My short article about August Belmont Jr’s mansion is actually one of the most popular one’s on this site, so when I ran across this, I just had to share it.
THAT FALL, back in New York, fresh from shooting prairie hens outside of Chicago, Perry, almost fourteen years old, packed a knapsack, took his gun, and with his pal Lloyd Bryce rode a ramshackle train out to Hicksville, Long Island, the last stop, and then headed even farther east, hiking a dozen miles to Babylon. The late afternoon sun cast their shadows longer and longer in front of them. The air got chillier, the sky more overcast. It started flurrying. The flurries turned into a good snow. The snow turned into an early unseasonable storm.
They arrived in Babylon after midnight, convinced that they had reached if not the ends of the earth at least a wild country. They hunted in the dark for Selah Smith’s hotel, which they assumed was a small, primitive inn. They found instead a manorial, depressingly comfortable place with lights blazing. Inside was a meeting of the Suffolk County Democratic leaders.
The politicians, startled and amused by the appearance of two wet, shivering, but determined young hunters, decided not to disappoint them with soft, warm beds. They sent the boys back into the storm with Ras Tucker, a market gunner who was a crack shot with a rifle and, even better, an expert with a longbow. Ras rowed them across the Great South Bay to Oak Island, everything ghostly in the dark with the heavy snow falling. Once ashore they took shelter in a but already filled with market gunners. The three of them flopped down on the floor with the others and slept for a couple of hours. At dawn they woke and, stretching stiff muscles, stepped out into the snowy landscape.
For almost a week the two boys camped in the but and hunted with Ras and the other market gunners. The men, whose livelihood depended on their marksmanship, at first grudgingly and then generously admitted their respect for the rich city boys who hunted for sport. Perry and Lloyd were patient, disciplined, and, returning the respect, eager to learn from their companions.
On one of their treks Ras as a favor took the boys into an icy Eden, a special tract between Babylon and Deer Park that was teeming with game. Enchanted by the untouched and beautiful land, Perry returned to New York City as enthusiastic as if he had indeed been given a glimpse of Paradise.
August bought the property.
From The King of Fifth Avenue: The fortunes of August Belmont by David Black
The hotel referenced here is almost certainly Selah Carll Smith’s American House.
Perry Belmont was August Belmont Sr’s eldest son. He would go on to serve three terms in Congress for New York’s first district.