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The Massapequa Connection

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Historic Places of Yesteryear

Carman’s Grist Mill

Just prior to 1700, Thomas Carmen, a miller, moved from Connecticut, into what is now known as the West Amityville area. Attracted by a wide fast flowing stream and a huge meadow along its banks, he could see a suitable site for the area’s first grist mill.

The stream was damned, creating a pond in the area of what is now the Alfred G. Berner Jr. High School athletic field. The mill was located at the southeastern end of the mill pond, about 1000 feet of what is now Merrick Road. Merrick Road several names over the years: Kings Highway, South Turnpike, South Country Road, Brooklyn to Sag Harbour Road and Montauk Highway. The intersection was called Carman’s Corners.

Accordingly, the mill was constructed of massive hewn timbers. Nails were hand made. The machinery was operated by water power that turned a huge wheel connected to gears that moved millstones.

The millstones, probably about five feet in diameter and nearly one ton each, were most likely imported from Europe.

Many neighbors to the north would travel south in their wagons with grain for the mill. This was a part of an old Indian trail leading to the meadows. It soon became Carmens Lane and later Carmans Road.

A second grist mill was built on the west side of the pond and was sold in 1886 to Dr. William Polk. He continued the operation of the grist mill for over 20 years.

In 1914 the Mill Pond Damn broke. The old building was also in need of costly repairs, therefore ending the service of a fine old grist and flower mill extending from 1700 to 1914.

The Old Brick House

This week’s historical feature centers on Massapequa’s first non-Indian dwelling, known as “The Old Brick House.” It was built at the head of Brick House Creek, now known as Massapequa Creek, by Major Thomas Jones, the first European settler of Fort Neck (Massapequa).

The house is believed to have been built in 1696, and was considered very substantial for its time. It was located on Merrick Road where the First Church of Christ Scientist now stands.

The house had brick walls, a steep gabled roof, chimneys on each gable and a lower portion covered by a lean-to roof.

According to old tales, the brick house became deserted in the early 1700s, shortly after the death of Major Thomas Jones. Gradually, it fell into disrepair, and those who attempted to live there constantly reported hearing noises in the attic.

Other strange occurrences were rumored to happen at the house as well. One of the windows in the gable refused to remain closed. No matter how the window was fastened, nailed or boarded shut, it would always blow open again.

At one point, a bricklayer was called in to brick up the window. No sooner had he finished, however, when the bricks and morter were blown out of the window again.

Rumors then began that the house was haunted by the ghost of Major Thomas Jones. Few people could be induced to pass the old house at night, and it was eyed with suspicion by day. Gradually, it crumbled away and the orchards around it went to ruin as well. The house was finally torn down in 1836.

Servants Cottage

This week, the Massapequan Observer higlights the Elbert Floyd-Jones Servants’ Cottage, which is now part of the Massapequa Historic Complex.

In the early days of Massapequa, the small, quaint cottage was home to servants of the Floyd-Jones family. Later, it became the home of families such as the Gotterts (1912-24), who were among the middle-class residents of the Massapequas.

In the late 1940s or early 1950s, Helen Bagnall, a prominent member of Grace Episcopal Church rented the cottage and installed electricity for the first time. At this time, heat for the cottage still came from a coal stove, and a supply of coal was kept on the porch.

Finally, in the 1960s, a bathroom and sink were installed. The famous Baldwin brothers of acting fame actually lived for a while in the cottage while their Nassau Chores home was being completely repainted.

In 1986, the cottage was moved from its original location to its present home adjacent to Old Grace Church. Today, it is owned by the Historical Society of the Massapequas and is home to a museum housing Indian collectibles and antique furnishings. It has been designated as a landmark by the Town of Oyster Bay.

For a tour of the complex, including the cottage, call Arlene Goodenough at 799-4676.

South Oyster Bay Railroad Station

The Long Island Rail Road reached Farmingdale in 1841, and residents of South Oyster Bay (Massapequa) journeyed to that village for transportation. It was not until 1867 that the South Side Railroad, a competitor of the Long Island Rail Road, extended a line through South Oyster Bay to Babylon.

The South Side company went bankrupt in 1874, and was reorganized as the Southern Railroad. In 1876, the Long Island Railroad began to operate the line under lease, but in 1879, the Southern Rail Road also went bankrupt.

