Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jefferson Hill Climb"

Port Jefferson Hill Climb

Trophies from previous Port Jefferson Hill Climbs. Photo from Robert Laravie

By Robert Laravie

One always wonders if it a good idea to open an email from a name you do not recognize. In early April of this year one came in from Caroline Carless. I almost thought it was an email version of the robocalls I receive about extended auto service coverage —  you know something like “Don’t be left carless…extend your car warranty.” In a weak moment I decided to open it.

It turned out Caroline was from SW England in Dorset and she must have found my contact information from the promotion of the 2021 Port Jefferson Hill Climb. She stated that her companion, Colin Burnett, collected three handled cups and she had two trophy cups from the 1911 Port Jefferson Hill Climb. They were acquired over 20 years ago at a Lawrences auction in England. She felt it would be best if they were returned to Port Jefferson.

A photo of W. J. Fallon driving in the 1911 Hill Climb from a 1911 trade journal The Horseless Age. Photo from Robert Laravie

Together with Chris Ryon, the Port Jefferson Village Historian, we researched the event numbers on the cups. One was No. 14. It appears event No. 14 was won by W.J. Fallon. Fallon was in real estate and one of the organizers of the hill climb and drove in a few events. He posted fastest times in the two amateur classes he entered, one for cars from $1200 to $2000 he won in a Corbin, in 34.56 seconds. The other for cars $2001 and over he won in a National in 25.30 seconds. Don Herr, in a National was overall fasted of the day in an event called the Free- For- All at 21.31 seconds, just beating out a Knox driven by F. W. Belcher at 21.57.

The event number 15 trophy has engraved on it “Presented by Mrs. C. B. Zabriskie.” A little more research in the Port Jefferson archives and on line revealed that Mr. C. B. Zabriskie was an executive with the Borax Company. He lived, when not managing the mining operation in Death Valley, in New York City and in his summer house in Belle Terre on Woodland Road. Zabriskie Point in Death Valley is named after him as well as a Michelangelo Antonioni movie of the same name, but that’s another story.

Thanks to the generosity of Caroline Carless and the collecting passion of Colin Burnett, the Port Jefferson Conservancy will have the trophies back in Port Jefferson and will have them on display at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101-A East Broadway during the annual 1910 Hill Climb on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

A resident of Port Jefferson, Robert Laravie has been a member of the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy for the last seven years. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

And they’re off!

On Saturday, Aug. 14 cars from the last century geared up to tackle the ascent on East Broadway in Port Jefferson village to commemorate the 1910 hill climb.

Sponsored by the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy, in partnership with the village, the event allows vintage car enthusiasts to retrace the original hill climb course as spectators cheer them throughout this historic tribute. 

According to the event chair, Bob Laravie, this was the seventh recreation of the climb – its original, as the name states, being in 1910.

“We’re celebrating right where the original cars ran,” he said. “We had every decade starting from 1909 up to one car from 1980.”

The conservancy decided to bring back the hill climb in 2010, with the plan to run again every five years. After a successful 2015 run, the pandemic halted the 2020 event. 

So, the 2021 hill climb was highly anticipated for people who love old cars. While many drivers were local to Port Jefferson and its surrounding communities, others came from across Long Island — as far as Queens and Montauk. One couple brought their 1911 Hupmobile Model 20 roadster across the Sound on the ferry to participate. 

Laravie said there were about 60 vehicles at the start of the climb, parked outside the Village Center. 

“We’ve done this every five years since the 100th anniversary and we look forward to doing it again in four years,” said Lisa Perry, president of the conservancy.

Mayor Margot Garant said the event speaks about the village’s role in the automobile industry which many people are not fully aware of. She noted that after the building — which is now the Village Center — was no longer used for making boats, car engines were created inside its walls. 

Some of the early 20th-century cars at the event very well could have had their engines made in Port Jefferson. 

“It’s great to see the turnout today,” Garant said at the event. “And, more importantly, to celebrate the history of the village in another dimension.”

You can watch a recording of the hill climb here.

Photo by Bob Savage

By Tara Mae

What’s old is new again as Port Jefferson’s Hill Climb returns on Saturday, August 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Continuing in the tradition of the 1910, 1911, and 1925 Port Jefferson hill climbs, this event is an historic tribute that features an antique car parade with about 50 automobiles and a photo exhibit at the Port Jefferson Village Center. 

File photo

“This is a celebration of the history of the hill climbs,” said Bob Laravie, a Port Jefferson Conservancy board member. “The parade starts at the Port Jefferson Village Center, goes up East Broadway hill and hits Belle Terre Road, turns onto North Country Road, and heads back to Main Street, and East Main Street.” 

The parade concludes when they circle back to the Village Center where visitors can view prints of historic photographs by Spooner and Wells. Primarily images of the 1910 Port Jefferson Hill Climb, they are shown courtesy of the Detroit Public Library which now houses them in its collection. 

Hill climbing is one of the oldest forms of motorsports, with the first one taking place in France in 1897. Generally, rather than race each other, cars race the clock as they ascend a peak. Port Jefferson’s version is arguably more a combination of parade and car show rather than a traditional hill climb. 

As each vehicle joins the parade route, the announcer will provide insight and details about the car, its history, and its owner. The cars are driven to a height of about 2,000 feet before beginning their descents.

Participants were recruited from car clubs and car shows, according to Laravie, who is showing the electric car replica he constructed, a Baker Torpedo Kid. The primary requirement for the entries is that they are at least 74 years old, although there are some exceptions. 

“My car is modified for actual hill climbing,” explained Laravie. “I built a replica/tribute to a 1903 electric racecar and they let me in the event …”

In 1910, the Port Jefferson Automobile Club sponsored the first Port Jefferson Hill Climb to promote its cars. “Port Jefferson was a good location for a hill climb; you didn’t need a track or tremendous spectator control. There was a very good turnout the first two years,” Laravie said. A commemorative hill climb was held in 1925. The modern incarnation has been held periodically for the past 50 years and run every 5 years since 2000. Scheduled for 2020, the event was postponed due to the pandemic.

“It is a great piece of Long Island automotive history,” said Howard Kroplick, of East Hills, who is returning for his third Port Jefferson hill climb, having participated in 2010 and 2015. This year, Kroplick will be driving the “Black Beast,” a restored racecar that won the 1909 and 1910 Vanderbilt Cup races and was in the first Indy 500.

“The hill climb has a kind of a legacy about the beginnings of automotive history, not only on Long Island but throughout the United States. We respect history by participating in this event. Also, it’s a lot of fun. It gives [drivers and spectators] the opportunity to utilize these cars and see them in action; most car shows are really stationary,” added Kroplick. 

Sponsored by the Port Jefferson Conservancy, East End Shirt Company, Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry, Blacktop Yacht Club and the Village of Port Jefferson, the Port Jefferson Hill Climb is free to the public with a rain date of Aug. 21. For more information, please call 631-965-0797.

Please note: Parking at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson is reserved for the hill climb’s participants; other public lots are available to spectators.