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 now located... 

Ann Grunewald, '59

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 Pugnipan.

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 plains.

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 Drugs.

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 of Broadway.

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 1939-1964.

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 Richard Evers' 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 of 59. 

Tom Larkin, Class of 64 (CA)

The Hicksville Opera HouseThis washing machine should look familiar to anybody who lived in a Levitt house in the 1950's
- Ken Marcus '67

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