Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hurricane of 1938

The Hurricane of 1938 began its rise on Saturday, September 17. This day brought about a range of .20” to .60” of rain that were triggered by moisture in the warm air. Sunday, September 18 continued with downpours of rain due to a cold front lighting up the warm air. Mineola’s rainfall for that day alone measured 3.10”. Monday, September 19 was no different with rain continuing and flooding basements, streets, sewers and more. The rain continued into Tuesday, September 20 where the day ended with floods and a pressure system ready to force the hurricane right onto Long Island.

Hurricane Day arrives on Wednesday, September 20 and no alerts are given to Long Island, even though computations map that it will be right on the dangerous Eastern side of the hurricane. On Long Island the day goes on with the temperatures higher than usual and not dropping below the upper 60s and no rainfall. By 1PM, the weather had taken a turn for the worst with the hurricanes outer effects had officially reached long island bringing about strong winds and heavy rain. As the hurricane progressed, the conditions worsened for Long Island and its residents. Conditions like landfall, tidal waves, flooding, and extreme winds destroyed parts of Long Island. Gusts were said to have exceeded 130 mph and actually wiped out the weather towers tracking the storms activity. Houses were swept away by tidal waves, especially on eastern Long Island. Death tolls on Long Island have risen over 50, with 28 deaths in Westhampton alone.


Brickner, Roger K. The Long Island Express: Tracking the Hurricane of 1938. Hogdins Printing Co., Inc., 1988, New York.

“Damage Caused by Storm.” The Great Hurricane of 1938, The Long Island Express,

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Long Island Motor Parkway

The Long Island Motor Parkway, (also known as the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway) is the world’s first limited-access highway. It was the brainchild of William Kissam Vanderbilt Jr. He was a car enthusiast at a time when few people owned cars. He ran Vanderbilt Cup Races beginning in 1904 were the idea for creating a smooth, safe road.

He wanted to create a seventy-mile road through central Long Island from near the Queens/Nassau border all the way to Riverhead. One of the bigger challenges was obtaining the right of way to build the parkway.

The parkway was envisioned mainly as a highway for the wealthy. The prospectus for the parkway stated, “The numerous golf, fishing, yachting, and shooting clubs will be speedily reached and can be more fully made use of by their members.”

Besides being the country’s first concrete highway, one of the other unique features was its grade separation from other roads. On June 7, 1908, the first shovelful of dirt was turned over. Work progressed at a moderate ace. In 1908, a race-car driver tested the completed portions and was able to reach sixty miles per hours on the turns and one hundred miles per hour over a straight stretch.
By the end of 1908, nine miles were complete, from Westbury to Bethpage.  The parkway extended from Westbury to Mineola and Bethpage to Dix Hills in 1909 and from Bethpage to Lake Ronkonkoma in 1910. The highway itself was a toll road, with the price originally being $2.00.

Long Island’s population increased in the years following and the Northern State Parkway was constructed in the 1930’s. It made the Long Island Motor Parkway quickly obsolete and it was sold to New York State for $80,000 in 1938.  Most of the highway was demolished over the years, but there are a number of remnants left. A major section has been preserved as a walking trail and bike path within Alley Park and Cunningham Park in Queens. The best preserved segment in Nassau County lies in Alberston/Williston Park, on either side of Willis Avenue. On the east side is an access road for parking lots and the only drivable section of the original Parkway left.

Sone of the original toll lodges still exist. Most have been converted into private homes and altered. The Garden City lodge was moved and is now the headquarters for the Garden City Chamber of Commerce.


Panchyk, Richard. Hidden History of Long Island. The History Press, 2016.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

OHEKA Castle

Otto Kahn was born in Germany and moved to America in 1893. He met his wife Addie quickly after. He took a year off work to tour Europe with her. During their year abroad, they acquired an extensive collections of paintings, statuary, and other object d’art. By the time of his death, his collection would be considered one of the finest in the United States. They settled into an estate in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1914, Kahn purchased a lot located on Fifth Avenue and Ninety-First Street in Manhattan and a 443 acre tract of land in Cold Spring Harbor. The building in Manhattan was listed in the 1919 edition of The Architectural Record. This became his legal residence for the remainder of his life.

As a lover of symbolism, he used his own initials to name his estate on Long Island, calling it OHEKA. He employed hundreds of workmen to create a man-made mountain on which to build his great home. He envisioned his home to be one of the largest, grandest, and most complete estates on the Northeastern Seaboard. He hired the architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich to construct it. 

Otto and his wife Addie both were passionate about gardening. In addition to areas for formal and informal gardens, the created a greenhouse complex, which became one of the larger private nurseries of its kind in the United States. In order to make sure the gardens didn’t overshadow the building, he hired America’s foremost landscaping architects; Olmstead Brothers of Massachusetts. The Olmstead Brothers were responsible for Central Park, the Capitol Grounds in Washington D.C., and more.

From early childhood, Kahn was an accomplished equestrian and plans were drawn up to include bridle paths that would weave through the entire estate.  A twenty-two acre sanctuary was also created for Addie. Otto also commissioned an eighteen-hole golf course to be built on the estate. It ranked as one of the finest golf course in the United States at the time.

With the involvement of America in World War I, the construction of the estate came to a complete halt in 1917. It re-started a year later. Otto and his family moved into the state in 1919. Upon driving through an Entrance Tower, an over a mile long driveway opened onto the main courtyard. The estate itself consists of three floors which included an indoor swimming pool, approximately one hundred thirty rooms, an two story high entrance room, reception hall, a library with hidden room, ballroom, dining room, sitting room, and a billiards room to name a few.

