The Long Beach Hotel, and the early development of the island, was the brainchild of Austin Corbin, who formed a partnership with the Long Island Railroad to bring the tracks into Long Beach from Lynbrook. Prior to this time, the island was virtually uninhabited, save for fisherman and the lifesaving stations which were built around 1849. The first passenger train to Long Beach ran in May of 1880, the same year Corbin opened the Long Beach Hotel. At the time, this 1100 foot long wooden structure, with it's 27 cottages, was the largest hotel in the world. By the spring of 1881, railroad tracks were laid the entire length of the island to Point Lookout. Winter storms repeatedly washed out the tracks over the next few years and they were removed in 1894. Corbin's development venture eventually failed about 1906, which is when William Reynolds entered the picture and successfully began the transformation into the Long Beach we now know.
The Long Beach Hotel was a playground for the rich, famous and monied crowd from New York who came to the beach to escape the summer heat. But for all it's glitz and glitter, it utlimately succumbed to a fire which burned it to the ground on July 29, 1907. There was no organized fire department in the town at that time. The Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department was formed a few years later, in 1910. About eight hundred guests escaped the inferno, five persons were injured, but there was no fatality. The fire destroyed the Congregational Chapel east of the hotel, cottage No. 1 and the servants' quarters. The other cottages and buildings on the beach were saved by the Rockville Centre Fire Department, which arrived after the hotel had burned. They had an old-fashioned hand pump and they had to stretch a line of hose nine hundred feet to pump water from the ocean.
A large part of the boardwalk was burned, and the rest of it would have gone with it if the firemen had not torn up stretches of it to arrest the flames. When the fire broke out, the guests and servants of the hotel apparently were sleeping. Every room was occupied, for the night was the best of the season. It was five o'clock in the morning when the fire was discovered. The guests were in a panic when awakened and many of them rushed out without clothing. Several of them were trapped on the upper floors and jumped for their lives. One woman leaped from a fourth story window to the boardwalk and sustained a fracture of the left leg.