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The Massapequa Connection

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Fox Laid Foundation for Biltmore Shores

By Arlene Goodenough

Have you ever wondered how those Spanish-style stucco houses came to be built in Biltmore Shores? If they remind you somehow of California, its for good reason: the original developer of Biltmore Shores in 1926 was the highly successful film magnate, William Fox.

The original Fox Film Corporation started in 1915 in Brooklyn. Thanks to the huge popularity of stars such as Tom Mix and Theda Bara, Fox owned $50 million in real estate throughout the United States by 1926. Therefore, when he joined Joseph Frankel, a clothing manufacturer, in developing the south shore of Long Island to provide seaside homes for middle class families, he claimed he was only doing it as a good deed.

I dont care if I never make a dollar out of Biltmore Shores... My thrill will come when I see a happy, healthy community, Fox said in a newspaper interview shortly before the grand opening of the development.

Biltmore Shores, built on 557 acres in Massapequa, and Merrick Gables, a similar development in Merrick, constituted the most extensive real estate enterprise on Long Island at that time.

The formal opening ceremonies must have been the biggest thing to happen in Massapequa since the Indians and colonists had it out at old Fort Neck. Over 1,000 guests were invited to travel from New York City on a specially chartered train. The guests included Governor Alfred Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker and entertainers Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor.

Original plans called for an 18-hole golf course, a lagoon and a 200 room hotel. Only the lagoon came into being. At 770 feet by 150 feet, it was the largest man-made lagoon on Long Island, Fox claimed. A club, situated on the present site of the Christian Science Church, was built for the homeowners.

One of the original residents of Biltmore Shores was the inventor of the permanent wave, Charles Nestle. He owned the most elaborate house of all, at 100 Biltmore Blvd.

While all the houses are white stucco with red tile roofs and black wrought iron balconies and trim, the former Nestle home has an extremely beautiful wrought iron fence running along the front side and an intricate fountain in the side yard. The house is embellished with all manner of cupolas and cement acorns, and is probably the biggest house of the group.

Mr. Nestle lost his house in the aftermath of the stock market crash of 1929. Fox had his troubles as well, when Fox stock dropped from $119 per share to $1 per share in two days. He and Frankel sold out to the Harmon National Real Estate Corporation of New York City.

All the houses have weathered the years very well. A typical house has beautiful parquet floors with boarders, arched doorways and thick walls. The black and white tiled bathroom walls have held up very well. The rooms are large, and it is not unusual to find a dining room large enough to hold a piano with ease. Stained glass graces many windows, and living rooms have fireplaces and cathedral ceilings. Delicate wrought iron bannisters are the rule.

Foxs vision of a happy, healthy community has come to pass. Fortunately, another of his visions proved to be false. He predicted that by 1960, the population of Long Island would be 12.6 million!