After the Hickories: Thomas Benton Ackerson, Master Developer
Updated: Aug 24, 2022
Thomas Benton Ackerson, owner of the eponymous T. B. Ackerson Company, entered the
Roosevelt Park story in 1904. A developer of houses and industrial buildings in New York City and Long Island, Ackerson crossed the Hudson to successfully take up where William H. Curtiss had failed. Ackerson, whose 1905-1914 Fiske Terrace development in Brooklyn has recently received N.Y.C. Landmark status, was pivotal in ensuring that high standards were used in the creation of Roosevelt Park.
Ackerson's company bought a large parcel of the former Roosevelt estate from Curtiss for $116,830 on December 5, 1904. Moving quickly, Ackerson incorporated his company in New Jersey, with an office listed on Ridgewood Road. Soon after, it promoted the sale of lots, some featuring model homes.
It was a family affair: his brothers were co-owners, and his sister-in-law often acted as sales agent. Ackerson focused on the overarching layout of Roosevelt Park, planning its roads, utilities, and subdivisions and providing home designs and financing. The new homes featured the "latest" utilities (city sewer, electricity, and gas) and were eclectic in design. Area builders, including most prominently the West Orange firm Wolfe, Jilson, Douglas, acted as subcontractors.
Lot sales proceeded quickly, with house construction following episodically. By August 1908, 100 of 125 plots had been purchased by home builders or investors. Ackerson reduced his involvement in late 1909, and sold most of the remaining lots to the Wolfe firm. By January 1910 his New Jersey company was dissolved, and Ackerson's ties to Roosevelt Park ended.
Today, T.B. Ackerson’s communities like Fiske Terrace and Roosevelt Park remain highly regarded and have maintained their integrity. Brightwaters, his planned 1,700-acre community in Islip, L.I., celebrated 100 years in 2007. A plaque in that town dedicated to him says "he achieved the ideal in community development."