Otto Kahn died on March 29, 1934 of a massive heart attack. The state remained vacant for years until it was purchased by the Department of Sanitation of the City of New York to be used as a weekend retreat. The neighbors were horrified and the resort was quickly shut down. It was leased in 1934 as a training center for radio operators of the Merchant Marine. In 1948, the estate and 23 acres were sold to a military school as its Long Island branch. The school closed in 1978 and the estate was abandoned.

In 1983, the Castle was sold to developer Gary Melius. He began planning restoring the estate to its former glory. It opened in 1987 and is listed on the national Register for Historic Places.

King, Robert B.  Raising a Fallen Treasure: The Otto H. Kahn Home, Huntington, Long Island. Robert B. King, 1985

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bethpage - A Brief History

In 1687, Thomas Powell Sr. bought more than 15 square miles from local Native American tribes in a transaction known as the Bethpage Purchase. Powell named Bethpage because it was situated between the towns of Jericho and Jerusalem, just as the biblical town of the same name was situated. In 1699, Powell made a second purchase, the Rim of the Woods Purchase, which includes most of present-day Bethpage.

Thomas Powell’s son Richard and his wife Sarah owned and lived on a farm in Old Bethpage. Today, this is the only building that was originally located on land that is now part of the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

Rowland Pearsall was one of the first settlers who bought his farmland from the Powell family. In addition to the Pearsall family, the noted families of the late 170’s were the Bedells, Whistons, Powells, and Stymuses. Joshua Hubbs came to Bethpage with his wife in the 1800s. The Hubbs House was constructed in 1820 and his one of the oldest homes in Bethpage. The Belle family are responsible for establishing the district’s first school which was built in 1858 on the grounds of the Pearsall farm. Powell Avenue School was constructed around 1911. It was given two additional sections in 1915 and 1923.

By 1859, large numbers of people settled the land and growth continued through the rest of the 19th Century. At that time, most of the people made their living by farming. The central railroad of Long Island extended into Bethpage in 1841, an important event in the history of the town. The first statin was built near Stewart Avenue and a local post office was opened in 1857. Land speculators began to purchase large sections of land near the tracks and began building. That section was called Central Park.

Alexander McConochie could easily be called the “Land Baron of Bethpage.” He and his family controlled almost all of Central Bethpage for 40 years.  He owned property south of the LIRR between Stewart Avenue and Broadway and bought more east of Broadway and 70 acres of woodland.

The village’s first factory, Feuschel’s Pickle Works was established in the early 1880’s. About the same time, Central Park’s first hotel was built. It is still standing on Broadway, just north of the tracks.

In 1911, the Central Park Fire Company was organized and incorporated. In 912, Benjamin Yoakum purchased 1,368 acres of land and hired Deveraux Emmet to design and build an 18-hole golf course which opened in 1923. In 1931, the Long Island Park Commission purchased the Yoakum Estate and other area farms to create Bethpage State Park.

Bethpage was officially re-named from Central Park on October 1, 1936. In September 1989, the first Saturday of October was officially designated as Bethpage Day. Grumman Aircraft opened its first plant in Bethpage in 1936. It became the largest employer for Bethpage and Long Island at that time.

In 1940, the Zorn Bethpage farm was born. The Zorn family raised live chickens and sold them wholesale to various vendors. Zorn’s still stands today on Hempstead Turnpike. In 1951, William Nunley opened a 5.5 acres amusement park and restaurant. It would remain open until 1978. The renowned carousel housed there can now be found at the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City.

Hunt, Terence S. Bethpage: The Years of Development, 1840-1910. Oakdale Press, 1976.

Logerfo, John. Bethpage. Arcadia Publishing, 2015.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

56th Fighter Group Restaurant

The 56th Fighter Group Restaurant opened approximately in 1984 on the grounds of Republic Airport.  The 1917 French Style Allied Headquarters Farmhouse sat on the site where the P47 fighter aircraft was built during WWII. The restaurant was part of the Specialty Restaurants Corp. John D. Tallichet, president and chairman of the company, said his father, David C. Tallichet Jr., was a pilot who flew more than 20 missions in a B-17 over Europe in World War II, before founding his first restaurant in the late 1950s. The company has about 25 restaurants around the country.

The restaurant was named for an Army Air Forces unit that relied on P-47s, built by Republic Aviation, to achieve a high rate of air-to-air kills in World War II. The 56th was one of three P-47 groups in England, and the only one to previously train on the Thunderbolt. The 56th Fighter Group won a Distinguished Unit Citation for a series of missions flown between 20 February and 9 March 1944. The campaign opened with Operation Argument, better known as "the Big Week", a sustained attempt to destroy the Luftwaffe in the air while attacking aircraft factories with strategic bombing.

The restaurant had rustic timbered ceilings and cozy dining rooms that boasted seven fireplaces and a view of the runway of Republic Airport. It housed an extensive collection of aviation and WWII memorabilia. At one point, the restaurant offered headphones at select booths so people could listen to the air tower.

It closed down in 2012 due to issues with the lease agreement with the airport.


“56th Operations Group.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Oct. 2017,

Robinson, Pam. “56th Fighter Group Restaurant's Nod to LI.” Farmingdale, NY Patch, Patch, 21 July 2012,

Robinson, Pam. “56th Fighter Group Restaurant to Shut Down.” Farmingdale, NY Patch, Patch, 19 July 2012,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Adventureland opened in 1962 as Adventures 110 Playland. Alvin H. Cohen and Herbert Budin purchased the land in 1960, on the site of a six-acre chicken farm. The first roller coaster was an Allan Herschell Little Dipper model and was built in 1964. It’s first Crazy Caterpillar-style attraction, titled the Jolly Caterpillar, was built in August 1965. An updated version was added in 2001.

