Friday, April 20, 2018

William Flloyd Estate


Richard Floyd, first appeared in American records in the late 1660s as a leading landowner on the North Shore of Long Island, first in Huntington, then in Setauket.

A half-century later, in 1718, his son Richard Floyd II (1665-1738), bought over 4,400 acres of property from William "Tangier" Smith of the Manor of Saint George. The property stretched six miles north from Moriches Bay and approximately one mile west from the Mastic or Forge River. It included use rights for the Great South Beach on what is now Fire Island. Richard Floyd II gave this property to his youngest son, Nicoll Floyd.

The first Floyd to live on the estate, Nicoll Floyd built the first portion of the "Old Mastic House" in 1724, constructing a two-story, six-room shingled wood frame house. He developed the land into a prosperous plantation, using both slave and free laborers to raise grain, flax, sheep, and cattle. Nicoll Floyd expanded the home as his wealth and his family grew. Nicoll Floyd's oldest son, William Floyd inherited the property in 1755 at the age of 20.

General William Flloyd was born in Mastic Neck on December 17, 1734. He was an officer of the Suffolk County Militia for years, and in 1775, he was a Colonel in the First Suffolk Regiment. At the end of the Revolutionary War, he received a commission as a Major General. He served a shirt term in the Provincial Assembly of New York and was delegated to the Fist Continental Congress at Philadelphia.  He became one of the signer of the Declaration of Indepedence, He was a State Senator from 1777-1783 and again from 1784-1788.

He retired, leaving his home in Mastic Neck to his children. The house was sheltered on all sides by dense wood growth. The oldest part was built around 1724. Additions were made at an early date, so the house is virtually the same as when the General lived there.

The Estate was authorized as an addition to Fire Island National Seashore in 1965.  The 25-room "Old Mastic House," the twelve outbuildings, the family cemetery and the 613 acres of forest, fields, marsh and trails all graphically illuminate the layers of history.

Sources:

Eberlin, Harold Donaldson. Manor Houses and Historic Homes of Long Island and Staten Island.   Ira J. Friedman, Inc., 1966.

“Historic William Floyd Estate Grounds.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/fiis/learn/historyculture/floyd-estate-grounds.htm

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Big Duck


The Big Duck, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, overlooks Reeves Bay in Flanders, Long Island, New York. The vision of Long Island duck farmer Martin Maurer, The Bog Duck was designed by Broadway set designers, the Collins Brothers, and crafted by locals George Reeve, John Smith, and Merlin Yeager in 1931. A live duck, attached to the porch of the Maurer’s home, was used as a model and Reeve used the skeleton of a cooked chicken to study how the interior architecture should be constructed.

The Big Duck was built in Riverhead as a shop to sell ducks and eggs. It was then moved to the Maurer Duck Farm in Flanders in 1936, where it remained for 52 years. In 1988, Kia and Pouran Eshghi, who had hoped to build condominiums on the property, purchased the land and the duck was quickly moved to the Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays. In October 2007, the Big Duck returned to its former home of Flanders.  When the Big Duck moved from its home in Hampton Bays, it left behind a 125-pound cement egg in its nest – an old storage cellar covered with straw. The Big Duck’s big egg was made by Ronkonkoma sculptor Dick Fleig.

The bird stands 20 feet tall, and is 30 feet long and 18 feet wide. It weighs 20,000 pounds. Cement covers the duck’s wood and wire frame. The bird is painted white, save for its bright orange beak. Model-T Ford taillights were used for the duck’s eyes.

Roadside architecture designed to promote what is sold inside is now commonly known as "Duck Architecture", in honor of the whimsical grand-daddy of them all. The architectural term “duck” is used to describe buildings that are shaped after the object to which they relate. It was coined by architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

Supermodel Christie Brinkley, recorded a 2-minute recording detailing some of the history of the duck in 1991.

