The Six-Decade Restoration of a Historic Bowling Alley
The 1894 Recreation Pavilion at Lyndhurst houses the two oldest regulation-sized bowling lanes in the world. Helen Gould, daughter of railroad magnate and former Lyndhurst owner Jay Gould, commissioned what we now refer to as the Bowling Alley two years after her father’s death. Built in shingle style and balloon framed, with miles and miles of shellacked Douglas fir beadboard on the interior, the structure had indoor plumbing, but no electricity (until the 1940s). Juxtaposed with the 1838 Gothic Revival Lyndhurst mansion by A. J. Davis, the Bowling Alley was considered modern architecture in its time. The space was meant for casual recreation, bowling then being one of the only sports that men and women participated in together.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation took over the estate in 1961; by then the Bowling Alley had seen little use for decades. Attempts at stabilizing the roof failed, and water damage and rot set in. The rear gallery and stairs collapsed, and so the building had to be surrounded by fencing and barbed wire to prevent unauthorized entry. Through the 1980s, multiple proposals for its adaptive reuse as a restaurant or music venue, as well as some for its demolition, came and went due to lack of funding. In the early 1990s, funding was found to restore the structure and reconstruct its collapsed sections. Under the skilled guidance of Lyndhurst director Suzanne Pandich and restoration project manager David Overholt, the Bowling Alley once again took shape.