Archive for the ‘Historic Buildings’ Category

The historic building where girls learned to sew, boys learned to fix furniture, and immigrants learned English, and which for the past thirty years protected your community’s irreplaceable historic documents and photographs is now an empty shell.

Over the course of several months, volunteers carefully transported 350 years of Huntington history from the Trade School building on Main Street at the east end of Huntington village in preparation for a major project to restore the building to its original glory and to expand the building to provide more space to protect the existing collection of historic materials and to welcome new additions to that collection. This is the most important project undertaken by the Huntington Historical Society in over a generation. The Historical Society needs your help to make it a success.

To understand the project, let’s go back to the beginning—the very beginning. In 1903, Huntington celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding. Thousands attended the three-day celebration over the Fourth of July weekend. The highlight of the celebration was a speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt to a large crowd gathered in an empty field near the intersection of what is now New York Avenue and Gerard Street.

President Theodore Roosevelt at Huntington's 250th Anniversary celebration.

President Theodore Roosevelt at Huntington’s 250th Anniversary celebration.

A committee of local women gathered historic artifacts from attics, basements and barns around town for a display on colonial life in Huntington. That collection was kept together by the committee, which eventually became the Huntington Historical Society.

Fast forward some eighty years. The Historical Society by the 1980s operated two house museums—the circa 1750 Conklin House on High Street and New York Avenue, which was given to the Society in 1911, and the 1795 Kissam House on Park Avenue, which it had purchased in 1967. The small collection of colonial artifacts gathered in 1903 grew tremendously over the decades to include letters, diaries, business records, local newspapers, maps, deeds, family histories, and photographs—thousands and thousands of photographs of the way we were.

More space was needed to properly preserve this growing collection. In 1979, Town government had consolidated its offices in the old high school building across from Heckscher Park, making several buildings at the east end of the village available. The Tudor Revival trapezoidal shaped Trade School building caught the eye of the Historical Society.

The Trade School building was constructed over the course of the summer of 1905 to house the Huntington Sewing and Trade School. The school had started in the basement of St. John’s Church on Park Avenue in 1881. At first the school taught sewing to the girls of the church. Some of the items the girls created were sent to missions in the West and later during World War I to France.

By the mid-1890s, the curriculum was expanded to teach boys as well. The boys learned to mend and sew buttons and also to weave hammocks and fishnets. At around the same time, it was decided that the school should be moved out of the church basement to a location closer to the business district so as not to restrict attendance “to church or color.”

At the turn of the twentieth century, Miss Paulding’s Sewing School was providing instruction to up to 150 students a week in rented quarters in the village. In 1904, the school was formally chartered as the Huntington Sewing and Trade School. In 1905, the school began to look for a permanent location. Local philanthropist Cornelia Prime—who would later donate the clock tower in Huntington’s first Town Hall and the land for Huntington Hospital, among many other gifts to the community—agreed to erect a suitable building for the school. Dr. Oliver L. Jones donated land on the north side of Main Street across from the Old Burying Ground.

The architect's rendering of the Trade School building, 1905

The architect’s rendering of the Trade School building, 1905

Cady, Berg & See, the firm that designed the Museum of Natural History in New York, the Metropolitan Opera House as well as several academic buildings at New England colleges, was selected as the architect for the building. Twelve years earlier, the firm had also designed the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Building, Huntington’s first library building. The new school building copied the library’s Tudor Revival style. The building also conformed to the site’s trapezoidal shape enabling a traveler from the east to see three sides of the building at the same time.

The cornerstone was laid on August 10, 1905. The first classes in the new building were held just four months later on December 2, 1905.

Emma Paulding, the school's director, lays the cornerstone for the new building , August 10, 1905

Emma Paulding, the school’s director, lays the cornerstone for the new building , August 10, 1905

The building saw a variety of uses over the years. During World War I, the local chapter of the Red Cross used the building for its home front activities. The curriculum expanded to teach vocational skills to immigrants. Courses were also offered to help immigrants learn English and civics to meet the requirements for naturalization.

The main floor of the Trade School building.

The main floor of the Trade School building.

Miss Lefferts taught dance classes, a Talmud Torah School rented space, the Red Cross taught “young mothers the feeding and care of children,” the Huntington Choral Society practiced here, to name a few of the building’s many uses.

In 1937, the Huntington School District took ownership of the building and used it for shop classes. Students from the High School (which is now Town Hall) walked over to the Trade School. Wood shop was taught on the first floor, electric and metal work on the second floor.

In 1965, the Town purchased the building to help alleviate crowding at the Old Town Hall building. Town government used the building for the Comptroller’s office and later the Town Supervisor and Town Attorney had offices there.

In the 1970s, the Town realized that operating out of multiple buildings in widely scattered locations was not efficient. As Town government grew, the school district found it no longer needed the large school building across from Heckscher Park. The High School had been moved to a new building on Oakwood Road in 1958 and the building was being used as a Junior High School.

Meanwhile, the Huntington Historical Society’s collections grew tremendously over the course of the twentieth century. The fireproof vault built at the Conklin House in the 1920s was no longer big enough to hold the priceless collection. With the aid of private donations and a National Endowment for Humanities grant, the Society paid the Town $50,000 for the Trade School building. Another $75,000 was spent to renovate the building: new heating systems, new roof, plaster repair, painting, new handicap accessible restroom, etc.

At first the archives collection and research room comfortably occupied the lower level. Within ten years, exhibit space on the main level gave way to the growing archives collection. Within another ten years, it was obvious that a more long-term solution was needed. Plans were made to build an addition in the vacant lot the Historical Society owned on the west side of the building.

Architect's rendering of the entrance plaza and the new addition, which is set back to preserve the architecture of the 1905 building.

Architect’s rendering of the entrance plaza and the new addition, which is set back to preserve the architecture of the 1905 building.

The project finally commenced in the summer of 2014. The project will restore the 1905 building. The windows will be restored. The old electric wiring, which still relied on early fuses, will be replaced. The HVAC systems will be replaced. Plaster walls will be repaired and painted. New carpets will be installed.

Restoring the fabulous diamond pane windows of the Trade School.

Restoring the magnificient diamond pane windows of the Trade School.

But most important, the capacity of the building to accommodate the Historical Society’s ever growing collection of historic material will be greatly increased. High density shelving on the lower levels of the old building and the new addition alone will triple the storage capacity of the building. Other space in the new addition will provide even more storage.

The project is important to the future preservation of Huntington’s history—not only the materials already being preserved, but also future donations. Without the additional space this project will provide, the history of the more recent past could well be lost to future generations.


NOTE: The Huntington Historical Society is still seeking donations to ensure the completion of this project. At the time of this posting, the Historical Society has raised through private donations almost $800,000. A grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation adds another $400,000 to the budget. The total project budget is $1.5 million, meaning an additional $300,000 needs to be raised.

If you love Huntington’s history, which you must if you read this blog, it is imperative that you support this project. It is no surprise that as Huntington Town Historian, I support the project. Many people assume my family has lived here for generations. Some even think I’m a WASP. In fact, I’m an Irish Catholic who moved to Huntington as a kid. My wife moved here after we were married. But it doesn’t take long to appreciate how special Huntington is and how important its history is to its unique sense of place.

