Photo of the Week


“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

Patchogue Wheelmen Officers and Bicycle Racing Team, 1896: George Furman, Nate Roe, H. K. Roe, Clarence Ruland, James Rogers, Fred Flugrath, H. C.Dare. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library & Archive. Image copyright (c) Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Around the turn of the century, the so-called “Century Run” was a 100-mile roundtrip on a bicycle, usually starting in Brooklyn or New York City, going east to Patchogue, and then back to the city. A small number of very devoted cyclists doubled the mileage of the Century Runs, traveling from the city to Montauk Point, but that route was rough, in part because the roads east of Amagansett were mere ruts in the sand. Organized by bicycle clubs and Wheelman Clubs, Century Runs flourished from the late 1800s until about 1920.

The LIRR catered to the Century Runs, particularly for bikers who could not complete the entire hundred-mile roundtrip. On a Sunday in 1897 almost 12,000 bicycles were counted passing through Jamaica, and in 1888, the LIRR carried 176,000 bikes. The westbound train from Patchogue was the so-called “Bike Train.” Train cars were fitted with three rows of hooks fastened to the ceilings–40 hooks in a row and each hook was covered with a rubber sleeve. The front wheels of the bicycles were hung over the hooks. There was no charge for transporting bicycles on the LIRR because NY Governor Levi P. Morgan (1895-1896) had signed legislation requiring rail roads to carry bikes for free.

The furnishing of food and drink for the hordes in the Century Runs gave rise to prosperous businesses along the routes. For a small fee, the refreshment stands soon added additional bicycle paths through farms and woodlands and along streams. Suffolk County, for its part, only allowed bicycles on the side roads and paths if they paid a fifty-cent toll, good for one season. One of the regular watering spots was at the Vanderbilt Well in Oakdale, which originally stood at the entrance to Idle Hour.

Roe’s Hotel in Patchogue was the turning-around point of the Century Runs. The bicycle clubs usually let the hotel know how many members to expect for lunch. Roe’s served the bicyclists outdoors at long tables beneath the shade of grape arbors and trellises. Cyclists planning to peddle the 50 miles back home ate sparingly, but those returning via the Bike Train could partake as much food as they desired at what must’ve been a lovely setting for lunch at Roe’s in Patchogue.

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian



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