Sandmining in Port Washington

The sandbanks of Port Washington are more than 20,000 years old, originating when the final glacier left behind mounds of glacial sand and gravel. Since the 1880's it has been estimated that over 140 million yards of sand were delivered from Port Washington to New York City; enough sand to cover the Empire State Building with sand extending from the East River to the Hudson River and from 14th Street to 59th Street. The sand, known as Cow Bay Sand, was of particularly fine quality and was used to construct the sidewalks, skyscaparers, water tunnels and infrastructure of New York City. It is estimated that 90 percent of the concrete used the the city was from Port Washington sand. During the 20th century at least 50 barges in Hempstead Harbor would carry thousands of yard of sand and gravel daily. The remains of some 70 barges were removed in the 1990's. The last sand mining company that operated these sandbanks ceased operation in 1989.

Sandmining in Soundview:

It’s 1959 and you are in a small plane, taking pictures of the property that is about to become developed into Soundview.  For many decades, this area has been mined for the fine quality of its sand.  This "Cow Bay Sand" was sent directly to New York City by the barge load, 6 days per week.

1. The Millpond is at the bottom of the picture, with the landmark restaurant Guildo’s (now The Wreck) at the left end of the pond. The Dodge Homestead is barely visible through the trees on the right end of the pond. Slightly above the pond on the left side you can clearly see the Lewis Oil tanks, which were taken down to create the Stop & Shop complex.

2. Sousa School, built just a few years earlier, can be seen on the far side of Cow Neck Road, the northern border of the sand mining operation. If you have ever run in the Thanksgiving Day Run (the “turkey trot”) then you’ve run up this road. The original four model homes for Soundview can be seen just above the number 10.

3. In the lower right corner is the Port Washington Water District.

4. Land’s End, where F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have stayed, and partied, and observed the local elite while he wrote portions of The Great Gatsby.

5. Execution Lighthouse.

6. The RCA radio towers, at the top of what became Radcliffe Avenue. The complete story of these towers, and the development of Soundview, was recently chronicled by George Williams in the journal of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society.

7. Sands Point Park & Preserve’s, still known to many locals as the Guggenheim Estate. Clearly visible is Hempstead House, built by for Gould, purchased by Guggenheim, this 200 acre property can be wandered 7 days per week (no bikes or pets though!)

8. Sheet’s Creek inlet, where three sand barges can clearly be seen. Sand was mined from the Soundview area for many decades, providing “Cow Bay Sand” for the building of the sidewalks, the skyscrapers and the subways of Manhattan.

9. Just above the number is Manorhaven Blvd.

10. The central portion of the Soundview sandmining area, you can see the dark angular line which is the conveyor belt. The cliffs at the back right side of the area border the Sand Point Golf Course (to this day) which can be see above the top of the points of the RCA towers. Note the far border of the golf course, which is Middle Neck Road and the Guggenheim Estate beyond.

11. The southern end of the sandmining area, bordering Pleasant Avenue. The structure just below the #11 is the current home of Happy Montessouri School. To the right, where the sand mine workers loaded sand onto the conveyor belt, is the area currently developed as Mill Pond Acres.

If you would like a high quality copy print made of this photograph, please make a tax deductible donation to the organization that is creating a monument to the sandminers of Port Washington. Email or call Glen Andersen at 883-8547 for more information. (Photograph courtesy of Thomas Airviews)


Sandminers Monument Inc.