The park opened a miniature golf course in 1965. The park began its first of three incarnations of antique-car rides with the original Antique Autos in October of 1965. Its first Helicopters attraction opened the same month, which existed at the park until 1994. The Adventureland Train has circled the park since 1962 with the name Frontier Train. A ride on the train cost 25 cents at the time. The William Dentzel Carousel was introduced in 1962. Each horse, animal, and chariot was carved from wood and then hand painted. This carousel would leave the park in 1979.

The kiddie speedboats were the oldest surviving opening-day attraction. Children would “captain” their own boats on a small ride. It was removed in 2002.

In the 1970’s, Alvin Cohen doubled the park’s size from six acres to twelve. In 1972, Cohen sold the park to Willy Miller. Miller would own the park from 1977 to 1987. He brought ride expert Udo Storck and James “Chip” Cleary onboard his team. Udo introduced many new ideas and Chip’s contribution can b seen through the addition of the iconic 1313 Cemetery Way dark ride, the Bavarian Village, and Pirate’s Plaza.

The Toboggan roller coaster opened in 1973 and lasted until 1979. This ride was a fan favorite. Guests boarded caged, single-bench cars before beginning a vertical ascent up a lift hill located inside of the center tower and spiral down and around the 45 foot-tall tower itself. The Wave Swinger, one of the first of its kind brought in from Germany, opened in 1974 and is still a staple today. The original mode provided over 30 years of service. In the late 1970’s, Adventureland would premiere its first big roller coaster, the Galaxi. It featured 1,099 feet of track and reached speeds up to 31 miles per hour.

Cap’n Wild Willy’s Bumper Boats, one of Adventureland’s most beloved and most missed attractions was built in 1982. A 100,000 galloon pool was built to house the ride. In 1987, Wily Miller sold his interest of Adventureland to Tony Gentile. The brand, under the guiding vision of Chip Cleary and Udo Storck would expand to include the creation of the Splish Splash water park in Riverhead in the 1990s.

When the Galaxi was sold to a location in Brazil, the Hurricane erected in 1990. With the success of the Bavarian Village, Germantown and Western Town was added in 1997. The Venetian Double-Decker carouse was introduced to the park in 1999. In 2001, Adventure Falls Log Flume was constructed. In 2001, the Parachuter and Looping Star were both retired. In 2009, 1313 Cemetery way was removed and replaced by Ghost House.


Mercaldo, Christopher. Adventureland. Arcadia Publishing, 2014.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Slavery & the Underground Railroad on Long Island

The earliest organized opposition to slavery in the American colonies came from the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers. Between 1754 and 1776, Friends throughout the colonies strengthened their commitment to pacifism and began to denounce slavery. John Woolman, a Quaker minister, traveled throughout New York preaching that slavery was against the beliefs of the Society of Friends. He was also the first to argue that the use of goods produced by slaves was as bad as slave holding itself.  The slave population on Long Island had gown to one slave for every five settlers by 1773. In 1773, the members of the Flushing Monthly Meeting urged members not to purchase slaves. Elisa Hicks attended that meeting and reminded members that the Quaker community would disown anyone who continued to buy or sell slaves.

In 1776, the Long Island Quakers freed one hundred fifty-four slaves. By 1791, 154 slaves freedom were recorded in Queens County. The antislavery movement achieved significant momentum in 1831 with the publication of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. The formal founding of the abolitionist movement came with the inauguration of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833.

Newspaper notices for runaways began to appear as soon as newspapers became regular publications in the early 1700s. From 1750 to 1770, notices for runaways were very common and they were usually clustered in small paragraphs with a notice for a reward.

One well used route on the Underground Railroad for New York was the home of George Jackson. Jackson was born in Bethpage in 1781 and purchased a farm in White Pot (which is now Forest Hills). Small boats traveled out of Flushing Creek to Westchester County, were the connections could be made. Another stop was the home of Valentine and Abigail Hicks in Jericho, which is now the Maine Maid Inn. Between 1815 and 1865, at least five families in Jericho assisted escaped slaves to their freedom. It was a custom for slaves to come to Long Island, especially Westbury, because it contained a sizable community of freed Africans.

In 1835, twenty-seven fugitives were sent to New York from North Carolina. They were brought to Jericho under the care of Valentine Hicks. There were so many of them that Valentine decided to separate the family members into different homes until connections were made. One of these homes was the Thomas Powell farm, now located in the Old Bethpage Restoration Village. The most detailed accounts of Quaker assistance to fugitive slaves on Long Island come from the writings about the Mott family. The Sands-Willet house is reported to be a stop. The Plandome Manor estate had an ice house and was observed to have a secret escape tunnel. There are also frequent references to Motts Point as a station.

In 1878, Isaac T. Hopper settled in Philadelphia and began to develop a program for the systematic assistance of slaves escaping from the South. The clandestine nature of the Underground Railroad prevents any accurate estimate of the number of slaves who found their way to freedom. Estimates fall between 50,000 to 100,000.


Driscoll, James. Angels of Deliverance: The Underground Railroad in Queens, Long Island, and Beyond. The Queens Historical Society, 1999.

Vahey, Mary Feeney. A Hidden History: Slavery, Abolition, and the Underground Railroad in Cow Neck and on Long Island. Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, 1998.

Velsor, Kathleen G. The Underground Railroad on Long Island: Friends in Freedom. The History Press, 2013.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Liberty Products Corporation

Liberty Products was originally established as the Kirkman Engineering and Manufacturing Corporation in 1932. In 1936, the plant operations were moved to the former Sperry plant on Motor Avenue in Farmingdale. The aircraft division was established in 1938. This division fabricated wings, control surfaces, pontoons, and strut assemblies for Grumman.

In 1940, the firm became Liberty Aircraft Products Corporation. Liberty became the prime subcontractor in the East making aircraft parts for Grumman, Republic, Martin, Curtiss, Fairchild, Brewster, Vought, Skirorsky, and others.

