May I Introduce


On every trip I have made back to Long Island for this project, I have always visited the Register Of Deeds at least once sometimes twice. Each time there I have found a wealth of information, I would of never known about any other way. The very first discovery in 2001 was made by a very old and dear friend who taught me how to research there. She came up with the 1894 lease of Carmens River to Joseph P. Knapp from the Tangier Smith heirs and I was off an running. On my own first visit I found the purchase of the Lawrence Estate in Mastic Beach which the Knapps bought in 1916 and sold off in 1938-41, to how St. Judes church got the Knapp mansion in 1950. Return trips yielded the 1835 deed of the Tangier Smith, Revolutionary war confiscated "Pattersquas" Estate of Richard Floyd and even the 1940 deed to my very own childhood home. Each document had actions by and names and addresses of characters who would prove to be central to the big picture.

After the second trip in 2002, I took some kind of inventory for fun and I think I had something like 150 + deeds and several file maps for the various sections of Mastic Beach as they were added all around Knapp's estate. After I discovered the ease and economy of using a digital camera instead of dropping a quarter in the county's GOD AWFUL and unreliable copy machines, my deed inventory has probably doubled. To add insult to bad copies I had to deal with back then, I read that one of the Suffolk County Legislators got indicted for stealing $100,000.00 worth of quarters from those lousy machines. Well I hope he had a big time with my 50 bucks.

This last time out (August 04) I didn't really have it on my front burner to go there, but more as a filler if something else didn't pan out. The main reason I did go there this time was to try and find exactly where the Knapps lived in Bellport where they resided part time from 1890's - 1912. I never did find anything substantial other than Claire A. Knapp's name on the purchase deed she had to the Greenlawn estate they aquired in January of 1912. It lists her address as Village of Bellport, NY.

For as prominent as the Knapps were in the Bellport society of the day...the best location of their home I have found so far is, the 1910 Census report that lists them on South Country Road near the Col. William H. Langley "Old Kentuck" estate. (They are the next entry) "Old Kentuck" which was leveled for a housing development after WWII was diagonally across the road from the J. L. B. Mott Estate. The fact that J. P. Knapp and the Motts were friends and partners in the building of the Bellport golf and yacht clubs could of placed Knapp on the south side of South Country Road across from Mott's estate which is now the Gateway Playhouse Theatre. If so there is a large tudor home there that the could of been the Knapp home then. The current owner is not sure of exactly when it was built, but he thinks it was around 1910... which would of had the Knapps as possibly renters of it. The absence of my finding any property transactions by them in Bellport seems to point that way....but that's another moot point.... at least it's not a Smith Point ( The Tangier Smiths seemed to have thought they owned 1/2 of Long Island)

Great Big Old Tudor on South Country Road , Bellport 2004

Did The Knapps Live Here circa 1910-12 ? ....possibly...possibly not

Anyway it was going to be a short day for me at the Register of Deeds until I went out to my car and discovered I had locked myself out. Now being in Riverhead and the spare keys being in Shirley (about 20 miles away) with no one home at the Tangier Vitellaro residence there to bring them forth, I knew I was going to have a little time to back inside I went... (the Security guards who had already checked me out let me pass without too much scrutiny the second time) and it was time well spent. I found a bunch of new old stuff. But the real gem in the package for me this day was what I would like to call and they called in 1929.



Is A is for Aspen Road ?


Hold on there Magellen, This is no ordinary map and the document to which it is part of, is quite revealing in several aspects as you will soon see. Way back in 2001 when Estelle Schulz nee Parr, told me stories about the Knapp estate and her fathers dealings with Dodi Knapp. you may recall she mentioned more than once that Mastic Beach in the 1930's was divided into two towns and the main drag Neighborhood Road was blocked off at the borders of Knapps property. That of course was backed up by the reports of the Memorial Day Parade routes havin to going up and around the Knapp estate to get across town.

