2. Belle Terre
Belle Terre Estates’ entrance lodge was designed by John J. Petit of Kirby, Petit & Green. Photo via Kenneth Brady, Village of Port Jefferson historian
Located on the hilly North Shore of Suffolk County in Port Jefferson, 62 miles east of Midtown Manhattan, Dean Alvord’s Belle Terre Estates was just one out of many projects the developer undertook, with his scope of work spanning anywhere from the City of Rochester in Upstate New York to the Town of Southampton on Long Island’s East End.
An enclave of wealth carved into the glacial hills of Long Island’s North Shore, Belle Terre was not for the urban commuter like his other projects Prospect Park South and Roslyn Estates, but rather, “an ideal spot for a summer house, be it a palatial estate or modest bungalow.”
Port Jefferson Station of Long Island Railroad. Photo via Kenneth Brady, Village of Port Jefferson historian.
Alvord purchased the entire 1,600 acre peninsula, including controversially, the water rights from the Town of Brookhaven, looking to capture the bucolic charm of the five miles of waterfront the geography provided. Like McKnight, Alvord saw opportunity with the LIRR – so much so he donated the land for the handsome still-standing station house for the Long Island Railroad’s Port Jefferson stop to serve residents of Belle Terre, roughly one mile away. (Never mind the fact that Alvord, and his good friend Ralph Peters who was president of the LIRR, both were building their own houses at Belle Terre).
The development grew as more of New York’s titans of industry caught wind of the project. By 1917, 48 residences were constructed on the peninsula. The project included stately landscaping and recreational spaces along the wind scarred bluffs of the peninsula. As time wore on, many of the extravagances of Belle Terre were demolished, and the famed Belle Terre social club burned down. In the 1930s, the Village, like so many planned communities on Long Island, sought to cling to their exclusivity by incorporating.
Still, the charm of the development remains – Belle Terre is considered by many to be one of the most exclusive residential enclaves on Long Island, and MacKay writes that Alvord “did perhaps more than anyone else to establish the standards and appearance of suburban development on Long Island at the outset of the twentieth century.”