In 1941, Liberty acquired stock control of the Autocar Company of Philadelphia. After Pearl Harbor, Liberty produced the parts for the world famous Wildcats, Hellcats, Bearcats, and Avengers planes. During the war, they were the first plant in Nassau County to subscribe one hundred percent for payroll participation of war bond purchases. Once the war ended, Liberty acquired the Highway Trailer Company of Wisconsin and the Davisbilt Company of Cincinnati. The company designed the Phillips Starting Gate for the Roosevelt Raceway.

The company changed names once again, in 1947, becoming the Liberty Products Corporation. Liberty Aircraft had its last year of independent operation in 1954. Penn-Texas acquired Liberty in 1955 and sold “certain assets” in 1958. Metal plating and fiberglass product manufacturing were carried out from 1957 to 1984.

Long Island: A History of Two Great Counties: Nassau and Suffolk. Volume III. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1949

“Penn-Texas Sells Liberty Aircraft.” New York Times. January 2, 1958

Monday, August 14, 2017

Major Thomas Jones

Major Thomas Jones was born about 1665 in Straubane, Ireland. His family was Welsh, but they lived in Ireland for some time. Major Jones served in in the Battle of the Boyne under James II.  He eventually gave up his seafaring life and settled in Warwick, Rhode Island. A prominent family, the Townsends, also lived in Warwick at the time. Thomas Townsend obtained a considerable amount of land on Long Island, including several hundred acres of land in what is now Massapequa. Thomas Jones met Thomas Towsend’s daughter Freelove and married her. On October 30, 1696, Thomas Townsend gifted Jones and Freelove a large tract of land in Massapequa.

Major Jones and his wife moved to the Fort Neck area of Massapequa. He built a home at the head of a creek on Merrick Road, near Biltmore Boulevard. The creek became known as Brick House Creek (It is now Massapequa Lake and Preserve). Thomas Jones enlarged his holdings until he had approximately 6,000 acres (Part of that land is now Jones Beach State Park). He was granted a commission of Captain in the Queens County Militia in 1702. In 1710, he was appointed Ranger General of the Island of Nassau by Governor Hunter.

Major Jones died in December 1713 and was laid to rest in a small family burial ground not far from the house. He wrote the inscription for his own headstone. It reads, “Here Lyes Interd the Body of Major Thomas Jones Who Came From Straubane In The Kingdom of Ireland Settle Here and Died December 1713. From Distant Lands To This Wild Waste He Came This Seat He Choose and Here He Fixed His Name. Long May His Sons This Peaceful Spot Injoy and No Ill Fate his Offspring Here Annoy.”

He and Freelove’s graves were moved to the graveyard at Old Grace Episcopal Church on Merrick Road. The two original tombstones mark the graves. His grave is the oldest historic object in Massapequa.

A few legends have emerged about Thomas Jones and his seafaring life. He was a privateer before settling on Long Island. Legend says that he buried some treasure near his house in Massapequa. As the story is told, he asked a young boy to guard the treasure and when the boy agreed, Jones supposedly killed the boy and threw his body upon the chest as he buried it. Residents spoke of hearing the boy’s cries in the swamp where the treasure was supposed to be laid. Legend has it that when Jones died, a big black bird flew into the room and perched upon his pillow. The bird remained in the room until Jones passed away and flew out of an oval window in the house.

After his passing, strange goings-on began to occur. The oval window which the bird flew through could not be closed and sightings of his ghost were seen entering the window and taking a walk. Jones’s sons and grandson did everything they could to close the window, to no avail. The family eventually gave up and moved out of the house for good.


Massapequa Post. An Illustrated History of Massapequa. Massapequa Publishing Co., 1968.

Panchyk, Richard. Hidden History of Long Island. History Press, 2016.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Police Commissioner Francis Looney

Francis Looney was born in the Looney farmhouse in 1916, the eighth of nine children. He attended St. Ignatius Parochial School from 1923 to 1931 and then went to Farmingdale High school from 1931 to 1935.  Francis Looney was drafted into the Army in November 1941. In 1942, he was assigned to military intelligence. Before he was drafted, Francis graduated from St. John’s Law School. He was the first Nassau County Police Officer with a law degree in the history of the department. After extensive training in counter-intelligence and espionage detection, he was ready for his first overseas assignment.

In February 1943, he was assigned to the Army Counter-Intelligence Crops in Algiers, North Africa. When he arrived, the American armies were engaged in battled with the Italian army and the German Afrika Corps. While there, he ferreted out spies and counter-intelligence agents whose activities were damaging the allied war effort.

His most exciting case was the Carla Costa affair. Carla Costa was on to the best spies in the German spy network. She was one of the most difficult spies to get information from.  She was captured enroute to Rome to gather intelligence. After five days of intensive questioning, she would not confess. She referred to her parents briefly and Francis was sent to Rome to find them. His report broke the case. It contained information from her parents and the confession of another spy, a friend of Carla’s. Upon hearing this, she gave a detailed account of German intelligence and several spies were arrested.

He was discharged in 1946 and rejoined the Nassau County Police Department. He began as a patrolman in a radio car.  By the end of his first year, he made Detective and passed the Sargent’s test a year later. .In 1948, he was made legal adviser to the Chief of Staff.  He was the Chief Inspector from 1961 to 1964.When Commissioner James J. Kelly resigned in 1964, Looney became the Commissioner. He served as Commissioner for five years. His proudest accomplishment was offering college training to all Nassau County Police Department personnel. The Police Department was the first one in the United States to require a two-year college degree for appointment and a four-year college degree for promotion.

During his time as Police Commissioner, Francis Looney recommended the creation of the Police Cade Program, created the Scientific Advisory Board, started the bi-monthly police publication Signal One, and opened a police library at the headquarters.