That is why the largest charitable donation we have ever made is for this project. We urge you to show your support with a donation of any size. Large donations are important, but smaller ones also make a difference by showing foundations and other funding agencies that the project has broad public support. If everyone who follows this blog gave $100, the project would be $10,000 closer to its goal. Donations can be made in installments.  For example, a pledge of $1,000, which would be noted on the donor plaque, could be paid by making monthly donations of $35. Donors have until June 30, 2017 to complete their pledge.

Please make a donation today at www.savehuntingtonhistory.org or by mailing a check to The Huntington Historical Society, 2 High Street, Huntington, NY 11743. If you have any questions about the project, call Linda Walch, executive director of the Historical Society at (631) 427-7045, ext. 405.  Future generations of Huntingtonians will thank you.




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We cherish the vibrancy and charm of Huntington village and we are proud of the area’s historic character embodied in various buildings throughout the village. But many feel the village is threatened by fire and redevelopment. The rash of fires (five in the past six months) and proposals for three story buildings in the village may seem alarming, but fire and taller buildings have long been a part of the village scene. In fact, several major fires directly shaped the village of today.

The fire that produced the most dramatic change in the village landscape was in October 1869. To understand its impact, you have to understand the early development of Huntington.

When Huntington was established in the middle of the seventeenth century, the settlement clustered around the Town Common on Park Avenue. The area we now know as downtown Huntington was marshy and sparsely settled. The area was bisected then as now by Main Street which connected Oyster Bay to the west with the area near the Town Common. Only five other streets existed where downtown Huntington is now. On the north side of Main Street were the road to the west side of the harbor (Wall Street), and the road to Lloyd’s Neck (West Neck Road). To the south there was the road to Long Swamp (New York Avenue). Near the Conklin House, New York Avenue forked to the southwest to reach West Hills (now High Street and Oakwood Road). Finally, Woodbury Road led to the settlement of the same name.

Nathaniel Williams’ inn stood on the north side of Main Street, opposite the road to Long Swamp (we now call that road New York Avenue; Long Swamp is the area near the intersection of Depot Road, Maplewood Road and Melville Road). Nathaniel’s son Timothy succeeded his father in running the inn and also operated a store and for a time the post office from the same building. In 1828, Timothy Williams sold the inn to Zophar Oakley, who a few years earlier had purchased property at the northwest corner of Main Street and Wall Street to operate a general store. Oakley’s purchase encompassed 12 acres on the north side of Main Street from Wall Street east to what is now the Trade School property.

Oakley continued to operate the Williams store, which was a true general store offering a wide variety of merchandise—“almost every article called for in the country.” Oakley prospered at his new location and became a very successful and well-respected merchant. In 1845, he built a house northeast of his new store. The property included a spring fed pond, greenhouses, gardens, and orchards. It was considered one of the garden spots of town. At the southwest corner of his property, along Main Street near Wall Street, Oakley rented stores to other merchants. By the 1850s, this row of stores on the north side of Main Street from Wall Street to what is now New York Avenue was known as the Empire Block.

In 1856, Oakley’s son-in-law, Carlos Stuart, and a partner, William A. Conant, took over Oakley’s store and purchased the Empire Block. Less than two years after the sale, Zophar Oakley died. Stuart then gave up his partnership with Conant and transferred his interest in the property to Conant. A year later, Conant, who would later represent Huntington in the State Assembly, sold the property to William Miles of New York City. Miles leased the old store to Baylis & Wells starting in 1862. In 1865, Timothy Baylis purchased the property apparently for his son Hiram Vail Baylis, one of the partners operating the store. Hiram soon gave up the store because of ill health and went into farming. But he held onto the property and rented the store out.

Around this time, at the close of the Civil War, the railroad reached Huntington. Previously, the best route to the city markets was by water. The railroad, of course, was located two miles south of the village. It was thought that a direct road connection between the harbor and the railroad station would be desirable. William Conant by now was the area’s representative in the State Assembly. He introduced a bill to create such a link. The new road would also help to drain the marshy land along the route, but would be expensive to build, which arose opposition from residents who would have to foot the bill. A debate also arose concerning the proper location for the road. The most direct route would extend the existing road through the old general store and continue up to the east side of the harbor where the Town dock was located. An alternate suggested route would start the road east of the terminus of the South Road (as New York Avenue was then known), between the Baylis property and Zophar Oakley’s old property now owned by his daughter Catherine and her husband Carlos Stuart. That route would not be conducive to the smooth flow of traffic.

There the debate stood until October 1869. On the night of October 13, the circus was in town. The old general store was now run by the Mamlok brothers, who closed the store at 8:00 that night. Perhaps they went to the see the circus. When they arrived back at their store at 12:30 a.m., they were surprised by three thieves, who assaulted them, tied them up, stole their cash ($472), and set fire to the store presumably to cover their crime. The brothers managed to escape. But the fire destroyed their store, the adjoining house of landlord Hiram Baylis and the flour and feed store of Pearsall & Conklin to the west. Other buildings on the block were damaged as well.

Baylis began building a new brick house slightly to the east within a couple of weeks. That house still stands on the northeast corner of Main Street and New York Avenue. Conklin also rebuilt his store, but that structure has since been replaced.   The most lasting impact of the fire was that it cleared the way for the extension of New York Avenue to the harbor directly across from the existing road. The State Legislature passed the Road Bill on April 22, 1870. The road was still not popular with the local residents. In June they voted 403 to 0 in opposition to the road. But it was too late; construction was well underway. By July 1870 the road extended from the harbor down to Shoemaker Lane—now known as Mill Lane.

One of the tenants who lost everything in the 1869 fire was lawyer Thomas Young, who had an office on the second floor. Young eventually moved his office across the street to a block of buildings owned by the Brush Brothers. And there, bad luck followed him.

Two decades after the fire that opened the way for the New York Avenue extension, the block on the south side of Main Street east of New York Avenue was occupied by a row of wood frame buildings. On the corner was the general store of Henry S. and James M. Brush. Next was the Bank of Huntington, started by the Brush brothers and Douglass Conklin as a private institution in 1886 and receiving a state charter on July 1, 1888. Then were the stationery store of Edward C. Grumman and the jewelry store of George F. Barr. On the second floor above the stores was the law office of ill-fated lawyer Thomas Young. At the end of the Brush block was the post office and above that the law offices of Charles R. Street, who was the postmaster. To the east of the Brush block were the carriage factory of Ebenezer Jarvis and the harness shop of James B. Scudder and the Second Presbyterian Church.

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 12, 1888, an employee of the Brush firm noticed smoke rising from the rear of the post office, which was in the middle of the block. He quickly alerted the Brush family who lived in quarters behind their store. The family barely got out of the house in time and took refuge in Hiram Baylis’ house across the street. The night watchman soon discovered the fire and rushed to retrieve the books and papers from the bank. Soon the alarm at the firehouse on Wall Street was sounded. The paints in the Brush store and the oils in the carriage factory accelerated the fire, which quickly spread both east and west. To the west it stopped at New York Avenue; to the east, it spread as far as the Second Presbyterian Church. Seeing that the church could not be saved, residents worked to save the manse next door by covering the wood roof and sides of the building with wet carpets. They were successful.

