Thursday, 29 August 2013 00:00
Fulton Trucks and the Property History
(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Wednesday, July 24, Eric Goldschrafe, president of the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, delivered this speech. The “Minute of History,” is a series of speeches delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer.)
If you were to go down Conklin Street and cross Broadhollow Road (Rte. 110), you will spot several piles of large tree trunk sections and mountains of wood chips on the left-hand side. To the right, you will see the Airport Plaza Mall. If only the ground could speak- what a history is there!
In 1916, William Fulton Melhulish, Jr. purchased the land between the Long Island Rail Road tracks and Conklin Street and constructed a 160-foot square building. Here, he began manufacturing trucks weighing 1-1/2 tons, powered by diesel engines purchased from the Buda Engine Company in Illinois. The sturdy chassis mounted several body styles, such as vans, flatbeds, and fire trucks. The dependable 4-cylinder engines gave good service, and the trucks could carry a “full ton”. The payload increased over the years, and about 1300 vehicles were built before Fulton closed in 1925.
Sherman Fairchild had a flying field and some buildings on Motor Avenue, where he had produced the FC-2, and models 21, 31, 41, and 71 aircraft. As this facility had become too small, Fairchild purchased the Fulton property and building in 1925, and his real estate company, Fairchild Realty, Incorporated, bought some of the land on the south side of Conklin, which was developed into a flying field.
Aircraft manufacturing had begun in Farmingdale in 1914, in Adolph Bausch’s vacated woodworking factory at Richard and Rose Streets by Charles Sperry. His wingless planes were towed by car to a larger building on Motor Avenue for final assembly. Here, he built land and sea planes, R-3 racing planes, and Sperry Messenger aircraft. Sydney Breese built Army trainers in a factory on Eastern Parkway in 1918, but these were never used.
Fairchild built airplanes from 1925 to 1931 in Farmingdale, but after that, moved his operation to Hagerstown, Maryland. The vacated property was then occupied by AVCO Aviation, however, this manufacturing failed due to the depression, Only a few Pilgrim aircraft were ever completed.
In 1932, the Grumman Aircraft Company moved in, and built aircraft for the Navy until 1937, when the need for expansion led to a move to Bethpage.The FF-1 biplane fighter, advanced for its time, was produced while Grumman was in Farmingdale. Grumman went on to build many great aircraft for the Navy, including the Hellcat, Avenger, and Tomcat, in Bethpage.
The next company that was to occupy the old Fulton shops was Russian-born Alexander De Seversky. in 1935, he moved his business from College Point to Farmingdale and began manufacturing Army fighter planes, such as the P-35 all-aluminum monoplane. In October of 1939, the company was reorganized, and became Republic Aviation.
Republic went on to produce almost 9100 P-47 Thunderbolt fighters during World War II, as they expanded the buildings and runways to keep up with production demands.
During this time, Conklin Street, from Route 110 to Wellwood Avenue, was closed to the public, and a sharp dog-leg turn was created to go around a new building. During 1944, Republic employed over 24,000 workers. During the post-war years, Republic entered the jet age, producing the F-84 series and the supersonic F-105 Thunderchief, which performed yeoman service in the Viet Nam conflict.
Conklin Street was re-opened to the public when Republic was taken over by Fairchild-Hiller. At this point, the business was called Fairchild-Republic, and production was continued on the F-105. Successive aircraft types were the T-46 trainer, and the ubiquitous A-10 Thunderbolt II, more often called the “Warthog” by its pilots and crews.
Additionally, Fairchild-Republic produced some sub-contract assemblies and parts for other manufacturers. During this period, the dog-leg turn was straightened out.
Manufacturing ceased in 1987, and Republic was history. The buildings were abandoned, and Fairchild destroyed all of Republic’s archives. A sole-surviving document, a purchase order for a block of P-47s, was given to the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
Thus ended a great period in Farmingdale’s history, manufacturing, and employment. The buildings and property were vandalized and damaged by fires, and ultimately torn down. The original Fulton Truck property is now the ignominious home to piles of tree by-products left by Hurricane Sandy. The lone surviving hangar is keeping the latter part of the history alive, housing the American Airpower Museum on New Highway. At this facility, many vintage aircraft, including those from Republic and Grumman. the “ghosts of history past” are frequently let out to roam the skies over Farmingdale to remind us of our heritage.