After his tenure, he served as Assistant to the New York City Police Department and then as Deputy Police Commissioner. In 1993, he served as a consultant advisory to the New York State Director of Criminal Justice. Francis Looney passed away in August 2003 at the age of 96.

Francis Looney served as President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Chairman or the Nassau County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

His awards include: Fellow of Adelphi University, Niagara University’s President’s Medal, Law Enforcement Man of the Year by the Nassau County Detectives’ Association, Nassau County Municipal Police Chiefs Association, and the Nassau County American Legion.

Francis B. Looney, Nassau County Police Commissioner 1966-1971.

Thompson, Ed. Farmingdale Biographies: A Look at the Lives of Some Prominent Citizens.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Victor Page Motors Corporation

Victor Page was born in 1885 in Massachusetts before his family moved to Rhode Island. When he was 19, he became part of the Page Motor Vehicle Company of Providence with Arthur Page and J.H. McHardy. They built a 10-horspower air-cooled car that sold for $750. A total of 25 cars were sold before the company folded.

Victor Page was a prolific writer of books on automotive and aviation construction and repair. By 1922, he had written fourteen textbooks and numerous articles on the topics. During World War I, he became the chief Aeronautical Engineering Officer of one of the largest aviation instruction centers in the world, located in France. When he returned home, he formed the Victor Page Motors Corporation. It was a Delaware corporation with a capital stock of 5,000,000 shares at a value of $1.00 each.

In his report to the stockholders, Victor spoke about the production of two models: the Aero-Type Four and Utility Four. The Corporation’s goal was to produce an improved car engine of the air-cooled type. These cars were built between 1921 and 1924 in the Liberty aircraft factory. During the Automobile Show on January 7, 1922, the Corporation exhibited two-coupe sedans, two convertible speedsters, a display chassis, and a body for its Aero-Type Four. The cost ranged from $1250 to $1750.

The Aero-Type Four was a nice car for its era. It had steel disc wheels, contoured shell, hood, and fenders. The engine was air cooled and featured an extensive use of aluminum. It had a four cylinder engine with overhead valves and camshafts and produced 30 horsepower. The fuel consumption was 25 to 30 mpg with a 119 inch wheelbase. The dashboard was made of black walnut. The interior featured tilt steering and the clutch and brake pedals were adjustable to fit the driver.

In 1922, the Corporation bought nearly four acres of land in Connecticut. Within a year, three building were completed, but there was no further construction after that. When he formed the company, Page made an arrangement with Charles Beadon to sell the stock. Unfortunately, some of Beadon’s salesmen were less than honest and when dividends and profits were not forthcoming, some of the stockholders travelled to Connecticut to get their money back. As soon as Page learned about the methods being used to sell his stock, he terminated his agreement with Beadon. Beadon brought a Bill of Complaint against him in federal court. Page won the case, but at a cost. Due to the money put into the legal proceedings, there was not enough money to begin commercial production of the cars. They tried selling stock, but sales were still below what was needed.

At a 1926 stockholder meeting, the Deputy Attorney General of New York began to question Page and eventually charged him with fraud. The judge ruled against Page and issued an injunction against the corporation, prohibiting it from selling stock anywhere in New York. Liquidation proceedings of the company were carried out and the land and buildings were sold on August 11, 1927.  During the proceedings, it was mentioned that although the cars had been made, none had been sold. At the liquidation, all the assets were sold off, including the cars.


Derato, Frank. “Victor Page & His Automobile.” Bulb Horn. July-Sept., 1988

Gosden, Walter E. “Victor Page Aero Type Four.” Long Island Forum. October, 1978

Page, Victor W. “President’s Report of Progress to Stockholders of the Victor Page Motors Corporation.” October 21, 1921.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Cross-Island Trolley Line

In 1886, Herman F. Rogers spoke to a railroad promoter while on a train from Santa Fe. Mr. Rogers was so enthusiastic about this idea that he spoke to Mr. E.D. Davidson, a local contractor about the possibility for a horse car line in Huntington. Mr. Rogers agreed to find financing for the road and Mr. Davidson would secure a franchise from the Town Board. In January of 1887, the Huntington RR was organized.  The route was to be along New York Avenue from the harbor through the village to the local LIRR station three miles away.  It would take another three years before it would begin to be built.

On June 10, 1890, grading commenced between Linden Street and Tuthill Avenue on the east side of New York Avenue. On June 26, the first car arrived and the railroad was open to the public on July 19. An incredible 1100 people filled and refilled the three cars that shuttled back and forth all day long. The railroad operated in two divisions, the harbor branch and the depot branch. Before the summer ended, the officials of the road secured permission from the LIRR to run a track across New York Avenue.

In the annual report of the directors of the LIRR in 1989, the road committed itself to another innovation: the construction of trolley roads. On April 21, the work began with the old light rails and ties being dug out and standard ties and rails being placed.  The first electric trolley car crossed Main Street on June 14.

In January 1906, the LIRR gave the first public intimation of its intentions to build a trolley road from Huntington Station through Melville and Farmingdale to Amityville. The LIRR bought a two-acre tract from John Mullins opposite the Huntington Station in April. That summer, the LIRR embarked on the process of securing franchises for the trolley from all the regulatory bodies involved. The Highway Commissioners granted the franchise on October 6. In December, cross ties arrived at Farmingdale and Huntington and preparations were made to being work in February if weather permitted. Difficulties created a postponement of the line, but work finally resumed in October of 1908. The line officially opened on August 25, 1909.


Seyfried, Vincent F. The Cross-Island Line: The Story of the Huntington Railroad. 1976.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jesse Merritt - A Brief Biography

Jesse Merritt was born on September 4, 1889. The house he was born in was built in 1699 by Thomas Whitson, one of his ancestors.

He attended the Farmingdale Grammar School before attending Friends Academy and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. From 1917 to 1924, he was the clerk of the Nassau County Board of Supervisors.

