Wildwood State Park

Back home from our Maine trip we found that spring was much further along in the metro New York area. With warm weather upon us, we headed out to Wildwood State Park in Wading River. Feeling a little ambitious, I decided to put my leg to the test by walking the yellow trail; a walk of approximately 3.8 miles.

The first part of the trail appears to be the remnants of an old paved road, probably left over from a previous owner before the land was acquired by the state. We noticed that there was considerable amount of tree damage from super storm Sandy, with broken branches and trees leaning against other trees. I have to say that our park workers have done an excellent job of clearing debris from the trails.

Most of the undamaged trees were filled with leave buds, not yet ready to explode into full sized leaves. A few more warm days and I’m sure everything will be in full bloom. While the trees were still in the spring growing process, the underbrush was in full attire. In some  areas of the park, particularly half way through our hike,  the underbrush was so green  that it actually had the appearance of a mid-summer day.

We followed a side trail that paralleled the yellow trail and ended up on a trail that took us along the bluff. Eventually this trail met up with the yellow trail again. Here there was a wooden bench overlooking the Long Island Sound and it was tempting to think about lingering here for hours just contemplating the view.

With some reluctance, we returned to the trail and continued our journey. At some point we reached a crossroads where things got a bit confusing. The yellow trail apparently circled around past what appeared to be an old caretaker’s cottage. We did eventually find our way back to the yellow markers but I was still curious about the cottage and the history of the park.

After some research, I discovered that Wildwood was formerly two separate estates. The Wildwood estate was owned by Roland Mitchell who commissioned Stanford White to build the house. The house was never completed and the estate was deeded to the state in 1925. The house was torn down in the 1930’s. The second estate was owned by Joseph G. Robin, who built a country manor house called Driftwood Manor. Since Robin was a shady character, there are numerous articles about him in the New York Times from 1910 to 1912. His house was bought by the state in 1912 and the house was razed some time in the 1980’s. **(see note below)

Back on the yellow trail, the underbrush thinned out giving us a clear view into the woods. We passed a tamarack that was  displaying new spring growth.

The path became a little more uneven here, strewn with small stones and I stumbled a bit as we neared the end of our hike. I realized I had overdone it a bit since my hip replacement leg was sore, probably from the length and pace of this hike.

We had hiked the 3.8 miles in about 1.5 hours.

**Recently a few articles have been citing this post as a source for the history of the two estates at Wildwood State Park. I do reference  the New York Times as an excellent source for information about Joseph Robin and Driftwood Manor. However, after 5 years I cannot remember where I obtained my information about the Wildwood Estate, Roland Mitchell and Stanford White.  I do remember doing extensive research about this at the time but I have failed to keep track of these resources. For the sake of completeness and an attempt to give credit to the source, I do know that I searched the New York Times archives,  Newsday, Long Island Forum and the Long Island History Journal, as well as local history collections at my local library at the time.

Update: February 2018. “The County Review, Suffolk’s Leading Newspaper”, June 30 1927, p. 1. regarding the dedication of a Girl Scout Camp. A paragraph near the end of the article states “The property was formerly the country estate of the late Roland G. Mitchell. He had a handsome three-story brick mansion and outbuilding erected 20 year’s ago, but he died before the building were completed.”

9 thoughts on “Wildwood State Park

  1. hi there! great pics and nice background on the park.. will you be headed to Maine again? My wife and I hiked Morse Mountain in Phippsburg in March.. I take students up in June for a community service trip and again later in August for a camping trip. I can’t get enough of it! jt

  2. Thanks especially for the image of the estate era remnant (Cottage) in Wildwood. ..A friendly correction for historical accuracy.. Driftwood Manor had a few owners after J.G. Robin and was a private residence until about the mid 1970’s when its last owner negotiated sale terms with NY State.
    Although the lovely mansion could have been put to good use its fate was likely sealed before actually changing hands as the Commissioner of Parks (among his other titles) at the time was a fellow by the name of Robert Moses, America’s foremost urban renewal [demolition] proponent. His legacy is a very mixed bag.

  3. Pingback: Essay: The hidden past of Wildwood State Park | LIPARKS

  4. Great historic info on Wildwood. I grew up in Wading River, & didn’t know much of the history of the site, but spent many hours, days & nights there camping, hiking & exploring. I even worked at the park one year in High School – a short drive, & sometimes I’d walk the mile along the beach there.
    We called Driftwood Manor at the far NE end of the park “The Mansion”. It was abandoned by the time I 1st heard about it in the mid-late ’60’s.
    My Grandfather lived in Queens (Ramblersville, then Ozone Park when Idlewild/JFK was built nearby) & came out to Wading River with the family Summers starting some time around the late ’20’s or ’30’s. The family used to stay in Wildwood for the Summer. At some point the park wouldn’t let campers stay the entire Summer (1938, I think), & a handful of campers bought (or leased?) small lots adjacent to the park (Oakwood on the Sound) where they could continue to stay for the Summer. I think another Summer community (the Sound Shore Club) started in a similar way.
    I think I need to return for a visit again soon. Thanks for the info!

    • It is one of the most beautiful parks in the area. Obviously one of my favorites. Bugs me that I can’t retrace my research on Roland Mitchell and the Wildwood Manor. I did find a reference to it in an old newspaper, “The County River”, June 30 1927, p. 1. regarding the dedication of a Girl Scout Camp. A paragraph near the end of the article states “The property was formerly the country estate of the late Roland G. Mitchell. He had a handsome three-story brick mansion and outbuilding erected 20 year’s ago, but he died before the building were completed.”

  5. my family of five and another family used to go camping at Wildwood for two weeks every summer. We did this for nine years in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. We always stayed at campsite D14, It was on a corner, and didn’t have a campsite nearby on the other side. I remember pocking wild raspberries there. We used to bring our bikes and ride all over. I was the youngest of the children. the others when they became teenagers made friends with other teenagers camping. One time the other teenagers told us about an abandoned mansion. everyone wanted to see it, they weren’t going to take me since I was small and there would be a lot of walking. But I begged them to and off we went. We finally came to a beautiful mansion, I remember there was stone or gravel around it. We went a few steps down into a kitchen entrance. The kitchen was very large and long. It was clean and in good shape, much nicer than the kitchen you see in Downton Abbey. It didn’t have any pots or pans or dishes in it. I decided to stay in the kitchen in the kitchen, the rest of the house was dark and I guess I was a bit scared. The others went off to explore, Then someone screamed and everyone came running through the kitchen and out the door. It sees as they were going up some stairs, a girls foot went through a rotted step and she screamed and everyone got spooked. We all left after that but the older kids went back again. That time they took a screw driver and took off some crystal door nobs as mementos. Each teen got one half of a door knob. One teen got a special oval smooth crystal knob. Many yeats layer that knob was given to me! So I not only was in Driftwood Manor but I have a door knob feom it. Thanks for letting me babble on about a great childhood memory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s