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Parks in the Hamptons: Then and Now

Let's travel back in time

What makes the Hamptons special is our green spaces, our beaches and parks. For Curbed's Renovation Week, we check out what some of our local parks have looked like through the years.

The park that has probably changed the most from its original use is Camp Hero State Park in Montauk. Camp Hero (named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr., the Army's Chief of Coast Artillery between 1926 and 1930) was part of the coastal defense system known as the Eastern Shield. During WWII, the defensive structures at the camp were disguised; it was hoped that if the Nazis looked at Camp Hero from the air or sea, they'd see a little New England fishing village. There were concrete bunkers that were supposed to look like houses (with false dormers) and even a church with a false steeple, which actually housed the gym. Montauk was chosen as the location for Camp Hero because it was feared that the nearby shipping lanes might provide the Germans with a way to stage an invasion of New York.

After WWII, Camp Hero was used as an Air Force base. It was decommissioned in 1984; then the General Services Administration attempted to sell the entire facility to real estate developers. Local environmentalists complained because of the unique ecosystems at the park. Eventually the land was donated and became a park, opening to the public in 2002. Parts are still off limits, though, especially near the old satellite and military installations.

Lake Agawam has been an important part of Southampton for hundreds of years, with residents enjoying sailing, boating, fishing and ice skating. There even were piers north of the Dune Church for small boats.

The biggest change in Agawam Park is the the World War Memorial, dedicated August 19, 1923, designed by William Edgar Moran. There’s a simple Corinthian style temple with various nautical emblems. The Southampton Press wrote in 1923, "Left and right of the temple, on encircling walls, there has been carved 325 names of those from Southampton who served under the colors. Through its open colonnade and two broad openings are seen Agawam Lake, dunes and distant ocean."

Mashashimuet Park was bequeathed to the children of Sag Harbor. It features baseball diamonds, tennis courts, field hockey fields, soccer fields and picnicking spots. Originally, though, it was the Hamptons Driving Park with a half-mile oval track built for carriage team races, trotting and walking races. Local philanthropist Mrs. Russell Sage (who was left an incredible $63,000,000 by her robber-baron husband in 1906) purchased the park in 1908 and began building a house for a park superintendent, a playground, two tennis courts and an athletic field. The park was renamed "Mashashimuet," Algonquin for "Place of the Great Springs." These days, of course, local kids call it Mash Park.