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Minute Of History: August 2, 2012

Some Interesting Historical Sites Around Our Town

(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Tuesday, July 18, James B. McCullagh, vice president of Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, was scheduled to deliver this speech. The “Minute of History,” is a series of speeches delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer.)

Even a prophet is said to be overlooked in his own hometown; the same can often be said of historical points of interest in a community. People note sites of past events in places they visit on vacations to remote areas but fail to observe those in their own towns. Let us consider now but a few such in Farmingdale.

Our area’s first European settler was Thomas Powell who moved his family here in 1687. Eight years later, in 1695, he entered into a formal agreement as the Bethpage Purchase with three Native American clans – the Massapequas, the Matinecocks, and the Secatogues. This pact secured about 15 square miles or almost 10,000 acres – including modern Farmingdale and Bethpage as well as some segments of other neighboring communities. One can today see where this famous document was signed at Broad Spring, found at the junction of Merritts Road and Quaker Meeting House Road. Although the Powell’s first house on Hempstead Turnpike (located where we now find Farmingdale Auto Collusion Shop) survived only into the 1930s, their second home survives today with an historical marker on Merritts Road. A printable map of the Bethpage Purchase is obtainable by logging onto the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society’s interesting webpage (www.fbhsli.org).

Turning now to railroad history, one can imagine the tremendous impact of the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road first to Farmingdale in 1841 and then on to Greenport only three years later. This development was a boon not only to travelers but also local industry and agriculture. The train station was originally located immediately adjacent to the west side of Main Street, but the current structure was erected on its present location in 1896 and is now designated as a national historical site. The current station’s historical marker also mentions the tower that was erected (still extant) to provide electrical power for the Amityville – Farmingdale – Huntington Trolley Line that operated from 1909 to 1919. Railroad historians also note Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy’s 1899 accomplishment of riding a bicycle for a mile in somewhat less than 60 seconds. This ride occurred on the Central Line’s rails south of the intersection of Main and Fulton Streets.

Our immediate region also played a major role in 20th century aviation. Companies such as Republic, Fairchild and Grumman loomed large in the development of aircraft for war and peace. Grumman even produced the Lunar Landing Module that conveyed our astronauts to the moon in 1968. A trip to the American Air Power Museum beyond the Airport Plaza Mall and/or The Long Island Airport Historical Society at Republic Airport is well worthwhile.

The Quaker families in the Farmingdale area established the original Quaker Meeting House, which was located on the north side of Quaker Meeting House Road, in 1741. A larger, second Meeting House replaced this in 1810 and lasted until the blizzard of 1888. The third Meeting House was completed in 1890 and was moved to its current position on the south side of the road in 1910 where, after repairs in 1990, it remains to this day.

No overview of historical sites would be complete without reference to Farmingdale State College, which was founded in 1912. As this beautiful facility celebrates its centennial, it will repay a visit, especially the horticultural gardens in the northeast sector of the campus.