The fire destroyed every building along Main Street from New York Avenue to the manse. Fortunately, many of the contents of the buildings were removed before they too were destroyed. In the aftermath of the fire, the Brush brothers built one of the most imposing structures ever erected in Huntington village. Work commenced the month after the fire and by April of the next year, the three-story brick building was ready to receive tenants. As it turned out most of the former tenants returned to the building from temporary quarters throughout the village.

The Brush Block Built 1889

The Brush Block Built 1889

The building still exists, although it has lost its third floor. The third floor on the western one third of the building was removed in 1927, supposedly to make the building more attractive. It may be that the extra space was removed to save on property taxes. The rest of the third floor was removed in 1937 when the Long Island Lighting Company extensively rebuilt that part of the building.

The Brush Block was not the first three-story building in the village. The Leaycraft building at the southwest corner of Main Street and New Street (most well known in recent years as the site of Rubin’s Luggage and torn down in 2004) was a three-story brick building erected in 1859. Other prominent three story buildings include the O.S. Sammis building at the northwest corner of Main Street and New York Avenue (built in 1884); the Masonic Lodge on New York Avenue (built in 1905); Gallagher’s Hotel at 25 Wall Street (built in 1908); and the Romano building at 307 Main Street (built in 1909).

A fire a few years after the Brush Block fire also resulted in a new three-story building. In 1895, the carriage factory on Green Street was completely destroyed. It was replaced by the three-story brick building that still stands at 7 Green Street.

During the building boom of the Roaring Twenties, the three-story Hotel Huntington at the corner of New York Avenue and Fairview Street was built. Two years earlier, another three-story building was built on New York Avenue, the Huntington Office Building. The office building opened on May 1, 1927 “In the center of the growing city.” It featured six stores, a bowling alley and billiard parlor on the first floor; offices on the second and third floors; and the first elevator in town.

The building still stands at 375-377 New York Avenue, but without its third floor thanks to a devastating fire in February 1960. The fire was one of three Monday night fires in a two-month period, raising suspicions that an arsonist was to blame. The fire burned for eight hours through the night as firefighters poured three million gallons of water on it. Like other village fires there was no loss of life; although an attorney working late in his office had to be rescued from the roof of the building by an aerial ladder.

The next day, the west side of New York Avenue was closed in front of the building due to fears that the ruined shell would collapse. The owner was ordered to either make the building safe or demolish it. He indicated he would demolish it. But three months later, he instead applied for a building permit to partially demolish the gutted building to two stories and rebuild. The building we see today is mostly a reconstruction with only two floors instead of three. In 1964, the building welcomed the newly created district court.

The fires of 2014, thankfully, have not been as destructive as some earlier fires. But some, like the March 1 fire at 425 New York Avenue, may result in new three-story buildings. That too would be consistent with Huntington’s earlier building practices (an inspection by the National Board of Underwriters in 1900 revealed that 98% of the buildings in the village were two or three stories high). Whether it will be as welcome as the Brush Block is another question.


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Squadron Hill is a 1960 subdivision located about a half mile west of Huntington village.  Most of its inhabitants have been led to believe that the property was used by Theodore Roosevelt to train his Rough Riders prior to fighting in Cuba during the Spanish American war in 1898.  One of the streets in the development is even named Rough Rider Court.  There was once a sign on Main Street welcoming visitors to Huntington, “Home of the Rough Riders.”  In fact, some residents talked about Rough Riders coming back after the houses had been built to view their old training grounds.  But if anyone had stopped to do the math, they would have realized that a veteran of the Spanish American War would have been quite old by the time the houses were built.

The story isn’t true.

In 1898, Theodore Roosevelt was living in Washington, D.C.  After receiving permission to form an all-volunteer cavalry force to fight in the Spanish American War, he went to San Antonio, Texas where the First Volunteer Cavalry trained and was given the nickname the Rough Riders.  The closest Roosevelt’s Rough Riders actually came to Squadron Hill was Camp Wikoff in Montauk, where the unit camped after their tour of duty in Cuba.  Prior to the publicity surrounding Roosevelt’s unit, the term “rough rider” appears to have been a generic reference to cavalry men.

In later years, Theodore Roosevelt did visit Squadron Hill, but in 1898 the land that now comprises Squadron Hill was being farmed by Alfred Rogers, a member of a large and prominent family in the Cold Spring Harbor area (in fact, Turkey Lane was once known as Rogers Avenue).  One hundred years ago Squadron Hill comprised the bulk of the Rogers’ 100 acre homestead, which was made up of two parcels—twenty acres north of Lawrence Hill Road and 82.5 acres south of Lawrence Hill Road, bounded on the west by Peabody Road, on the south by Saw Mill Road and Woodbury Road, and on the east by the land of various neighbors.  The Rogers’ house, a five bay 2.5-story gable roofed house, still stands at 97 Lawrence Hill Road.  The north wing of the house is estimated to have been built in about 1820 and the main house in about 1860.  The house has recently been renovated and enlarged by its present owner.

Alfred Rogers had inherited the farm from his father, Moses Rogers. Moses Rogers’ father, Zebulon Rogers, was a Revolutionary War veteran.  Although the early records are unclear, it appears that Zebulon Rogers owned the homestead when he died intestate in 1820.  An inventory of Zebulon Rogers’ personal property includes among other things, a house (valued at $60), four cows and six sheep.  Moses Rogers appears to have acquired the homestead from his siblings following their father’s death.

Known around town as “Uncle Moses,” he was born on April 25, 1784 in the old homestead.  Moses Rogers, a wealthy but unpretentious man, was a farmer his whole life, working the farm up to within a few months of his death in 1878, just eleven days shy of his 94th birthday.  The Rogers farm was diversified.  According to the 1860 agricultural census, Rogers grew a variety of crops:  wheat, rye, oats, Indian corn, Irish potatoes, barley buckwheat and hay.  They also had 5 milch cows (producing 500 pounds of butter), 12 pigs and 50 sheep (producing 150 pounds of wool).   In addition to farming, Moses Rogers owned several ships, including at the time of his death “an interest in almost every coal schooner that went out of Cold Spring and many of the Northport vessels.”  He also served as the town’s Overseer of the Poor for several years.  On Moses’ death, the homestead passed to his son Alfred, who was born in 1820.

At his death 81 years later, Alfred was eulogized as one of Huntington’s “oldest and most respected residents.”   Two months before his death, Alfred conveyed the farm to his son Franklin P. Rogers for one dollar, reserving a life estate for Alfred and his wife, Phebe Ann.

Frank Rogers was the last of his family to farm the homestead.  In 1905 Frank, his wife Esther, and Frank’s mother Phebe Ann sold the 82.5-acre parcel south of Lawrence Hill Road to a Brooklyn-based National Guard cavalry unit for $15,000 (including two mortgage notes, each in the amount of $5,500; one payable to Frank, the other to Esther).

Frank apparently continued to farm the twenty acres of the homestead north of Lawrence Hill Road until about 1914 when he sold the remaining parcel to Jerome A. Suydam and moved to a house on Woolsey Avenue in Huntington.      Frank and Esther had no children.


The cavalry unit that purchased the farm was formed in 1895 after several unsuccessful efforts to organize a cavalry troop in Brooklyn.  But the 1895 trolley strike in Brooklyn, during which Troop A of neighboring New York City was called in to help control, “demonstrated the value of cavalry for State service, and the need of an organization in Brooklyn.”