Sources:


Uda, Rachel. “85 Years of Long Island's Big Duck.” Newsday, Newsday, 2 Sept. 2016, www.newsday.com/long-island/long-island-landmark-the-big-duck-turns-85-this-year-1.12253590.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cast Iron Eagles of Grand Central Terminal

The eagles were mounted in 1898. It is unknown how many eagles there originally were nor who sculpted them. Each eagle has a fourteen-foot wingspan and weighs a ton and a half. They were removed in 1910 when the building was razed to make room for the present-day Grand Central Terminal. The eagles were moved the various places:

Two eagles ended in Mount Vernon.  One was sold to Daily News photographer David McLane in 1966 and the other was removed to an unknown location. The rest of the eagles are placed as follows:

Capuchin Seminary in Garrison, NY, overlooking the Hudson River

St. Basil’s Academy in Cold Spring, NY houses two eagles

The Vanderbilt Museum in Northport, NY houses two eagles at its entrance

A house in Bronxville, NY

A private estate in Kings Point, NY

The Philipse Manor-North Tarrytown Railroad Station, NY

David McLane wanted the eagle he purchased to be placed in a location where it could be seen and enjoyed by the public. In 1985, the town of Shandaken, NY adopted the eagle. There was a dedication ceremony for the newly restored eagle on August 23, 1986. McLane went to great lengths to research the eagles history. He contacted museums, libraries, and organizations, but never solved the mystery behind who created the Eagles.

On March 23, 1997, the Westchester Gannet Newspapers published a story about the Bronxville eagle. The writer mentioned there may have been eleven original eagles. It seemed the eleventh eagle may be located right in Tarrytown. The owner of the property of the time. John Daniell Jr.  When he died, the property was sold to John Perry. After further investigation, this specific eagle was not a Grand Central Station eagle.

The Bronxville eagle was moved from its home and installed at the Lexington Avenue entrance to Grand Central Terminal in 1998. The Garrison eagle was also moved and was installed above the terminal’s southwest entrance at 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

Sources:

Morrison, David D. The Cast Iron Eagles of Grand Central Station. Cannonball Publications, 1998.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Brief History of the Creation of Nassau County


The idea of a Greater New York had been considered since the 1840s. Manhattan and Brooklyn, then locked in civic rivalry, had little interest in adopting the expenses of rural parts of Queens. And those rural areas had long since made their animosity toward the cities known. The map of the proposed Greater New York that came out of the Legislature in 1894 embraced only the western towns of Queens, with just a small wedge of western Hempstead, including Inwood, Lawrence, Bellerose, Elmont and all of the Rockaways. North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and the rest of Hempstead were excluded from the vote.

A Republican boss, Thomas C. Platt, pushed a consolidation bill through the Legislature in the spring of 1896, and Governor Levi P. Morton, also a Republican, signed it in May. New York, as it is now known, would come into existence on Jan. 1, 1898.

What was left was a strange political creature, unique in the country, and on untested constitutional ground. A Board of Supervisors still ruled all of Queens, but could not levy taxes on the part that was in New York City. And that was the part that held the majority of votes on the board.

A tax revolt brewed. On Dec. 17, 1897, a group of the old secessionists gathered to form the Tax-Payers' Non-partisan Association of Queens county. Among them were Hicks and former Assemblyman James Pearsall, who had pushed the secession bill of 1876 and lost. A relative newcomer, P. Halstead Scudder, descendant of the Scudder family of Northport, made a lengthy speech that earned him a leadership position next to Hicks, some 30 years his elder.

The possibility of annexation to Greater New York was quickly dismissed. Another idea of creating a new county by combining Queens County’s eastern towns with different towns of western Suffolk seemed unlikely to happen. He rejected all except that of forming Nassau only from the non-city remnants of Queens. Charles E. Shepard, the editor of the "Long Islander," in Huntington, tried to convince delegates to include his hometown, but others prevailed, among them Pearsall, who had seen his bill go down in flames 20 years earlier. A north Hempstead resident favored annexation to Suffolk while another wanted to join New York City. James Ludlam of Oyster Bay offered a motion that it would be the best interest of the citizens of Hempstead, North Hempstead, and Oyster Bay to withdraw from the county of Queens.

J.B. Coles Tappan of Oyster Bay offered the resolution to create Nassau, which passed. The delegates chose Halstead to head a contingent to Albany. It would bring him face to face in opposition to his younger brother, Townsend Scudder, a Democrat and hired counsel for the Queens Board of Supervisors, which was dead-set against dividing their county.

Assemblyman George Wallace -- former editor of the Southside Observer in Rockville Centre -- introduced the county bill on Feb. 17, 1898. It passed the Assembly and Senate the following month.
On April 27, a large delegation went to see Republican Governor Frank S. Black, who allotted very little time for discussion. Black was a friend of Hicks.

