tradition, and Jones Beach is currently in the midst of undergoing a revitalization.
For more information on Jones Beach history, read Jones Beach: An Illustrated History by John Hanc. It’s a wonderful book with beautiful pictures and a detailed history of Long Island’s Jones Beach.
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