In the spring of 1895, authorization was given by the Adjutant-General of the New York National Guard to organize a troop.  On August 27, 1895, the North Portland Avenue Armory in Brooklyn was converted from infantry use to cavalry use.  On December 16, 1895, Troop C was mustered into the service of the National Guard (the letter B was claimed by a troop forming in upstate Geneseo at about the same time).

The troop was composed of well-to-do gentlemen of Brooklyn—businessmen, lawyers, doctors and college students.  By 1898 the troop achieved full membership and when war was declared against Spain, the troop volunteered as a body to join the fight.

In May 1898, the troop trained for three weeks at Camp Black on the Hempstead plains, after which the troop was mustered into federal service as Troop C of the N.Y. Volunteer Cavalry and eventually saw combat duty in Puerto Rico.

By 1909, Troop C had a membership of 150 and a waiting list twice as long.  The troop was expanded into a squadron with the same letter designation under the command of Major Charles I. DeBevoise.  Following reorganizations and re-namings understandable only to the military mind, the Fourth Platoon of Troop C became Troop 6 of Squadron C and eventually Troop K of the First New York Cavalry.


Membership in this National Guard unit was not strictly a military matter; There were social and recreational aspects as well.  In 1905, a few of the wealthier members of the unit formed Troop C Armory Auxiliary, Inc. and purchased the 82.5 acres of the Rogers homestead south of Lawrence Hill Road.  The farm was to be used as a riding club for members of the troop.  The troop members also opened a clubhouse across the street from the armory in Brooklyn.  The clubhouse was operated by Squadron C Cavalry Club of Brooklyn, Inc., which was formed in 1915 and was open to members of Troop C of the N.Y. Volunteers, Troop C and Squadron C of the N.Y. National Guard, and the First Cavalry of the N.Y. National Guard who were quartered in Brooklyn.

Squadron C's Sleeping Cabins:  One survives today

Squadron C’s Sleeping Cabins: One survives today

The purpose of the club was “to provide a Club House [in Brooklyn] for their meetings and social intercourse; and to promote their interest in the Cavalry service of the National Guard of the State of New York and preserve the traditions of their own past service.”

In 1929, the club’s charter was amended to include among its purposes the encouragement of recruits to join the cavalry service.  In 1921, members of the squadron formed Squadron C Farm Inc. to manage the squadron’s stock farm in Huntington.  The specific purposes of the corporation were “to breed and raise horses for military purposes and otherwise, and to keep, rent and deal in same, to sell its produce, to own the farm buildings and equipment thereon … and to have the farm used as a place of recreation, athletic exercise and military drills.”

The unit had always raised its own horses because, while the State of New York supplied saddles, bridles and other equipment, it did not provided horses.  The unit would buy and breed horses and sell those they didn’t want on the open market.  They started with only a handful of horses and by 1912 had 300 of the finest quality military horses in the country.  Representatives from the War Department came out to the Farm to inspect the horses and were impressed with their quality.



The Brooklyn men were mobilized in July 1916 for federal service on the Mexican border chasing Mexican revolutionary Poncho Villa after his attack on Columbus, New Mexico.  In March 1917, the unit was mustered out of federal service but remained as a National Guard unit.  Just four months later, the New York National Guard was called into service to fight in World War I.  By military alchemy, Troop K was transformed into Company A of the 106th Machine Gun Battalion and the cavalrymen were accordingly relieved of their horses.

While the Brooklyn men were preparing to fight in France, where they would be credited with helping to break the Hindenburg Line, the men of the Huntington Rifle Club met to consider forming a Home Defense Reserve, which would train at Squadron C Farm.

At the initial meeting on July 13, 1917 at the Masonic Hall, 24 men enlisted in a Home Defense League.  Sixty more joined at a meeting the next night.  Two volunteers had to be rejected from membership—Eugene Johnson, a veteran of the Civil War, was ten years over the age limit; and Thomas Miranda, an Italian immigrant, was not yet fully naturalized.

The League started drilling eleven days after its inception and made its first public appearance in the Town’s Labor Day parade that year.  A similar unit in Cold Spring Harbor mustered in as a Home Defense Corps under regulations promulgated by the Adjutant General of the National Guard.  The Huntington group intended to do the same, but Major C.S. DeBevoise of Squadron C recommended that they join the National Guard whose ranks had been depleted when its members were federalized.

The National Guard was now unable to perform its traditional duties, such as riot control or suppression of an uprising by the alien population (considered a real threat at the time).  Moreover, a trained force was needed as a back-up to federal forces engaged in Europe.  On September 26, 1917, 52 members of the Huntington group agreed to take the State’s oath of enlistment and became members of Troop K of Squadron C.  Troop K trained through the winter in Huntington village and along its highways.  The following June, horses arrived from the Armory in Brooklyn and cavalry training commenced at the squadron’s farm.  Huntington residents drove out to Squadron C Farm to observe the military preparations.

The local troop reached its greatest number in January 1918 when it had 64 members. The number dwindled as some joined the federal army and others dropped out as their enlistments expired and the Armistice obviated the need for the Guard.  After the war, the National Guard was reorganized and small, isolated units were transferred to armories throughout the state.  On October 30, 1919, Troop K was transferred to Brooklyn. The remaining 18 Huntington members were given Honorable Discharges on February 9, 1920.


Despite being based in Brooklyn, the troop became a part of the Huntington community.  Huntington was becoming a popular summer resort for New York’s wealthy.  In 1909, The New York Times noted, ”with the arrival of Squadron C of Brooklyn at its summer camp here there will be a whirl of activity.  This crack military organization makes things hum when it comes here for its summer maneuvers.  Its presence also adds an element of activity to the general air of the resort.”

Squadron C donated a trophy awarded to the winner of the annual bobsled race held on Main Street (from the top of Cold Spring Hill to as far as New York Avenue) between 1907 and 1920.  In 1909, the Troop escorted the first car on the inaugural run of the Huntington-Amityville trolley line and participated in Fourth of July parades.  The troop also entertained local residents with monthly exhibitions and polo matches.  According to legend, the cavalry was once called to quell a riot caused by an armed robbery.  However, they also annoyed local merchants by galloping down Main Street.

It was during the early years of the Farm that Theodore Roosevelt was a visitor.  In August 1908 when he was President, Roosevelt rode an automobile over from his home in Oyster Bay to inspect the troops.  Later visits were unofficial.  According to William Stefurak, who joined the Squadron in 1936, older members mentioned Roosevelt’s visits.  The President would “sit on the porch with the guys and swap lies.”  The memories, records and photographs of some of the members, such as Bill Stefurak, provide a fuller description of the Farm and its activities from the late 1930s onward.

The entrance to the Farm was on Lawrence Hill Road, more or less where Donovan Drive now begins. A sign near the main gate read, “Ladies will please not pass this point.”  Ladies were thus deprived of visiting the race track to the right of the entrance road.  To the left was a practice polo field, followed by two clay tennis courts behind which stood two cement handball courts (which stood until recently in the yard of one of the houses on Donovan Drive).  South of the tennis courts were twenty bungalows, each equipped with six spring beds and with shutters on all sides that could be opened in the warmer weather.