He served as part of the 7th New York Infantry Regiment, Company C 1916 and did a tour of duty on the Mexican border. During World War I, he was attached to the 27th Division and served in France and Belgium. His regiment was with the British when they broke through the Hindenburg Line. He received the Victory Medal, the Cross of Honor, and the Mexican Border Medal.

Jesse became Official historian Village of Farmingdale in 1920 and the historian for Nassau County in 1936. As part of his job as Nassau County Historian, he visited the White House and interviewed President Herbert Hoover. He has written three books: Two Hundredth Anniversary of Mattituck Meeting, Locust Valley, Long Island, 1724-1924, Essays on Walt Whitman, and Story of Nassau County, New York.

He was a lifetime member of the New York State Historical Society. Jesse was a member of the Mortin Lodge in Hempstead and became President in 1921. Was a charter member of the Bethpage Lodge in Farmingdale.

He was married Mabel Elva Witte on April 3, 1917 and they had two daughters. In 1920, he founded The Farmingdale Post. The village designated it as the official village newspaper. On April 9, 1923 the Women’s Club of Farmingdale met with representatives from various organizations of the village at Jesse Merritt’s home for the express purpose of forming a library. Jesse Merritt was elected the first President of the Farmingdale Library Association. He wrote a request for a library charter to Albany and it was granted in May of 1923. The library’s name was then changed to the Farmingdale Free library.

In 1932, Jesse suggested the name Bethpage State Park of the park recently built to Robert Moses, who agreed. Jesse Merritt died in 1957.


Farmingdale’s Story: Farms to Flights. Junior Historical Society of Farmingdale, 1956

Halpin, James R. History of the Farmingdale Public Library. Master’s Thesis for Long Island University, 1965

Long Island: A History of Two Great Counties, Nassau and Suffolk. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1949

Monday, June 5, 2017

Revolutionary War on Long Island

By 1775, eastern Long Island was well settled and an important agricultural district. The Gardiners on Gardiner’s Island were the first white settlers in that area. For many years, the farmer on eastern Long Island drove their sheep and cows to pasture on the hills of Montauk for the summer. There were concerns about their livestock and they requested protection for them against the British. John Hulburt lived in Bridgehampton and raised a company of minute men to guard the stock. After hearing a patriotic sermon, he then raised a company of twenty-one men from the steps of the church and recruited more on his way back to Montauk. By the end of the week, he had 68 volunteers and they were one of the first companies organized in New York State. They were eventually incorporated into the Third NY Regiment. The women of some of the families got together and created a flag with thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen six pointed stars for them.

The New York Provincial Congress was not positively inclined to independence. Upon reading the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, New York delayed its approval after discussion. On June 11, 1776, John Jay submitted a motion that stated, ‘that the good people of this colony have not, in the opinion of this [New York] Congress, authorized this [Continental] Congress to declare this Colony to be and continue independent of the Crown of Great Britain.” The delegates of New York consistently refrained from voting for any measures aiming at independence.

The Battle of Long Island was fought in Brooklyn in August, 1776. General Sir William Howe, commander of the British army, set up camp on Staten Island in June of 1776. On August 22, thousands of British troops were ferried across the Narrows and landed at DeNyse’s Point. There was no opposition as the British secured a beach head. On August 27, the Battle really began. By August 29, General Washington knew he had to retreat. On August 30, the Patriots were forced to withdraw and Long Island was left in British hands.

In order to find out what was going on, Washington organized a spy ring on Long Island. Some of the members were Robert Townsend, a merchant; Austin Roe, a tavern keeper; Abraham Woodhulll, a farmer; and Caleb Brewster, a whaler.  This group became known as the Setauket or Culper Spy Ring. One of the accomplishments of this spy ring was uncovering Benedict Arnold’s act of treason.

The colonies declared their independence on July 4, 1776, but it wasn’t until 1783 that it was fully assured. The last of the British red coats left Long Island in November of 1783.


Flick, Alexander C. The American Revolution in New York. Ira J. Friedman, 1967.

Halsey, Carolyn D. The Revolution on Long Island. 1988.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Grumman Story

The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation was founded on January 2, 1930. When it opened, the company had no plant, no product, no customers, no contracts, and barely enough money to meet its modest payroll. Its genesis came from the sale of the Loening Aircraft Engineering Company’s manufacturing plant. The employees left from the sale decided to begin their own business. Roy Grumman was only twenty-five when he joined Loening. He took with him some of the key members of the Loening team including Leon A. Swirbul, William T. Schwendler, and Ed Poor.

They decided, in order to get immediate business, the new company would repair and rebuild Loening amphibian craft already in service. In order to make this happen, they planned to enlist about a dozen skilled mechanics from Loening. On December 5, 1929, the initial investors in the company signed a subscription agreement covering two classes of stock. They needed to find a space. Jake Swirbul found the first plant in Baldwin. In addition to the repair work, Grumman actively worked on a proposal for a small Navy contract to help keep the company afloat. Their main goal was to design and build an airplane for any military branch; preferably the Navy.

On February 26, 1930, Roy Grumman, Jake Swirbul, and members of the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics held their first discussion on a proposal for what was termed a High Performance Two-Seater Fighter. That plane became the XFF-1. Grumman moved to a new plant in Valley Stream in November, 1931 before settling into Farmingdale in November, 1932. By 1934, Grumman had become a major factor in the country’s aeronautical industry. By 1936, Grumman had outgrown the space in Farmingdale. The building in Farmingdale was old and vulnerable to termites. They finally decided on an irregular rectangle of 120 acres in Bethpage.