Hicks waited patiently as Townsend Scudder took most of the allotted time. Townsend began by saying the Board of Supervisors of the more-populous part of the county did not want the division, that it would be expensive, and that the new county would have no public property except Barnum Island off the South Shore -- worth about $25,000. He argued that with the nation at war -- Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were fighting the Spanish in Cuba -- it was an inopportune time to create a new county.

When Townsend finished, Hicks politely assured the governor that the Republican taxpayers of the eastern towns favored the measure. Black signed the bill into law and Nassau County would be created as of January 1, 1899. At the first meeting of the new Board of Supervisors, the truck house of the Mineola Hook & Ladder Company was chosen as the temporary house of the county court. The colors of orange and blue were adopted for use in the official flag. The seal chosen was a crest with the golden rampant lion of the House of Nassau on an azure blue field, encircled by seven gold bars.

The first order of business for the new board included erecting a much-contested courthouse, on land owned by A.T. Stewart's Garden City Co. On July 13, 1900, a slim Theodore Roosevelt, the Republican governor of New York, and recently named vice presidential candidate, stepped to the podium at Mineola to lay the cornerstone of the new courthouse.



Sources:

“Philemon Halstead Scudder.” Philemon Halstead Scudder b. 22 Jul 1861 Oyster Bay, Queens,  New York d. 3 Apr 1909 New York: Scudder Association, tng.scudder.org/getperson.php?personID=I16700&tree=tree1.

Smits, Edward J. Nassau Suburbia, U.S.A.: The First Seventy-Five Years of Nassau County, New York 1899 to 1974. Doubleday & Company, 1974.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Haunted Houses: Williams House, Old Bethpage Restoration Village

Williams House was built in the 1820s. It is the home of Henry Williams, a farmer and carpenter. Different things have been experience by staff members at the restoration. Sometimes footsteps are heard or movement of furniture upstairs. A cleaning lady picked up a small toy teacup and heard a voice say, “Please put down my teacup.” One staff member was talking to visitors by the front door. She noticed a frame on top of the fireplace, but when she turned around, the frame was next to the doorway in the sitting room.

Interpreters are responsible for taking care of the house they are assigned to. One was scolded for leaving the iron in the parlor, but she insisted she did not put it there. There is also a window that refused to stay open for an interpreter working in the kitchen. It seems something at the House doesn’t appreciate doors and windows being propped open. A staff member told of a story how she had to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving in the kitchen. She tried to prop the kitchen door open to get a breeze. She braced it with a long pole and sat down. She barely got settled in when the pole hit her on the head.

A staff member was doing spinning work and kept hearing noises coming from upstairs. She thought it was another staff member, but saw her across the way. She went over to the other staff member and they searched the house. When they reached an upstairs room, they found a chest full of fabric that had come open. Fabric was strewn all over the room.

One hot afternoon, two interpreters were working the Williams House, and opened a window to let in the breeze, which is often quite nice there. They went back to their sewing, which is their charge at Old Bethpage, when they heard the window slam shut. One opened it again, this time propping it up with a stick, which is typically used to lock the windows, by jamming it into the top of the window. They left the room, only to hear the window shut again. Coming back into the room, they found the stick lain on the sewing table. A third time they opened the window, once again propped it open and once again left the room. The window slammed closed again, and this time the stick was found far from the house in the garden, by a child visiting the park.

A woman working said she saw a man walking up and down the hallway – the same man that was in a photo in the house.  He was not dressed up in the picture, but looked like he had been walking in the fields.  Everyone else in the photo was dressed more formally.  One day in February, she was cleaning and the maintenance man came down from upstairs.  She was telling him some stories and showing pictures.  A recorder was on at the time.  When she held the picture, a voice said, “Oh Johnny, handsome, O John,” in a mocking fashion.  Boxes also have moved to different spots upstairs.  One time the faucet sounded like it was running and when they went to turn it off, it had already stopped.  A different voice has said to girls who volunteer, “Get out!” 

Sources:

Carter, Nance. "Old Bethpage Village Restoration is haunted." Thetripwitch.com. January 10, 2017. http://thetripwitch.com/old-bethpage-village-restoration-is-haunted/.

Gothiccurios, et al. “The Ghosts of Old Bethpage Village Restoration.” A Gothic Cabinet of Curiosities and Mysteries, 28 Sept. 2017, www.gothichorrorstories.com/new-york/the-ghosts-of-old-bethpage-village-restoration/.