The Club House is gone, but the fireplace still stands

The Club House is gone, but the fireplace still stands

To the east of the bungalows stood the mess hall (which could accommodate 125 to 150 at a sitting) and the clubhouse. The stone fireplace for the clubhouse still stands in the yard of a house on Squadron Court.  The mess hall, which was at a right angle to the club house, stood more or less where Squadron Court is now.  Further south was the wash house or locker room and a water tower.

The road ended in a T intersection.  To the left (east) it led behind the wash house to a parking area.  To the right the road led to the stable complex which stood approximately where Donovan Drive and Rough Riders Court now intersect and consisted of a shed, four stables, a barn, a water tower and pump house.

To the south and west of the stables was the polo field.  The Farm was open from early July to early September.  From September to June the men trained once a week in the armory in Brooklyn.  During the summer months, the horses were stabled at the Farm.  Although the Farm was established for the benefit of the men, the horses seemed to be rejuvenated after two months in the fields eating fresh grass.

Some members lived at the Farm all summer commuting to their jobs in the city.  Most, however, came out just for the weekend.  Although there was no charge to stay in the bungalows, the men were charged for breakfast (50¢) and dinner ($1) whether they ate on the Farm or not.  Lunch was 75¢.  Active members of the squadron, who paid $4.25 a month in dues, were charged 50¢ to ride a horse at the farm.  Veteran members, who paid annual dues of $9, paid $1 to ride a horse.  The dues paid for the upkeep of both the Brooklyn clubhouse and the Farm.

The Mess Hall

The Mess Hall

In the summer, the cooks from the clubhouse and the staff from the armory would come out to tend the horses and maintain the farm.  Members would arrive by car or take the train to Cold Spring Harbor, where they would be met by the farm bus.  Although the farm had tennis courts, handball courts and baseball diamonds, most men spent their time on horseback.  They could ride a trail with jumps through the hilly wooded section of the property along Peabody Road.  This area was known as the “Russian ride.”  The origins of that name are lost, explained Stefurak:  “There was an Italian jump on it.  Figure that out.”

There was also a sabre course in the southwest corner of the Farm where Peabody and Saw Mill Roads intersect.  Some members would organize races on the racetrack near the entrance to the Farm.  The track, which was in a hilly area, “was all up and down, the damnest thing you’d ever want to ride on,” remembers Stefurak.

The men would wear racing silks and odds would be placed, but it was all done for fun.  “You make a couple of bucks here, lose a couple of bucks.  And if you made it, you’d buy beer anyway,” explains William Hurley, who joined the squadron in 1938.

Members would also ride out through the surrounding countryside.  A brochure for the 1937 season boasts of “the diversity of scene found in this charming wooded, rolling country. . . .   The region abounds in bridle paths, so that little or no riding need be done on main highways.”  Destinations included the Otto Kahn estate, Eagle Dock Beach in Cold Spring Harbor, and a German beer garden in Melville.  “We always went up to Melville,” recalls Bill Hurley.  “At that time, the property around the Farm was farms; potato farms and so forth.  You could ride right from the Farm itself right to Melville.”

Polo matches between the squadron’s team and teams from the U S. Army and local polo clubs were held every Sunday.  Spectators would enter through the white gate, which still stands, on Woodbury Road just east of Saw Mill Road.  The members, most of whom were single, rode hard during the day and raised hell at night.

Some went into town on dates with the nurses from Huntington Hospital, but most spent their evenings on the Farm.  While the Farm was run like an exclusive country club, Hurley says, “the men themselves came from all walks of life.  You had attorneys and you had draftsmen and you had bus drivers.  You name it.

“We lived like millionaires.  We were the working class of Brooklyn and we lived very well,” adds Stefurak.

But on the eve of World War II, the Farm was once again used for military training.  Members enlisted in the federal service for one year from January 1941 to January 1942. That one year enlistment was soon extended for the duration of the war.

The Farm fell into disuse and was leased to a local farmer to graze his cows.  Reportedly the turf at the Farm was so good that during the war some of the sod was transplanted to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, which was three blocks from the Squadron’s armory.  To help commercial farmers work their fields in the face of labor shortages during the war federal and state agricultural agencies proposed using the Farm to house 250 Bahamans, who would work on local farms.  The Huntington Town Board denied the request because it would violate local zoning laws.

World War II also saw the demise of the cavalry.  Horse fighting was deemed incompatible with modern warfare and both the U.S. Army and the New York National Guard abolished their cavalry units.  During the war, there were no active members paying their $50 a year in dues, so “the Board of Governors had to make a choice between the Farm and the clubhouse. Most felt under the circumstances it was better to hold on to the Farm and to sell the clubhouse, which they did,” explains Hurley.

While the men were training at Fort Devens in April 1942, club officials came up and told them to sign their rights to the Farm over to Squadron C Cavalry Club.  In May 1942, Troop C Armory Auxiliary conveyed the farm to the Squadron C Cavalry Club of Brooklyn, Inc. for a nominal sum.  In August 1942, the club’s charter was again amended,

this time to allow the club to hold real property and thus legitimize the purchase of the Farm.  To be sure of good title, the club also received a quitclaim deed from Squadron C Farm, Inc., which had been managing the property for over twenty years.


In the summer of 1946, after returning from service in the Pacific theatre, Stefurak took his wife Ruth out to see the Farm.  They found the buildings intact but surrounded by four-foot high grass.  Some of the grass was trampled down in a path leading to one of the bungalows.  Inside, Stefurak found three other members of the cavalry club, John Delapina, Arty Campbell and Bill Sloan.  Stefurak asked, “Why don’t we get some of the guys together and get the farm going again?”

And that’s what they did.

They cut the grass, painted the buildings, rebuilt the tennis courts, planted flowers around the clubhouse and maintained the pump house, which according to Stefurak, produced “the sweetest water you ever tasted.”

Still missing were horses.  Since the cavalry unit was disbanded, there were no horses to bring out from Brooklyn.  Squadron A, in Manhattan, did manage to hold onto its horses.  Squadron A loaned the horses for the summer in 1947, but someone let them loose and the privilege was not extended the following year.   Instead, the club entered into a month-to-month lease with John and Francis Rice to operate a horse farm on the site.   In addition to receiving rent from the Rice brothers to pay the property taxes, club members could ride the horses for $2.  Weekends at the Farm were now more do-it-yourself.  There was no staff to cook meals and no set schedule of fees.  Instead those who came out put up five dollars and shopping details were organized.  The shoppers would drive into Huntington village, buy some steaks at Berger’s Butcher Shop on New Street and then stop at Finnegan’s for a drink before driving back up to the Farm.  The steaks, or sometimes lobsters, were barbequed on Saturday night.  “At night we got dolled up and we went out,” remembers Stefurak.

Enjoying the Club House after the war

Enjoying the Club House after the war

In addition to tennis, the men, and now their wives as well, would continue to ride horses out into the countryside.  The Melville beer garden was still a popular destination.  They would also visit the Marshall Field estate to swim in the Long Island Sound (the club members were admitted to the still private estate by the stable hands who knew them from the pre-war period).

Sunday dinner was at Ma Glynn’s on East Main Street or Rothman’s in East Norwich.