In 1960, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded Grumman its first major aerospace contract, the development of the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) series of spacecraft. Grumman was acquired by the Northrup Corporation in 1994


“Our Heritage” Heritage

Thruelsen, Richard. The Grumman Story. Praeger Publishers, 1976.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Charles "Mile-A-Minute" Murphy

On June 30, 1899, Charles Murphy would set a world record bicycle ride of one mile in 57. 8 seconds while being paced by a Long Island railroad train. Before he made his famous ride, he had asked railroad companies all over the country to let him ride his bicycle behind a train. Murphy rode behind a specially built railroad car with a wooden hood added to slow down the wind pressure. Planks were laid over the ties for a distance of three miles for the event. At the start of the ride, the engine shot off by mistake, causing Murphy to expend a tremendous amount of energy trying to catch up.

He covered the first quarter mile in 15.15 seconds, and passed the half-way mark in 29.25 seconds. The three-quarter post was passed in 43.45 seconds. When the ride was ended, the engineer turned off the steam for the train, forgetting that Murphy’s great speed would keep him from stopping. Fortunately, there were several men at the rare of the train to pull him onto the coach.

In his words, he said, “I was riding against hope, and expecting the worst. As I raised my head, I could see that the earlier feeling of despair and disappointment on the faces of the officials had given way to a feeling of confidence and success.”

A plaque was unveiled at the South Farmingdale train station on October 13, 1938. That day’s festivities included contests, a parade, football game, and a dance. Led by the high school band, the parade included an official car with Mr. Murphy, Acting Mayor Fred Murray, and Judge Willis Carman.

Charles Murphy died at Queens Hospital on February 17, 1950. In addition to his famous ride, Murphy held more than 1,000 prizes in other bicycle events.

“Mile-A-Minute Murphy, Famed Cyclist, Dies at Queens Hospital.” Farmingdale Post. February 24, 1950.
Murphy, Charles. “Mile-A Minute Day – Here Next Saturday, Murphy Tells of Ride.” Farmingdale Post. September 29, 1938.
Murphy, Charles M. “Murphy Tells of First Half of Bike Ride.” Farmingdale Post. September 14, 1938.

“Plaque is Erected in Honor of Charles Murphy Saturday.” Farmingdale Post. October 13, 1938

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Mineola Fair

The Mineola Fair is one of the oldest operated fairs in New York State. An act authorizing public markets and fairs was adopted by New York State in 1692. On November 11, 1817, a meeting was held to consider creating an organization devoted to farming and rural economy. The agricultural society was created on June 12, 1819 and began sponsoring yearly fairs until it dissolved in 1822. The New York State Agricultural Society was formally founded in 1832. On October 13, 1842, the first Queens County Agricultural Society held its first Fair and Cattle Show. These tents fairs were usually held in September or October. Due to the constant worry about bad weather and the insecurity of the tents, the society determined it needed a permanent fairground. On April 3, 1866, forty acres of land on the Hempstead Plains near Mineola was given to the Queens County Agricultural Society.

The Society was able to host its twenty-fifth fair at the new fairgrounds in 1866. For nearly 85 years, the fairgrounds served as the home of the Agricultural Society. In 1899, the year Nassau County was created from Queens County, Governor Theodore Roosevelt delivered an address there. The last time the fair was held in Mineola was 1952. The fair then moved to the Roosevelt Raceway until the end of the 1960s

 In 1961, the fair officially became the Long Island Fair. When the fair interfered with the racing schedule, the Fair was moved to its present home at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Since 1985, the fair has been held in a recreation of the original 1866 fairgrounds.


Hammond, Gary R. The Mineola Fair: Mirror of a Country’s Growth. Reprinted from The Nassau County Historical Society Journal, 1999.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Brief biography of Kate Mason Williams Hofstra

Kate Mason Williams was a born in 1859. She met William Hofstra in Leadville, Colorado and they married in New Orleans. Kate was seven years older than William, but had been married and widowed at an early age. They decided to build a home of their own and came to New York.
The Hofstras bought the land for their home in 1903 in Hempstead, New York. The estate was approximately fifteen acres and was bordered by Fulton Avenue, a tree-lined thoroughfare that took them to the heart of Hempstead. Large estates and farms lay north and south of the avenue. In addition to the main house, there was a barn, greenhouse, garages, caretaker's cottage, and a small steam-heated structure, which was built for Mrs. Hofstra's cats.

She was Vice President of the Bide-a-wee Home Association in New York City from 1903 until her death in 1933. Mrs. Hofstra was President of the Atlantic Cat Club and offered the Hofstra Challenge Cup at the Madison Square Garden cat shows. Her fondness for animals prompted Mrs. Hofstra to leave ten thousand dollars to Bide-a-wee in her will. In addition, she left enough money to care for those pets that survived her. This included twenty-five cats, four dogs, and three parrots. Her housekeeper was to be entrusted with the care of the pets, and was willed a stipend, as well as enough money to build her own home, for this purpose.

When Kate’s husband died in 1932, he left her most of his estate. Kate died sixteen months later. Her will designated the property to be a memorial to her husband “for public, charitable, benevolent, scientific, or research purposes.” Following a suggestion from former Hempstead superintendent Truesdel Peck Calkins, the executors of her will established an extension branch of New York University on the Hofstra property. The two year school opened in 1937 and became an independent four-year college two years later. The college received an endowment of $700,000 from her estate in 1940.


“Mr. & Mrs. Hofstra Founding a University.”

Naylor, Natalie A. Women in Long Island’s Past. History Press, 2012.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

East Farmingdale Volunteer Fire Company History

The East Farmingdale Volunteer Fire Company was organized in 1926. The first Chief was Joseph Pfost, Sr., who served from December of 1926 to December of 1927. The department was created when the East Farmingdale area would no longer be protected under the contract by the Fire Department of the Incorporated Village of Farmingdale. The Company works under the auspices of the Town of Babylon.