Leita, John. Long Island Oddities: Curious Locales, Unusual Occurrences, and Unlikely Urban Adventures. The History Press, 2013


Friday, February 2, 2018

Nassau County Sanitarium



In 1914, a referendum was held to build a county tuberculosis hospital. The vote narrowly passed. Around 1917, the County purchased the Keil farm and part of the Taliaferro Estate near Round Swamp Road. A “preventorium” for children opened on the grounds in 1927. The Nassau County Sanitarium opened in the early 1930’s. In 1965, the site, which featured 26 separate buildings, became Nassau Hospital for Pulmonary Diseases. It was later named Plainview Division of Nassau County Medical Center.

The first superintendent was Dr. J. Davis. In 1936, Dr. James C. Wash became the Superintendent. Dr. Walsh had been stricken with tuberculosis and decided to make the campaign against it his life’s work. He retired from his position in June, 1951.

Richard Thornville, a member of the Peace Corps, contracted tuberculosis while serving in Ghana. When he was placed in the sanitarium, he noted the rooms were divided by race. He wrote a letter to the NAACP, and as a result, the county stopped segregating.

Following its closure, the facility was given over to mixed use, including the establishment of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in 1976, and a branch of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. In 1999, Charles Wang, founder of Computer Associates purchased the 144-acre property from the county for $23 million. Included in the purchase was 1535 Old Country Road, which now houses the corporate offices of the New York Islanders and New York Dragons, both of which are owned by Wang. In addition, the building is home to the Wang-created, Plainview Chinese Cultural Center. Wang had planned to create a mixed-use development, but public outcry forced him to withdraw the plans in 2007. As of 2017, a 750 condominium residence is being planned for the space.

Sources:

Carr, Thomas. Plainview-Old Bethpage. Arcadia Publishing, 2017

Leita, John. Long Island Oddities: Curious Locales, Unusual Occurrences, and Unlikely Urban Adventures. The History Press, 2013

“Old Bethpage, New York.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Jan. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Bethpage,_New_York

Special to The New,York Times. "Nassau Sanitarium Stops Segregation." New York Times (1923-Current file), Oct 29, 1961, pp. 67, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/115286225?accountid=37884

Monday, January 22, 2018

Camp Hero, Montauk

The eastern tip of Long Island has always had military significance, even in the days of the American Revolution. In 1776, the Battle of Long Island proved that the tip of the island was a vulnerable spot. When Montauk Lighthouse was first authorized in 1792, part of its mission was to keep a lookout for British ships sailing for New York or Boston, and as such was the first military installation at Montauk.

In World War II, with German U-boats threatening the East Coast and Long Island, Montauk was considered a likely invasion point. The US Army upgraded Fort Hero, and renamed it Camp Hero in 1942. The whole facility, with U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard constituents, was officially known as the "US Military Reservation", but the locals just called it "Camp Hero". The fort was named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr., who was the Army's Chief of Coast Artillery between 1926 and 1930. When World War II ended, the base was temporarily shut down and used as a training facility by the Army Reserves. The naval facilities were largely abandoned.

In the 1950's the Army gave over the western portion of the military reservation to the 773rd Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. During this time the military reservation was run jointly by the Army and the Air Force.

In 1952, the 773rd was transferred to the 26th Air Division and operated as an Air Defense Direction Center and in November 1957, the Army closed the Camp Hero portion. In 1958 a SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) radar system was installed and the facility was merged into the national air defense network. The site was also a major part of the NORAD defense system.

The unit was renamed the 773rd Radar Squadron (SAGE) in 1963 and officially shut down on July 1, 1980. The antenna was "abandoned in place", with its controlling motors and electronics removed, allowing it to move with the wind to prevent it being torn off its base in a storm. A GATR (Ground Air Transmitter Receiver) facility remained in service to direct military aircraft operating within the region but was deactivated in 1984.

Barracks, laboratories and other buildings on the base were all built to resemble a small fishing village. The base has long been associated with a number of conspiracies, the most famous being the Philadelphia Experiment, in which the USS Eldridge was supposedly rendered invisible. The base has also been implicated in conspiracies involving time travel, the Men in Black, Martians, and Nikola Tesla.

The area is now a state park encompassing 415 acres of diverse landscape, with “heavily wooded areas, a long expanse of beachfront along the Atlantic Ocean, and an historic military installation.”

Sources:

“Camp Hero.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 24 May 2009, www.atlasobscura.com/places/camp-hero

“Montauk Point, NY.” Camp Hero, www.camphero.net