Bill and Ruth Stefurak were post-war regulars at the Farm.  “It was a great weekend.  I’d come out here. I’d ride, play tennis, swim, have a good drink, good eatin’.  What more could you ask for?  We had everything for nothing.”  Immediately after the war, 50 to 60 members would regularly gather at the Farm for picnics.  But as time went on and families grew, the number dwindled to about twenty, then to only 10 or 12.

The Rice brothers converted the polo field into a show ring and gave riding lessons and organized horse shows there.  In 1949, the Irish American Club held its first Irish Field Day at the Farm.  Four years later, tens of thousands of visitors took part in the Town’s three day Tercentenary celebration at the Farm.

Starting in 1950, members of the New York Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association transformed the old saber course into a dog racetrack complete with starting gates and an electric rabbit.  Non-betting races were held every Sunday until 1966.


Almost as soon as the Farm was up and running again after the war, efforts to sell the land began.   Despite the desire of World War I era veterans to sell the Farm, the younger members kept the Farm going for 15 years.  Eventually, club membership, which due to charter restrictions could not be replenished, was dwindling due to deaths.  Furthermore, the club stopped accepting new members from among those who were eligible to join.  Some members quit the club because of this change in policy.  The older members argued that the purpose of the club—to encourage enlistment in the cavalry—was impossible because the cavalry no longer existed.  Moreover, they argued, why keep the place going for the select few “who raised hell” on the weekends.  The younger members, not all of whom used the Farm regularly, disagreed.  They claim that the old-timers got greedy.

“They saw a good plot of land on which they could build and make some money on it.  And they wanted to take advantage of it,” explains Stefurak, who vehemently opposed the sale.  Stefurak didn’t see it as simply a question of the club maintaining a playground for just a few members.  He asked, “What are you going to get out of it?  A few hundred dollars?   Doesn’t it make more sense to donate it to the Town of Huntington and establish an open preserve and maybe have horses there so your grandchildren can see it?  Wouldn’t that be worth a couple of hundred dollars a piece to you?”

Members opposed to the development of the Farm suggested donating the land to the Huntington School District, which was looking for a site for a new high school, or to the boy scouts.  In fact, the Huntington school district in 1955 had a referendum to approve the purchase of 54 acres of the Farm to build a new high school to replace the crowded Main Street school (now Huntington Town Hall).  The voters rejected the proposal by a vote of 1162 to 848.  The new high school was built just a few years later on Oakwood Road.  New York State approached the club about acquiring some of the land for an armory, but was refused.  Another suggestion to re-route the proposed Bethpage State Parkway extension to Caumsett State Park from the shores of Cold Spring Harbor through the farm and Huntington Country Club was also not pursued.

Bill Hurley, who did not visit the Farm much after the war, felt “there was an awful lot of skullduggery going.”  He believed that many of those pushing the sale were also part of the group that sought to purchase the property.  “They didn’t own the property.  They didn’t put a penny down for the purchase price,” Hurley complained.  Moreover, the club could afford to keep the Farm.  In 1960, the annual real estate tax, insurance and maintenance costs for the property amounted to about $4,000.  Dues from 144 members (there were also 22 life members who did not pay dues) netted the club $1,300 and the Rice brothers lease brought in $3,480 a year.

However, if the Rice brothers, who had a month-to-month tenancy, decided to vacate, the club would have an annual deficit of about $2,700, an amount that could quickly deplete the club’s liquid assets of $10,500.  The club’s Board of Governors, which considered the land underutilized and thought the club could benefit more from the money than from continued use of the land, approved the sale to Rough Riders Farm, Inc., the president of which was George R. Tollefsen, a member of the cavalry club.  The purchase price was $290,000.

Although not required, the sale was also voted upon by the membership at large which also approved of the sale by a vote of 79 to 33. Considerably more than the handful of members who used the farm regularly voted against the sale. The opponents of the sale were extremely bitter. “It kind of broke our hearts,” Stefurak recalls.

Proceeds of the sale were divided among the club members, each receiving $1,800 (about $13,500 in 2012 dollars) in two or three installments as the mortgages were paid off.  A fund was set up to establish an endowment to be given to the Brooklyn Historical Society to preserve materials and artifacts that the club had donated to the society.  Each member was asked to give $100.  Hurley gladly gave to the fund: “I felt this is for a good cause.  It’s good for the artifacts which I was part of for so many years and I’m getting the eighteen hundred dollars gratis, so why not give a hundred to this fund.”  The members raised $10,000 which “at that time seemed a tidy sum.”

In 1962, a proposal to develop the property with luxury apartments went nowhere.  The clubhouse burned to the ground in a spectacular fire in October 1962 with flames reaching 50 feet in the air.  Rough Riders Farm, Inc filed a subdivision map with the county on June 4, 1964.  The map depicted three new streets.  The names of two of the streets recall the land’s cavalry past—Rough Riders Court and Squadron Court.  The principal street, Donovan Drive, was named after Rough Riders Farm, Inc.’s lawyer and principal, James B. Donovan.  Donovan, a partner in the firm of Watters and Donovan, served as general counsel to the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and as an associate prosecutor at the principal Nuremberg War Trial.  He gained notoriety in 1957 when he was appointed to represent accused Soviet spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, who was exchanged for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers.  He later negotiated the ransom of prisoners taken by Cuba in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

In December 1964 Rough Riders Farm, Inc. conveyed the property to Laurel Estates Corp., which built and sold houses of Squadron Hill.  Later that month, the last horse show was held at the Farm.

The first residents of Squadron Hill’s new incarnation arrived in 1966.  Today, Squadron Hill consists of 40 houses on 1.5 to 2 acre lots, three ground water recharge basins and a 3.9-acre town park.  Almost half a century of suburban landscaping and natural forest succession mask the area’s prior use as a farm, military training camp and summer retreat for the rough riders of Brooklyn’ Squadron C.  All that remains are the old stone fireplace, an old barn, one of the sleeping bungalows, and the white gate on Woodbury Road.

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The sign in the window says:  “Closed for Renovations.”  The work will be more extensive than originally planned—the former Sun Ming restaurant building is slated to be demolished.


As an example of Roadside Architecture, the building has served as a landmark along Jericho Turnpike, but it did not achieve enough significance to arise to the level of a “ historic landmark.”  Nonetheless, like any building that’s been around for over 80 years, it does have a history.

In 1923, Pat and Lena Maggi, a young couple from Brooklyn, moved to West Hills and opened a restaurant on Jericho Turnpike called Ye Old Homestead Chop House.  The exact location of Ye Old Homestead, which appears to have been in a converted house, has not been determined.  A 1924 newspaper article in the “Plainview” column refers to it as being “on the Jericho Turnpike near Huntington.”  So it may have been in Nassau County.

After seven and a half years, the Maggis built a new restaurant at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Round Swamp Road.  The Chateau Maggi featured American and Italian food and promised “A real, bang-up good time.”  Maggi sold the restaurant in 1940.

By 1947, it was known as Pavillon Henri IV and featured a live orchestra.  A year later the owner and the orchestra were the same, but there was a new chef and a new name:  The Patio.  It can be assumed from the name Cliff Fearn originally gave to his version of the restaurant that he served French cuisine.  While the quality of the food is unknown to us, perhaps the bigger attraction was Mr. Fearn’s novel idea of a “television theatre.”  Mr. Fearn claimed to have the world’s largest television screen—eight feet by ten feet.   Weekly bulletins were mailed to patrons to advise them of the nightly schedule.  For example, in July of 1948, the schedule included the Democratic Convention on Thursday night, the CBS feature film on Friday, the Brooklyn handicap on Saturday, “Author Meets the Critics” on Sunday, baseball on Monday, the Texaco Start Theatre on Tuesday,  and the Kraft Television theatre on Wednesday.