Go West Young Men

Well the developers of Mastic Beach, the Smadbeck Brothers (aka Home Gaurdian Co.) were no fools when it came to real estate dealings. They knew the first rule of real estate location, location, location and they also knew you needed direct access routes to get to your location , location, location or if not all you had was butkus. butkus, butkus! Like the deal they struck in 1926 with August Floyd to build Mastic Beach road across his estate to get to their tiny waterfont town they were carving out of the J. B. Lawrence estate.(Sections One & Two) they now needed a route to go west to get to their newly aquired section three , and future sections four & five they were in the process of aquiring. To do that they would have to deal with


One of the earliest deeds I found involving Joseph F. Knapp in Mastic Beach other than his purchasing the J. S. Lawrence estate from Frank & Louise Lawrence in 1916 was his aquiring some 30 odd lots from Home Guardian Co. in 1929. My original assumption was he did that to build a little extra buffer on his western border where his own Knapp Road headed south easterly off of Mastic Road right to the back door of his mansion. My assumption was based on the fact that now Home Guardian was starting to develop there in Section Three and Dodi wanted more privacy. Never Assume Grasshopper! ......this document tells a different tale and a legal one to boot.

Now the Neighborhood trail as it was known in the colonial days was a 18th century east west dirt path wide enough for a horse and wagon that led from the Smith's 10,000 acre Manor of St. George on the west side of Mastik Neck to William Floyd and relatives Nathanial Woodhull estates on the east. In the 19th century it got a few branches added on to it as the 4400 acre Floyd estate was divided among other family members like the Lawrences , Nichols and C. J. Smith but basically it was all in the family and the west part of the road remained the "Neighborhood Trail" and the east part " Birch Road ". It remained this way when Knapp bought his estate in 1916 and there was no traffic other than estate workers coming and going or estate owners visiting one another.

Now as much as the Smadbecks loved to tout their new town as selling like hotcakes, the fact is it really wasn't in the late 1920's but it was growing some with offers and terms no one could refuse. By 1929 there were around 12 year round families in Mastic Beach and most of them were involved as caretakers of the estates. At first I guess Dodi didn't care about the occasional new town or old town summer resident or real estate salesman driving across his property. He was only a part time resident himself retiring at age 37 in 1929 to a life of supreme luxury, leisure and adventure. But within two years (1928 ) there was an agreement about restricting access across his land, with Home Guardian who was already thinking about utilities like telephone & electricity running across the two towns. This document amends that 1928 agreement .

It also is the first legal introduction to the first Mrs. Joseph F. Knapp aka Gertrude O'Brien Knapp who the Social Register of 1936 does not have listed as ever being married to Dodi until their 1936 issue and at that they have him marrying her in 1935. That would most likely be his second wife Marion Hurd Murdock of Southhaven, NY ( just west of Mastic ) whom he married in 1935. I still don't know exactly when (around 1925-26) or where he married Gertrude O'Brien or who she was (possibly a duaghter or niece of Supreme Court Judge Morgan J. O'Brien who was a chrony of Dodi's dad J. P. Knapp) OR exactly what happened to that marriage. Gertrude first appears in print as G. Knapp and winning speedboat races with the Great South Bay Yacht Racing Association in Dodi's Sea Sled "Miss Demure" in August of 1926. Most other references to Dodi's wife in the late 20's early 30's other than the 1930 census are in newspapers where she is listed as Mrs. Joseph F. Knapp of Mastic or New York City or Isle Of Palms , Fort Lauderdale, Florida etc. So now that we have the NY Social Register straightened out ... look for a correction in the 2005 edition!!! ( a little joke ) Dear readers : I only tell you all these tid bits so perhaps someone else can appreciate what it takes to piece together Dodi's Story or any Knapp story for that matter..... Like my intro on the main menu says...The Knapps are the LOWEST PROFILE, highest society family to ever come down the pike.

And with that said may it now please the court if introduce the remainder of the document known as Exhibit A .... if you read it then the rest of the story is "perfectly clear" (as old Dick Nixon used to say)

The Address Dodi is using here 52 E 19th ST is the American Lithographic Building

The Connection Of Aspen Road ..........Clarence Penney .... Grab Your Plow Sir!

for there is more work to be done at the Knapps. But who will you get to help you now that your brother Willis has left the scene?
perhaps your son Lloyd or the Hulse boys?

And take those ugly &*() Light Poles down off Neighborhood Road and put it back like it was!!

Dodi had his own power plant

And here is where Dodi got that extra land (Thirty Six Lots Total ) from

1926 File Map of part of Section Three

There They Are (Green Border) West Aspen Rd & Locust Drive

And Neighborhood Gets ABANDONED

SEPTEMBER 11, 1929

Nothing Like A Little Real Estate Transaction to help build a nest egg for your retirement. Dodi Knapp would retire in a month and you may recall there was a malfunction on Wall Street that month too.