All of us that grew up in the 1950's
remember St. John's Protectory. Many children in Hicksville found the old
church a great place to explore and my friend Connie and I were no different, as curious
12 year olds this was great fun. On one such outing we discovered old pictures
of the orphanage children and being children ourselves didn't see
the importance of saving some Hicksville history, today I wish we had...
HISTORY - The property was
owned by Bernard Earle and in 1890 was deeded, to the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Brooklyn for an orphanage and farm. The orphanage raised
produce that was shipped, along with milk and dairy products to St.
John's and St. Joseph's Homes in Brooklyn. For many years there were 200
orphan boys at the Protectory. The older boys worked the farm and tended a
herd of about 50 cows. This
property was one of the last, large undeveloped acreage in Hicksville. For
60 years St. John's Protectory stood along Broadway where the Broadway Mall is
BELOW - Pictures of St. John's
Protectory in it's prime, and the chapel in 1955 just before it was demolished
to make way for the Mid Island Plaza that opened in 1956...
I'm on a memory lane thing lately...
The beginning of the evolution of Hicksville
We Hicksvillites are very proud of our long interesting history which
started on May 20, 1648.
Robert Williams, a Welshman from the area, bought land from
Chief Sachem Pugnipan of the Matinecock Indian Tribe. The
majority of this 6.2 sq. mile purchase became known as
Hicksville. Later this land was re-surveyed by the government
and a huge rock was brought to the purchase site. Today this
site is known as Cantiague Rock Road and West John Street (or
Prospect Avenue). This rock marks one of the boundary lines of
Hicksville that we can physically see.
There are five oil painted murals depicting historical
Hicksville events in the Middle School which was built in
1923. One mural shows Robert Williams and Chief Sachem
Yesterday's Indian trails are today's roads in Hicksville
such as South Oyster Bay, Woodbury, Newbridge and Jerusalem.
So as you drive the local roads, paved with concrete and
blacktop, you are taking yesterday's Indian trails that
crossed from Nassau (then Queens County) to Suffolk County and
from the Sound to the Bay. The Indians placed these trails so
perfectly that we just paved right over them.
Sometimes the Revolutionary War seems so far away in time, but the British soldiers
walked along these very trails while they occupied Long Island for
seven years. And yes, George Washington did sleep here.
Exactly where – now that’s another story.
Hicksville’s namesake, Valentine Hicks, was a Jericho
landowner and the second president of the Long Island Railroad.
He was responsible for bringing the railroad to Hicksville.
With the railroad more people could view what properties were
available east of NYC and Brooklyn.
Two business property leaders bought much of Hicksville.
Using the railroad station depot, which was the last transfer
station, as their center, these business leaders laid out
1,000 acres of streets and lots. Population quickly grew
around this area with farming on the outskirts and hunting on the
In 1834, the Grand Central Hotel was built on what is now the approximate
site of the American Medical Insurance building on Broadway
across from Kennedy Memorial Park. Sportsmen came to
Hicksville by train, hired a horse and buggy and traveled to Islip
or Babylon for some fishing. In front of the Grand Central
Hotel, they bought tickets on the stagecoach for all parts of
Long Island to hunt or fish.
The hotel was the center of the Hicksville’s community and
social life until well past the turn of the century. The locals
enjoyed food in the restaurant. Businessmen from NYC and
Brooklyn had their
families spend the (part or the entire) summer at the hotel. They would
join their families on the weekends when work was over. It sounds
like today's families who have cabins in the mountains. I have seen
a copy of an 1896 hotel ad stating on the premises there were strolling gardens
and bowling alleys available to the guests.
Around the turn of the century, there were seven hotels in Hicksville.
The LIRR encouraged tourism and brought many sportsmen and visitors
to Hicksville. Sportsmen could bring their dogs or hire thoroughbred
pointers, Irish Setters and a variety of hounds from the Sportsmen's Hotel.
The Sportsman's Hotel was located in what used to be Whalen
In 1914, Hicksville had its own opera house laughingly called
the "uproar house." The attendees were very loud and
boisterous. As the piano player accompanied the silent films
being played on the screen,
there were always background disturbances, including a gunshot or two.
Ahhhh, Hicksville's own movie theatre. Our ole opera house can still
be found on the south side of Nicholai Street about 100 feet off
Before Broadway was widened, for 25 years this roadway was a beautiful sight
during Christmas time. Holiday lights were strung from the
sidewalk-to-sidewalk forming colorful and cheery arches over the
entire downtown shopping area. This annual assessment event was
spearheaded and organized by the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce from
The Hicksville Chamber of Commerce is now involved year round
in projects for all to enjoy. The fence and gazebo in Kennedy
Memorial Park and in the southern section of the park, the
floral gardens, brick memorial walks and the park clock that
lets everyone know that Hicksville is a Community that has
time for you.
There is so much more to say. The "Goldbeaters of Hicksville"
had formed so much of our history. The Vanderbilt Cup races ran through Hicksville.
Hicksville boasted of the L.I. Aviation Club, the pickle
and glass works, and the housing boom. I have touched lightly on
some Hicksville stories but there is never enough room. Please
go to the Hicksville Public Library and ask to read Anne and
series of Hicksville history books. I cannot think of another
nearby town that has so much printed about their history. Take
an hour on a rainy afternoon when you don't have any plans and read
through a chapter at a time. But be careful – you'll enjoy yourself
so much that it might become habit forming.
I can't claim author as I found
this information on the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce Website and
with a little cut and paste, bingo! I'm putting
together a memory lane scrapbook for my west coast family to
my brother’s honor. I'm kind of a history buff and since
being back in touch with some HHS friends, Carl Probst for one, my
interest has headed back that direction these days. I have
class pictures from East Street School and recently dug up a photo
from a holiday parade. The pictures were of a jeep driven
float represented by my Boy Scout Troop and depicted a 1776 / 1976
Theme. I'm 3000 miles away but very resourceful. If I
can ever be of any help let me know, I'm retired and have the
time. My thanks to Carl Probst and the HHS Newsletter Staff for
adding a Memoriam last month for my late brother Harry Larkin, class
Class of 64 (CA)
The Hicksville Opera House.
washing machine should look familiar to anybody who lived in a Levitt
house in the 1950's.