Apparently the novelty of the world’s largest television and the French cuisine were not popular enough to sustain The Patio.  Within just a few years, new ownership invited Huntingtonians to “Dine delightfully in a beautiful Spanish Inn;”  a Spanish inn that served southern fried chicken, sirloin steaks and sugar cured ham steaks.  The new incarnation was known as Raay-Nor’s Inn, the north shore companion to Baldwin’s Raay-Nor’s Cabin, which opened in 1946.  In Baldwin the country cuisine was matched by the building’s log cabin architecture, which was similar to Link’s Log Cabin in Centerport.

Soon the rotation of international cuisine turned to the east.  In February 1955, Peter Chinn, who served as a Marine Intelligence Officer in World War II, added pagoda details to the French chateau cum Spanish inn and converted the menu to Chinese fare.   Chinn had come to the United States with his family in 1930 as a teenager.   During the war he was stationed in China and remained there until the Communists gained control of the country in 1948.   Each of the two dozen employees of King Wah Restaurant had an ownership stake in the venture.

In 1966, the restaurant changed hands, but the menu remained Chinese.   The new owner Albert Chin renamed the place Sun Ming.  This last incarnation would prove to be the most long-lived—over 40 years—but it too closed a few years ago.  And soon Pat Maggi’s building like each of its incarnations will just be a memory.

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The building at the southwest corner of Main Street and New York Avenue in Huntington village has an unusual shape.  It’s as if someone chopped off the western third of the building.  And, in fact, that is what happened.

The first building at that location was erected by Stephen C. Rogers in 1860.[1] Rogers and David C. Brush had opened the Suffolk Hotel just to the west of the corner lot in 1840.[2]  In the summer of 1860, Rogers built what was initially called a “Village Hall.”  It was not built for governmental purposes, rather as a venue for lectures, concerts and meetings.  It was estimated that the 27’ x 56’ building would seat 600 persons, which seems an overly optimistic number.[3]  In September 1860, the new hall opened with an address by the Reverend Hiram Crozier on the science of music, which was appropriate because the new venue was known as Euterpean Hall, named for the Greek muse of music.  The address, of course, was followed by a concert.[4]

Euterpean Hall was used not only for concerts, but also for lectures, religious services and town meetings.  Both the Central Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church used the hall for religious services when their church buildings were being constructed.  The Hall was used as a drill room when men were training to defend the village from a supposed Draft Riot at the West Neck brickyards (see The Irish in Huntington, posted on this site on March 17, 2012).

Town meetings and annual elections were also held here.  In the nineteenth century, town matters were decided by the citizens of the town in an annual meeting held in April.  The Hall was not big enough to accommodate all the town’s residents, so the Town Supervisor would announce the propositions to the crowd from the rear staircase.   Matters were decided by voice vote unless there was some doubt on which position received the loudest response; in which case a show of hands was requested.  Residents, who came to the village for the annual meeting, took advantage of the large crowds to do some business.  They would swap horses and cows and conduct many lines of business.  The trading wasn’t limited to livestock; votes were openly bought as well. The bars did a good business that day and impromptu horse races were held on Main Street. [5]

The ground floor of the building housed the grocery business of Stephen Morris and the feed store of Russell Hurd.  The grocery business was later assumed by Sammis & Baylis and the feed store became the meat market of Burling & Higbie.[6]   Rogers retired from the hotel business in May 1864, but continued to own the land until 1875 when he sold it to Samuel Hubbs.[7]

The 1899 Building

The 1899 Building

In 1899, the executors of Hubbs’ estate sold the property, which included the Euterpean Hall building, to Edward Carll, the son of Northport’s famous shipbuilder Jesse Carll.  At the time of the sale, it was announced that the Euterpean Hall building would be taken down and replaced with a wider two-story building that would cover the alley between Euterpean Hall and the hotel and contain three stores.[8]  Within just a couple of weeks, the two businesses in the Euterpean Hall building were relocated to a new building on New York Avenue and the old building was torn down.[9]  A month later the new building was completed and Sammis & Baylis as well as Burling & Higbie moved back to Main Street.  The second floor was used as sleeping accommodations for the Suffolk Hotel.[10]  After the hotel was torn down in 1927, the second floor rooms were converted to office use.

Edward Carll died in 1913 and left the Main Street property in trust for his family.[11]  The heirs sold the property in 1921.[12] The following year, the portion of the building containing corner grocery business of Sammis & Baylis and the middle store occupied by the Barr & Willis jewelry store was purchased by Henry M. Woessner.[13]  Woessner and his brother-in-law John F. Semon owned a pharmacy on Main Street opposite the Bank of Huntington.[14]  Woessner made several improvements to the store including installing large show windows and a soda fountain.[15]  The new store opened on July 29, 1923.  Within two years, Woessner had transferred the pharmacy business to Harris A. Tomashoff.[16]

In the westernmost storefront,  David W. Trainer conducted his stationery and newspaper business.  In 1928, the drug store was re-divided and the middle storefront was used for a shoe store.[17]

The Building Today

The Building Today

In 1934, just as the drugstore (now the Max Rosen Pharmacy) and the shoe store were about to be taken over by Walgreen’s, fire swept through the building.  Believed to have started from an oil burner in the drugstore, the early Saturday morning fire gutted the stores and second floor offices.  Above the drugstore and shoe store were two dental offices.  Above Trainer’s stationery store was the law office of Theron Sammis.  Although it was one building, there were two owners.  The two storefronts to the east were owned by H.T. and S.E. Corporation (H.T. was Harris Tomashoff and S.E. was Sol Elkins).  The western most storefront and office above was owned by Trainer.  It was thought the entire building would have to be razed.[18]

Tomashoff and Elkins decided to restore their portion of the building.  Trainer decided to start over again with a new brick building.[19]  The result is Huntington’s lopsided building.

[1] A later account (The Long-Islander, March 25, 1899) indicates that Rogers raised the second floor of an existing building.  Contemporaneous accounts confirming this assertion have not been located.

[2] The Long-Islander, August 3, 1860

[3] The Long-Islander, July 27, 1860

[4] The Long-Islander, September 28, 1860.  It should be noted that there had previously been a Euterpian Hall in Huntington. In 1852, the Odd Fellows Hall was re-dedicated as Euterpean Hall (The Long-Islander, November 12, 1852).  The location of this hall has not been determined yet.  Euterpean Hall later relocated to a third building at the northeast corner of Main and Wall Streets.

[5] The Long-Islander, March 25, 1899, March 20, 1925, and April 1, 1927

[6] The Long-Islander, March 25, 1899.

[7] The Long-Islander, September 11, 1885

[8] The Long-Islander, March 25, 1899

[9] The Long-Islander, April 8, 1899

[10] The Long-Islander, May 6, 1899

[11] The Long-Islander, September 5, 1913

[12] The Long-Islander, November 4, 1921

[13] The Long-Islander, December 15, 1922

[14] The Long-Islander, October 29, 1942.  Semon later entered the real estate business and built Columbia Hall on New York Avenue in Huntington Station, the first three story office and business building in that section of town.

