Though to be found on a few maps of recent vintage, there was a place once commonly known as High Hill Beach. It was located east of the present Jones Beach Tower, and for the most part a bit east of present day Parking Field #6.During the years prior to and for some time after the early development stages of Jones Beach State Park, there was s summer colony consisting of some 20 to 30 cottages spread along the crescent-shaped eastern rim of Zachs Bay and among the dunes towards the surf. Apparently some of these cottages remained and were still in use until the end of World War II.
From articles read and conversations with individuals whose memories reach back to those “good old days”, it is known that this was a pleasant place to be. Aside from the cottages and a large pavilion, the purity of sand and native vegetation was interrupted by nothing more than a single thoroughfare in the form of a narrow boardwalk which zigzagged among the dunes, linking the bay and oceanfront cottages. Prior to construction of the Wantagh Causeway access to High Hill was by ferry. A trip which took 40 minutes, meandering as it did through channels and bays after leaving the Bellmore/Wantagh area. It was a voyage described as comfortable and “...having a festive air”. Apparently the greatest discomfort experienced on those trips were the occasional attacks by small clouds of green flies. Evidently few passengers reached the beach free of welts from the stings of those blood-thirsty monsters. At High Hill there were no telephones, gas, little if any electricity, few radios and no plumbing, water being obtained from wells. Cooking was usually done on a kerosene stove. There were no inside toilets, each cottage had an outhouse or privy, many of which were equipped with a Sears and Roebuck catalog which often, “…served a double purpose”.
The huge pavilion which was the social hub of the colony was equipped with a battered, out of tune, upright piano, table and chairs. One could obtain, soda pop, ice cream, sandwiches, magnificent clam chowder, or maybe friend soft clams or a platter of steamers. High Hill was a place where carefree barefoot youngsters, tanned the color of leather, had all the time in the world to frolic in the booming surf, fish the bay, sail to all points of the compass or explore miles of deserted beach in search of whatever treasures the tide had left upon a shore free of discarded beer cans, plastic cups and the innumerable “junk” items now so common along these beaches.
It is known that the club name was taken from this place,...what is not know…is why? Perhaps some of the club founders were privileged to spend their childhood summers in this colony, or could it be that in those days of conventional reel and linen line, they were among the first to journey along the Wantagh Causeway to fish the miles of surf which stretched beyond the East Bathhouse and on past High Hill Beach? At least some of the founders of the High Hill striper club could trace their family roots in the communities adjacent to Jones Beach, back in time for some length. That being the case, the best guess is that some of them did spend time in the High Hill Beach community. Whatever the reason, knowing it’s past history High Hill is a fine name, representing as it does, a wonderful place which had a charming life style, during an era when living was far less complicated and it’s simplification a virtue.
Living the Good Life by the Sea
From LI Newsday "Time machine" October 31,1999
Although the beachfront community known as High hill Beach was erased from the map six decades ago when it was absorbed by Jones Beach state park, it still lives on in the memories of readers, many of whom wrote to us after a picture of the old Sportsmen's hotel was published on Sept. 19.
High Hill Beach was located just east of what is now Parking Field 6 at Jones Beach, on the eastern shore of today’s Zachs Bay, according to Joshua Soren, president of the Wantagh Historical and Preservation Society. The first houses in the area were built on leased land just before the turn of the century. The area became an active summer destination and at its height, the community had 98 cottages, a store, a boarding house, the hotel-casino, a life saving station and a post office. Visitors came to High Hill Beach either by private boat or ferry service from Seaford or Bellmore.Soren says the Sportsmens Hotel was built around 1900 by R.T. Willmarth, who held the master lease on much of the beach property. In 1917, Willmarth sold the hotel to M.F. Savage, and it became Savage’s Hotel and Pavilion. When Jones Beach State park was opened in 1929, the High Hill community was given 11 years to relocate, and leases were not renewed as they ran out. By June 1, 1940, when the last of the leases was terminated, most of the cottages were moved to West Gilgo Beach. The rest were destroyed. The hotel building was also demolished. The area, which still appears on some maps as High Hill Beach, is now used as the maintenance portion of Jones Beach State Park, Soren says.
Lillian Dede, 81, of Largo, Fla., still summers in one of the houses that was moved from high Hill to West Gilgo. “I spend all of my summers at High Hill Beach, from age 2 to 20,” Dede says in a letter. “The picture is definitely part of my memories. However, it was then Savage’s Pavilion, run by Mr. Charles Savage and his wife. The pavilion was a gathering place for children during the day (if Mr. Savage didn’t catch you) and adults at night. Almost every Saturday night, a pianist or guitar player was employed to provide dance music for the adults – no children allowed. We hung around outside and watched, or played hide and seek. I’m not sure, but I think liquor could be served (even during Prohibition) if you had an ‘in’ with the owner.
“The boardwalk in front of the pavilion was also the dock going out to the bay, where ferries came from Bellmore once or twice a day,” Dede adds. “Fathers came Friday night and left Sunday night, so it was mainly a females’ and children’s paradise. Life was fun despite the fact that we pumped our own water, read by oil lamps, and had no indoor facilities – yes, we had outhouses." Ann C. Sheehan, 86, of Wantagh, also recalls the hotel during the days it was known as Savage’s. “The boardwalk in front led to a dock, where a ferry left for the mainland early in the morning with business people heading for work and returned with commuters in the evening,” Sheehan writes. “High Hill Beach also had a lamp lighter. Kerosene lamps held upward on poles were placed as needed alongside boardwalks. These lamps had to be refilled at least once a week, which, of course, meant cleaning the round glass shades, too.”