The Southern Rail Road was succeeded by the Brooklyn and Montauk Railroad Co., which was finally merged with the Long Island Rail Road in 1889. The Long Island Rail Road, often beset by financial difficulties of its own through the years, has operated the line through Massapequa ever since.

In 1900, the Long Island Railroad became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Rail Road, but has operated as a completely independent company as the result of a reorganization that bought it out of bankruptcy in 1954.

The local train station was originally located on the west side of Hicksville Road at Sunrise Highway and was called South Oyster Bay Railroad Station. When the station was moved to its present location on the east side of Broadway about 1890, the name was changed to Massapequa.

The Massapequa Park railroad station was opened late in 1933, and the right of way was elevated in 1953. At that time, a new station was built for Massapequa on the 1890 site.

A Hotel and Resort Community

Soon after the railroad came, South Oyster Bay (Massapequa) became popular as a summer resort town. The Great South Bay was a mecca for hunting and fishing, and twelve hotels were located in the Massapequas.

One of the most famous of these hotels was the Vanderwater Hotel, formerly located at the corner of Hicksville and Merrick Roads.

Opened in 1796, the lavish establishment was an original stagecoach stop and was run by four generations of the Vanderwater family. Famous guests included Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president of the United States, and General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Union Army during the Civil War before the appointment of General Ulysses S. Grant.

Another famous hotel was the Massapequa Hotel. Wealthy urbanites would come to Massapequa with their nurses and maids to stay with them.

Unfortunately, the hotels became victims of fire and development, and no longer exist today.

The Jones Cemetery

Located on the south side of Merrick Road, east of Massapequa Avenue, it was the family burial grounds of the Jones family.

It is a farm cemetery, and was laid out about 1779 one-half to one acre in extent. Originally it was located some 50 feet south of Merrick Road, but in later years the road was shifted, until now it passes right by the graveyard. The cemetery was fenced in by the town in the late 1950’s. These farm burial grounds were generally laid out in an obscure part of the estate. Little did the Jones family realize that their burial ground would eventually face on one of the busiest roads in southern Long Island.

Many members of the family are interred here. There are two large marble vaults, a number of foot and headstones of white marble and a few more modern granite markers. There are also three very unusual small natural stone markers on the graves of three of our early pioneers. One bears the inscription “WXI,” the others are blank.

Brooklyn Water Works Pumping Station

The former Brooklyn Water Works Pumping Station is located on Sunrise Highway at Lake Shore Drive, alongside the Massapequa Reservoir, its banks adjacent to the west side of the Brady Community Park.

In 1888, 10 years before the structure of New York City and the five boroughs' system of government, Massapequa's reservoir was already supplying Brooklynites with their drinking water. Four deep reservoirs were constructed between Massapequa and Baldwin just to the north of the railroad tracks, known then as the Brooklyn and Montauk Railroad.

When Brooklyn Water Works contracted to build the reservoirs, narrow work train tracks had to be laid to transport materials. A road was also cut along the south side of the railway and served as a service road to bring supplies and was called Pipeline Boulevard by the workmen. Large truckloads of stone for the construction of the spillways and to line the banks also traveled the boulevard. On completion of the project the road was paved and used by the public and given the name Sunrise Highway. However, it ended at about where the Sears Shopping Center is now situated until the early 1930s. In order to run water to Brooklyn, an aqueduct constructed of bricks, large pipes and two pumping stations had to be built. One of the two pumping stations, with a Gothic design and heavy wood-exposed timbers, was located where the brick building now stands. The other station, built between Freeport and Baldwin just north of the tracks, also still stands.

The locations for the reservoirs were selected by the Brooklyn water company because of the many spring-fed streams to the north that included the Hempstead Plains to the west and Bethpage area to the north. In the late '80s, the pumping of water from the Long Island reservoirs was halted due to the threat of pollution. The Massapequa reservoir at no time ever supplied water to local residents, When the Massapequas were settled, private houses had their own wells. The water was brought to the surface by use of hand pumps and then later by electricity. At about 1930 or '31, the Massapequa Water District was formed and water mains were laid and connected to the water district's own deep well fields situated in several locations of the Massapequas.

The Historical Society of the Massapequas has adopted the former Brooklyn Water Works Pumping Station. The society has assumed responsibility to keep this building looking good, as well as preserving a bit of Massapequa's history.