By Lee Landor
[Note: This article and its accompanying photos and videos originally appeared on LIHerald.com on April 21, 2011. This content is the rightful property of Richner Communications, Inc.]
“How do you feel about seeing the pony barn come down?” 14-year-old Casey Duff asked her friend in a mock video interview as the pair watched the demolition of the century-old barn at Lakewood Stables last week.
“I’m not sad,” replied her friend, 15-year-old Eva Elemson. “It’s new beginnings.”
It seemed that many of the equestrians who joined the teens at the West Hempstead facility on April 20 shared their sentiments, including Lakewood Stables’ owner, Alex Jacobson.
“Bittersweet,” Jacobson said of his feelings as he watched a big yellow backhoe demolish the barn. “It’s great to see it finally come down. It’s taken a long time to get it down, but I’m real hopeful for what’s to come.”
For more than a year, Jacobson, who purchased the stables in 2006, has been planning a complete renovation of the property to turn it into a state-of-the-art equestrian center that allows year-round use. The new facility will incorporate an indoor riding area, office and retail space and enhanced boarding for horses. “These were no habitats for horses anymore,” he said. “After a hundred years and no improvements, this was way too long in the making.”
As he watched the barn being taken apart, 74-year-old equestrian Bob Douglas grew sentimental. “It’s kind of a sad day to see this place come down — I spent my youth here,” Douglas said. “But we’re going to have a new and better barn.”
With the demolition of the pony barn, clubhouse and main barn, which housed most of the facility’s 20 horses, construction of the new buildings can finally get under way. Jacobson said he will begin erecting foundations in the coming weeks, and expects to have a new steel building up and running by summertime.
“I’ve been in construction long enough to know that there’s always delays, but we’re building a state-of-the-art facility and a lot of it’s modular construction, so it’s going to take as long as it takes,” he said. Gesturing at the barns, he added, “It took a hundred years for this, so I’m sure that it will happen sooner than later.”
For the duration of the renovation project, the horses will be kept in Hempstead Lake State Park. “We’ve set up a complete turnout area with stalls and a temporary home for these animals,” Jacobson explained. Trail rides and lessons, and after-school and summer school programs, will be postponed until the new facility is completed, but Lakewood Stables will continue boarding horses at the temporary state park setup.
Some avid riders, like Douglas — who saddles up his 25-year-old Appaloosa, Cheyenne, as often as twice a week — can’t wait for the stables to get back to business so they can get back to riding. “I’ve been riding here since 1952 [as] a 15-year-old boy … and I still have a horse here,” he said. “There’s a lot of nice people here. This is a family atmosphere. We all ride together on Sundays — it’s a lot of fun.”
During a 15-minute break between the demolition of the clubhouse and the main barn, Douglas, a Franklin Square resident whose 7-year-old grandson takes riding lessons at the stables, walked across the property, surveying the debris. “There’s a lot of memories in this place,” he said. “Sometimes older is better than newer, but the atmosphere is still going to be here, so no problem.