[15] The Long-Islander, April 6, 1923

[16] The Long-Islander, March 20, 1925

[17] The Long-Islander, September 21, 1928

[18] The Long-Islander, March 30, 1934

[19] The Long-Islander, April 20, 1934.

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147 Woodbury RoadOn Woodbury Road, about a half mile south of Main Street, Huntington sits a brick commercial building in the middle of a residential neighborhood. For decades, half of the first floor has been home to a delicatessen, while the other half has been dedicated to personal grooming businesses—previously a beauty parlor, currently a nail salon. The upper level has seen a variety of businesses. How did this commercial building end up in a residential neighborhood?
Ben Tasman, one of the first glaziers in the Town of Huntington, acquired the almost half acre property in 1928. By the following year, he apparently started to construct a building on the site—a notice in The Long-Islander that year advises that Tasman had topsoil available for removal from a site across the street from the Woodbury Avenue School.  The building is built into the side of a hill across from the site of the old schoolhouse.  This early construction date explains why a commercial building sits in an area zoned residential—Huntington didn’t enact a zoning ordinance until 1934. However, it seems the building was not finished before the onset of the Great Depression.
The not-yet-completed building drew the attention of one of Huntington’s wealthy summer residents.  In 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression, Marshall Field, whose estate on Lloyd Neck is now Caumsett State Historic Park, wanted to help alleviate unemployment in town and show that a small town like Huntington could support manufacturing enterprises. He established the United States Leather Goods Company, Inc. with John Clark, the superintendent of Caumsett, as the company’s president. The manufacture of leather luggage was chosen because it was a labor-intensive business and would not compete with any existing businesses in Huntington. The company expected to employ 50 or 60 hands initially. The company leased Tasman’s building and would begin operations “as soon as it is completed.” Perhaps Tasman started construction in 1929 and stopped with the onset of the Depression, but was able to complete the building with the promise of a new tenant.
The company manufactured high-grade luggage for department stores across the country and was soon known as Suffolk Leather Goods Company and later as Suffolk Craftsman, Inc. Field hired Samuel Balterman, who was later described as “one of the best leather manufacturing men of the East,” to serve as general manager of the venture. Six years later, Balterman purchased the company from its organizers. Despite the earlier predictions of increased employment, by 1941 the company had only 20 employees.
The building was almost entirely destroyed by fire in December 1950 with damage estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. It took firefighters five and a half hours to extinguish the blaze, which they attacked from all sides as well as from an aerial ladder truck. All that was left were the four walls and the roof. Mr. Tasman said he would rebuild. But the fire appears to have been the end of the leather goods factory. At the time of the fire, the building was also home to a printing concern known as Pheasant Press, and was used for storage by the owner of Peggy’s Outlet store on Elm Street in Huntington village.
Three years after that devastating fire, M&D Coat Company moved into the building because there had been a fire at its previous location on Railroad Avenue in Huntington Station. M&D made coats on the premises and sold at factory prices, or as they advertised in 1958 “A little out of the way; less to pay.”
According to Building Department records, in 1958, the roof on the building was re-shingled, the rotted cornices replaced and the building was painted. Around the same time, a deli was opened on the north side of the first floor; while the south side was home to a hairdresser.
The executors of Tasman’s estate sold the property in 1984 to Henry Birli, Paul Birli and Michael Macchiarella, who sold appliances from the second floor of the building under the name Three D T.V. & Appliance Co., Inc. The current owner acquired the property in 2000 and the upper floor is now the production studio of a shop that sells monogrammed gifts.

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Early in the last century there were two businesses on Wall Street operated by Huntingtonians named Thomas Gorman.  One was born in 1884; the other was born in 1887.  At one time they each conducted business from the store directly behind the First National Bank building, which was at the northeast corner of Wall and Main Streets.  Each man’s paternal grandfather was named Daniel Gorman.  One was a tinsmith; the other sold fish.

Thomas Henry Gorman, the tinsmith, was the son of William and Anna Mullen.  His father had been in the fruit and vegetable business.  He had four sons and three daughters.  His son Thomas found employment in William H. Stoyle’s tinsmith store on Main Street.  In 1918, after 20 years with Stoyle, Thomas started his own business at 6 Wall Street (an addition to the back of the First National Bank building).  His business eventually occupied the upper two floors of the building comprising nearly 2000 square feet in addition to the 13’ x 18’ storefront.  Ten years later, the business grew to such an extent that Thomas needed a bigger building.  He purchased land across the street at 13 Wall Street and built a brick structure.  The new facility was considered the largest sheet metal works east of New York City.

In addition to repairing and cleaning stoves, ranges and heaters, Thomas installed metal work, such as gutters, tin ceilings and ventilating ducts at construction projects throughout the Island.  Local projects included Huntington High School, the Lowndes Avenue School, Central High School and the Hotel Huntington.  Thomas’ two brothers, Walter and Joseph, joined him and  in 1929 incorporated as Thomas H. Gorman Brothers, Inc.

In 1935, the business moved to Thomas’ home at 102 Woodbury Road, where he died in 1959.

The other Thomas Gorman was the son of Peter J. Gorman.  During the 1890s, Peter worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish hatchery.  In 1899, he purchased the saloon of James Garity on Wall Street.  James Garity’s wife was the sister of Peter Gorman’s wife.  The 1900 census identifies Peter as a saloon keeper.  In 1910, he was listed as working at a saw mill—in 1915 there was a notice that he had retired as an engineer at the Brookside Mill, which was a steam mill on the west side of New York Avenue, north of Main Street.  In 1920, Peter’s occupation was given as day labor; and in 1930 as a fish market dealer.  His sons, Daniel and Thomas meanwhile were identified as masons and later as plasterers. (In the 1915 New York State census, Daniel was identified as a trolley car conductor).

But in 1919, Thomas and Daniel Gorman purchased the Wall Street Fish Market.  A photograph of Gorman’s Lobster Grill shows an address of 6 & 8 Wall Street, meaning that the fish store was in the same building as the tinsmith shop.   It should be noted that the picture probably dates to after 1934 because italso advertised that there was “Beer on Draught.”  The 1922 Sanborn insurance map shows three stores in that location:  closest to Main Street is “Fish,” next is “Rest’rt,” and the northernmost store is “tin shop.”

Thomas F. Gorman of the fish market was a World War I veteran.  He, his brother, two sisters, his brother’s daughter and his mother lived in the brick house at the top of Carver Street.  Thomas continued to live there until the late 1960s when he moved to Walnut Creek, California, where his niece lived.  Thomas died in 1970.

The First National Bank building, which included the fish market and tin shop was torn down in the early 1950s.

Because their paternal grandfathers had the same name and they operated their businesses in the same building, it may be thought that the two Thoamses were related.  Perhaps their fathers—Peter and William—were brothers, making the two Thomases first cousins.  But the 1870 census, when William was 13 years old, does not list Peter, who was 5 years old that year.  Moreover, Peter’s mother’s name was Ellen; William’s mother’s name was Ann.   It seems just a coincidence that Thomas H. Gorman and Thomas F. Gorman shared a name, a grandfather’s name, and a business address.

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