The Fire Company was able to obtain a loan from the First National Bank of Farmingdale for $5,000 to erect a fire house on Maplewood Avenue. At the time, they only had a hose wagon for their only apparatus. The original name of the Company was the East End Volunteer Fire Company; its current name was changed in 1959. The fire house was moved to an expanded headquarters on Conklin Street which can house twelve pieces of fire equipment, kitchen facilities, a recreation room, and a second floor containing a meeting hall and offices. Two sub-stations were also built; one on Wellwood Avenue and the other on Melville Road.

The first official meeting was held on September 25, 1926.  They were granted a Certificate of Incorporation on August 13, 1926. At the October meeting, it was decided that the uniform would only be worn for Company social affairs, parades, and funerals. Their first fire was recorded on December 13, 1926.

At the May 7, 1958 meeting, a motion was made to form a committee to look into changing their name. It was announced at the February 2, 1959 meeting that 100% of the membership had signed the resolution for the name change. The name change was made official on May 4, 1959.


A History of the East Farmingdale Fire Company 1926-1995

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lawrence B. Sperry

Lawrence Burst Sperry was born in Chicago on December 22, 1892, the third child of Elmer and Zula Goodman Sperry.

He built his first airplane glider during his school days in the attic of his home. After finishing school, he joined his father’s company and became a licensed pilot and undertook field work of applying a gyroscope to an airplane.

In 1914, the Republic of France issued a notice of a Safety Contest to be held.  The Sperry’s entered an improved gyrostabilizer in the contest. When Lawrence arrived in Paris, he and his mechanic installed the device on a Curtiss flying boat. On June 18th, 1914, Lawrence’s parents joined the thousands lining the Seine River to watch the competition. Like the rest of the spectators, they were awed when in a flight over the jury of experts Lawrence let go of the controls and stands up with his hands high over his head, and the plane remained level. The Sperry’s heard a gasp from the crowd when the mechanic walked out on the wing and again Lawrence let go of the controls. The Sperry’s joined in the roar of approval as Lawrence throttled the engine and the plane automatically went into a glide. When Lawrence landed safely, the jury realized that it had witnessed one of the most convincing demonstrations in aviation, and it awarded the Sperry’s a 50,000 franc prize.

In late 1915, Lawrence journeyed to England, where he conceived of a three-way gyrostabilizer to steer bombing planes, and also arranged for Sperry Gyroscope to manufacture aircraft compasses. When he returned home, Lawrence developed the first amphibious flying boat in history. He also investigated the problems of night flying by adding lights to his flying boat, and went on to make night flights of up to 80 miles.

He returned to America in 1916 and engaged in many and varied activities. He demonstrated the possibilities of the aerial torpedo to the Navy Department. He made several night flights in 1916, the first in the United States. He also built the first amphibious flying boat and the first to land a plane by the use of skids.

Sperry’s manufacturing operations outgrew its two factors and a third plant was built in Farmingdale.  The building was constructed on the corner of Rose and Richard Street. Employing about sixty men, the company produced amphibious Navy triplanes, aerial torpedoes, and the Verville Sperry racing monoplane, which was was constructed within three months.  

Lawrence Sperry was lost on December 13, 1923 while crossing the English Channel in his Messenger Plane at the age of thirty. He had planned to fly from Croydon Airport to Amsterdam. The normal route was to follow the railway to Ashford in Kent, and then on to Folkstone, before crossing the English Channel to France. It seems Sperry mistakenly followed a second railway that diverged southward and westward to Hastings. His plane was spotted five miles east of Hastings. His engine misfired and lost power, forcing Sperry to land on the water. At some point, he pulled off his flying boots, struggled out of his flight suit, and struck out towards shore. His body was found on the shore at Jury’s Gap on January 11, 1924.


Farmingdale’s Story: Farms to Flight. Junior Historical Society of Farmingdale, L.I.

“Lawrence Burst Sperry Sr.”

Smith, Victor N. “The Last Flight of Lawrence B. Sperry.” Journal of American Aviation Historical Society. Spring, 1983.

The Sperryscope. C.D. Jobson, Editor. The Sperry Gyroscope Company.
January-February, 1924. Vol. 4, No. 6

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Thomas Powell - A Brief Biography

Thomas Powell was born in Barbados in 1641. He came to New York as a passenger on a trade ship at twelve years old. He boarded with lawyer Thomas Matthew and it is said he was his apprentice. He would become an important citizen in Huntington,Long Island, first becoming a recorder in 1663 and a Trustee in 1688.

He gradually began acquiring land and possessions. On August 18, 1595, he procured a deed from the Massapequa Indians for 140 lbs. sterling and established the area known as Bethpage.

He was appointed the guardian of Thomas Whitson in 1670. The two men became very good friends and when Powell settled here, Whitson followed. Whitson became the second settler of Bethpage and Powell sold land to him in 1700.

In 1688, he and Captain Platt were elected to go to New York to confirm the boundaries of what was then considered Huntington. He also made his first trip to Farmingdale that year. On October 18, 1695, Thomas Powell purchased about fifteen square miles of land from the Massapequa Indians for $600. The deed became known as the Bethpage Purchase.

Thomas left the town of Huntington because of religious difficulties. In 1699, he bought another tract of land which became known as the Rim of the Woods Purchase. In 1700, he erected his home on Merritts Road. The house is still standing and is one of the oldest houses on Long Island. He married twice and raised 15 children. He died on December 28, 1721.

A devout Quaker, he organized the first meetings of the Quakers in Bethpage. The first meetings were held in his home until the meeting house was built in 1741.

Thomas Powell died on December 28, 1721.

Farmingdale’s Story: Farms to Flights – Prepared by the Junior Historical Society of Farmingdale, 1956.

Farmingdale, Long Island, New York: A Guide to Its Past, Present, and Future. Prepared by Stewart Associated for the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce