Last post, I wrote about finding the history of Starin’s Glen Island. The stories Glen Island keeps hidden though go far beyond the theme park. On the foundation of the resort’s old Grand Café rose the Glen Island Casino and dining hall. In 1930, with prohibition having survived a decade, the Glen Island Casino was a well-known speakeasy. However, the music that played throughout the Casino was what drew people in. Star musicians, such as “Ozzie” Nelson, Les Brown, and Glenn Miller, all got their starts at the Glen Island Casino. My own grandmother describes going out to the Glen Island Casino as a great affair—people dressed to the nines to come here. And the place had its fair share of drama, such as with the story of the Dorsey Brothers. Like many of the big bands of the 1930s, they got their start performing a gig at Glen Island. However, their orchestra also ended here, after the two brothers got into a huge fight about the tempo for a song during a performance.
The Casino closed in 1978 but reopened a few years later as a Restaurant.
Unlike Starin’s park, the Casino has been better preserved. The restaurant that once took its place has come and gone, now being replaced by a catering hall. Apparently, the second floor has preserved the space where the big bands of the 1930s and 1940s once performed.
Unfortunately, you can only enter what is now called the Glen Island Harbour Club if they are there for an event. From afar, the place now has a very 80s-feel to it. It was hard to believe that this was the site of a music boom in the 1940s.
Luckily, the music that once echoed throughout the building has been preserved! The Glenn Miller Orchestra, one of the most famous groups that performed here, recorded an album in 1939 entitled “Live at Glen Island Casino,” which you can listen to here.
Glen Island had two stories waiting to be heard. This small island now simply used for family picnics is where the theme park was born. It was where music careers were started. It was where Westchester County became an attraction. The signs of this still stand in the castles and stone structures, in the stage at the restaurant, in the statues that seem slightly out of place. It just needs to be uncovered. So here is my uncovering of Glen Island—go visit and uncover it for yourself.