Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

The Pillars of the Idle Hour Neighborhood of Oakdale

The white concrete pillars, situated at the street corners in the Idle Hour section of Oakdale, have become a sort of symbol of the neighborhood. They serve not just as ornate street signs, but they also are a reminder of the heritage and spirit of an area which was once part of William K. Vanderbilt’s lavish estate.   Although they are not original to the old estate, they seem to have been inspired by the majestic stone columns that previously led up to the Vanderbilt Idle Hour mansion. After William K. Vanderbilt died, his Oakdale property passed on to his son Harold, for whom, however, the property taxes became too much of a burden. The Idle Hour mansion and surrounding land were subsequently bought by the E.A. White Organization. In 1927 Ed and Charles Burke, realtors of the E.A. White Organization, erected 50 concrete pillars topped with urns, marking the street corners of the neighborhood.(1)  The Burkes were extravagant in their sales pitches for the Idle Hour real estate, and they seemed naturally to like to stress the property’s Vanderbilt heritage.  On a Sunday in May 1926, the Burkes arranged for trains, which they dubbed the “Idle Hour Special,” to take prospective buyers from Penn Station and Brooklyn to Oakdale for an afternoon at the Idle Hour mansion, where lunch was served and an orchestra played throughout the day. (2)  Of course the visitors were also shown property intended for the building of private homes. The pillars and their street sign pillars were likely an attempt to remind potential customers of the area’s Vanderbilt connection.


Over the years, many of the pillars became damaged by the elements, and some were knocked down in accidents. In 1998, Kathleen Krinner, president of the Idle Hour Beautification Project, spearheaded a project to restore existing pillars and replace missing ones.  The cost for restoring the pillars ranged from $300 to $700, and the funds required came mainly through gifts.  Donations of $25 entitled donors to membership in the Idle Hour Beautification Project.  Those who contributed $500 or more were able to have a plaque with an individual’s name placed on a restored post. (3)  Through the years, additional money for repair and upkeep has been raised through Linda Hart’s garage sales.  The pillars are all uniform, with similar base, urn, and white paint, the only difference being that some urns are planted with flowers and some are not.  Two pillars even have statues of great blue herons in the urns.  These differences reflect the temperament, philosophy, and even humor of the residents.


It has been said that there were also two such pillars north of Montauk Highway that were not restored, but a search of the area turned up only a single one, which is missing its urn.  Because the pillars north of Montauk Highway are not technically in the Idle Hour development, they were not eligible for the Idle Hour Beautification Project.


To learn more about the history of the Idle Hour pillars we spoke directly with Linda Hart, a member of the Idle Hour Beautification Project, and a long-time participant in the pillar restoration project. After our conversation, we learned that replacing and restoring the pillars was a much more daunting task than one might expect. It was definitely a labor of love on the part of the Idle Hour residents, who cherish the history and character of their neighborhood. We invite you to listen to our interview with Linda Hart to learn more about the story behind the Idle Hour pillars.

  1. Official Newsletter of the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce. March 2010, Vol. 11, no. 9. Connetquot Public Library Local History File.
  2. Display ad 10 -- no title. (1926, May 08). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com.
  3. The Suffolk County News. (Sayville, N.Y.) 1888-current, July 13, 1989, Page 9, Image 9. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017, from http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org.

Linda Hart Interview