A Small Taste of MC History: Albert Norton and Wheelmen’s Rest

A Small Taste of MC History: Albert Norton and Wheelmen’s Rest

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Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral routes.

The pictures and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

If you’ve driven down today’s Bicycle Path in Selden, you’ll be quite surprised to see how it used to look. Originally constructed in the 1890s for bicycle enthusiasts, the 14-mile path ran across Long Island from Patchogue to Port Jefferson and was a popular destination for tourists. One of the greatest contributors to the path, Selden resident Albert R. Norton, donated the right-of-way for it in front of his extensive property between Selden and Port Jefferson.

Norton ran the Wheelmen’s Rest, located midway along the route, serving refreshments to the hungry cyclists. Its visitor’s log recorded over 6,000 names, including bicyclists from all parts of the U.S. as well as England, France, Denmark and other countries. Perhaps of more interest are the entries of many Centereach, Selden and Lake Grove neighbors and ancestors whose signatures recall their lives in the communities. The original register of visitors to the Wheelmen’s Rest can be viewed at the Town of Brookhaven Historian’s office.

Bicycle Path was a busy spot during the summertime. The 1899 League of American Wheelmen’s Midsummer Festival program shows the elaborate events held from Thursday to Saturday. The Cyclists’ Carnival began in Patchogue and featured sailing, swimming, fishing and a clambake on the Great South Bay. Friday featured a ride to Babylon, where Charley Murphey cycled a pacing mile alongside a locomotive. On Saturday, members rode the “Cross Island Cycle Path” through Selden to Port Jefferson, where a parade, cycle races and Fire Department contests capped off the
carnival’s events.

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