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What Do You Know About Herricks?: August 14, 2009

Touring Old Herricks

Some of our most prominent local roads have surviving sections from previous eras. With a little imagination, we can have a few tiny glimpses of what the Herricks area was like in an earlier time.

Old Powerhouse road at the northern edge of the district is part of the original Powerhouse Road, first built to connect Herricks (now North Hills) with Old Westbury in 1872 and extended southwest to meet I.U. Willets Road just west of New Hyde Park Road in 1920. In the 1930s, all but a small portion of Powerhouse Road west of Mineola-Willis Avenue was rerouted to the south (today this is the path of the Long Island Expressway). Several of the homes on Old Powerhouse Road date to the 1920s.

When the Northern State Parkway opened in 1931, agreements with the owners of mansion estates closed large portions of Powerhouse Road and I.U. Willets Road to the public; today parts of these closed roads still exist as bits and pieces of roadway and large grooves running through condominium complexes. A small piece of the western section of I.U. Willets Road still exists and is in heavy use, just outside the Herricks school district. Hollow Lane, the 1,000 feet of hilly road lined with trees (and two office buildings) that connects the eastbound L.I.E. service road with New Hyde P ark Road, was a part of the original I.U. Willets Road as it was laid out in 1870. Parts of I.U. Willets Road were first paved in 1906.

Isaac Underhill Willets’s farm was on the west side of where the Willets Road meets Shelter Rock Road. Just east of the first traffic signal north of that intersection (opposite Acorn Ponds) is Old Shelter Rock Road. Running north-south for about 250 yards, this is the route of Shelter Rock Road before this part of the road was shifted west and its connection to I.U. Willets Road squared in 1963. For an even better sense of the curving, two-lane, tree-lined Shelter Rock Road before it was reconstructed in sections starting in 1958, another section of Old Shelter Rock Road splits from the main road about one-third mile south of Northern Boulevard, complete with overhanging trees during summer months.

At the same time Shelter Rock Road reconstruction was being completed, major changes were made to Manhasset Avenue, which ran from I.U. Willets Road past Herricks Pond. Technically, Searingtown Road was extended south, widening the highway in spots and circumventing the sharp curves near Herricks Pond. Part of the original Manhasset Avenue still exists, starting opposite San Juan Avenue. At the start of the 20th century, the north side of this road was the horse farm of Isaac U. Horsefield (Isaac U. Willets’ cousin). The main house sat on the north side of this road, next to a pond that no longer exists. Many well-regarded trotters were bred and trained on this farm, which stretched to I.U. Willets Road and included the entire High School property. Houses were constructed along Manhasset Avenue in the late 1990s, and the street name has since been formally changed to Old Searingtown Road.

Old Willis Avenue runs to the west of Willis Avenue, between Nassau Drive and Hillturn Lane. In 1954, Willis Avenue was shifted 100 feet to the east in order to create a substantially straighter path. Some hills in the avenue were also reduced. Old Willis Avenue still marks the eastern border of the school district. Just over a century ago, the home of farmer Townsend Albertson sat just north of this curve. His farm was adjacent to that of his son-in-law, Edwin Cromwell Willets, whose mother was related to Oliver Cromwell of English history and whose father was Isaac U. Willets. Edwin’s farm faced Searingtown Road and stretched north to the Herricks-Old Westbury Road, today called Old Powerhouse Road.