North Babylon Community Profile
Hamlet of North Babylon
Beginning in the late 1800s, wealthy New York City residents began purchasing large tracts of land in the North Babylon area for use as summer residences, including Austin Corbin, President of the Long Island Rail Road and developer of Coney Island. Situated between the bustling Deer Park and Babylon railroad stations, the area was well-regarded for hunting, fishing and other recreational pursuits.
Merchant Royal Phelps purchased a North Babylon estate in 1863, which included a celebrated trout pond known as “The Reel.” The old Phelps property passed through several owners, including famed baseball player John Montgomery Ward, before becoming Phelps Lane Park in 1960. The mansion in Phelps Lane Park dates to 1942 when it was built as the country residence of Dr. David and Else Schnur.
David Schnur fishing in his pond, circa 1945, which is now part of Phelps Lane Park. Else and David Schnur named the pond Elda Lake, using the first two letter of their first names.
A Jewish family, the Schnurs left Nazi Germany before World War II to escape persecution, eventually settling in New York City.
Photo courtesy of the Schnur Family.
Royal Phelps is attributed with introducing August Belmont to the rural community. Beginning in 1867, Belmont purchased 1,300 acres upon which he established a horse breeding farm and a spacious 24-room mansion. The row of pine trees leading to Belmont’s estate remain in the Southern State Parkway median.
The country residence built for August Belmont Sr., pictured around 1925, just before the house was demolished. Reportedly, a portion of the house was moved to Straight Path and Little East Neck Road, for use as a church (presently, Wyandanch Missionary Baptist Church).
During World War I, the Belmont estate horse–racing track became Camp Damm, an Army Air Corps training facility, 1918-1919. After the War, the Army camp was disbanded. A portion of the vast Belmont estate later became Belmont Lake State Park, and much of the remaining property was sold for houses. The old Belmont estate was bisected by the Southern State Parkway.