Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hungry Harbor and Sunken City

Throughout the more than 300-year history of Long Island's English-speaking inhabitants, some quirky place-names have developed, many of which are retained today.   Some owe their origins to the native American inhabitants who preceded Long Island's 17th century Dutch and English settlers. Other places are named for those settlers and their descendants, and some names reflect people or events whose stories have been lost to modern memory.

In the Five Towns,  such a place is Hungry Harbor Road.  Inhabitants of the homes built in the area which has variously been called Lord's Woods (when owned by the Lord Family) or later Woodmere Woods, may not know that the area has been called Hungry Harbor (or Harbour) since colonial times.

Gathering Salt Hay
While the 1643 agreement between Long Island's English settlers and Native tribes established the borders for the Town of Hempstead, boundary disputes with the settlers at Jamaica (originally the Dutch settlement of Rustdorp) were not infrequent.  The Dongan Patent agreements of 1681 between the Towns of Jamaica and Hempstead defined the boundary line:

Whereas it mentioned in ye agreement that Jemaica bounds shall run to Rockaway Swampes mouth it is to be understood that Rockaway River that runs out of Rockaway Swamp shall be Jemaicaes east bounds and
all ye midows lying on ye west side of ye said River shall
belonge to Jemaica as wittneseth our hands the day before

The name "Hungry Harbor" was in use as early as 1682,  when John Tredwell of Hemsted [sic] deeded meadow land at Hungry Harbor to Jonathan Smith, Jr. of the same place.   (NY Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 42).  Although Hungry Harbor, a swamp, was not a good place to grow food crops, (hence one of the explanations for its name), it yielded salt hay -- a valuable commodity.  (More information about the salt hay industry appears in the FTLH blog of 8/20/2009.)

Samuel Carmen's will of 1728 mentions Hungry Harbor as Carmen's "plantation on Long Island." Several other documents of the period (a 1738 bill of sale from George Clarke to Josiah Martin (owner of Rock Hall),  and the wills of Edward Cornell (October 1770 and Nathaniel Frost, (March 1782) mention salt meadows "lying in Hungry Harbour."

Salt marsh (Oceanside, NY)

An 1854 article in Knickerbocker Magazine ("Editor's Table," v. 43, p. 191) mentions Mr. Pemberton, a merchant of New York City.  Pemberton contracted "fever-and ague which was in his eyes more to be dreaded than cholera, yellow fever or the plague," during his youth at Hungry Harbor and never returned to the Rockaways.

As early as the seventeenth century, Hungry Harbor became known as a haven for squatters and poachers.*  The meadows and swamps were town lands, leased to individual tenants, but not every resident was an paying tenant.  A 1909 New York Times article chronicles the eviction of a 76 year-old squatter, the indigent granddaughter of a Revolutionary War soldier.  Others lived on boats.   In a 1932 article, William Eibler (1861-1941), reminisced about his childhood in Rosedale and his impressions of Hungry Harbor.  Eibler retells a pre-Civil War story of a group of Massachusetts explorers who got lost in the swamp and starved to death.  This is similar to a story told in Oregon about a bay called Hungry Harbor along the Columbia River:
Hungry Harbor, a bay on the north bank of the Columbia River east of Megler in Pacific County.  Fishermen claim that seven men drifted into the bay and starved to death.  It is an ideal shelter for small boats and fishermen frequently anchor there to eat their meals, which may be another origin of the name. --- (Washington Historical Quarterly)
Harold Ruehl, author of the History of Valley Stream, 1840-1975, writes that the area was

so called because it was largely a settlement of squatters, and the squatters went hungry a goodly part of the time. True, it was a harbor because it was the only area of farmland that possessed rich fertile land in addition to having access to the sea.

During the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, members of the Lord family (FTLH blog of 8/6/2015) owned vast tracts of land in what is now Cedarhurst and Woodmere; their land holdings stretched from the Rockaway line LIRR tracks to the Queens border.  Attorney Franklin B. Lord was President of the Long Island Water Company, whose pumping station also occupied some of this property.  Although much of his land consisted of woodlands, low-lying bog and marshland, Lord constructed a country home on the property.  The home was well-maintained during Lord's life, but after his death in 1916, 

" it met with fire and vandalization, and fell into general disrepair.  After World War II the [Dr. William] Lee family acquired the Lord house and much of its surrounding land, and completely restored, renovated and modernized the dwelling, completing the major portion of this work in the early 1950's."  --  In the Matter of Town of Hempstead, Respondent, v. Lee Associates, Inc., Appellant.  Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Department. February 17, 1981.

Dr. Robert M. Lee, a dentist, bought the property with an eye towards development and after 1952 was developing other properties in the area  To this end, he created a private lake and used the dredged land from the lake as landfill for adjacent lots.   

Other parts of Hungry Harbor became Rogers Airfield, then Curtiss Field and, later, Green Acres Mall.

Sunken City
At the Hewlett end of the Lord's Woods, another squatters community existed as late as the 1950s. (see Newsday article below).  During and after the Great Depression, whole families squatted in abandoned houses along the route of the yet-to-be-constructed Peninsula Boulevard.  Their children attended school and, occasionally were the recipients of charity from their more affluent neighbors. Those living in the neighborhood considered Sunken City, whom appear in the 1940 U.S. Census, were white, native born Americans with an elementary school education. The head of the house was working (but for very low comparative wages) to support large families with many children.  A number of men worked as laborers for the WPA.  Truck drivers and gardeners were also common professions.  For these people, prosperity was still very far away.

The end of World War II signaled an unprecedented construction boom and the remaining fields and swamps soon gave was to housing developments.   In his evocative book The Lord's Woods, Robert Arbib chronicles the destruction of the woods and its development into the single-family housing units which epitomized the American Dream of post-WWII Long Island. 

Notes and Further information: (database articles may require H-WPL login)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cedarhurst Soldiers' Memorial

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.   -- History Channel web site
The ceremonies held at Andrew Parise Park on Veteran's Day 2015  evoked the memory another ceremony at the park (then Cedarhurst Park) in November of 1923. Then, the newly formed Lawrence-Cedarhurst American Legion Post 339 erected a memorial to nine local veterans of World War I who had died in service.  They found themselves at the center of controversy  the local Ku Klux Klan attempted to lay a wreath at the Thanksgiving dedication ceremony.

New York Times, Nov. 30, 1923, p. 1
As the attached articles recount, the ceremony was about to begin when three members of the Klan - who did not wear their traditional robes or hoods on this occasion -- brought a wreath to the ceremony and desired to place it on the memorial.  The family of Lawrence Wood, one of the deceased servicemen,   wanted the Klansmen to place their wreath. The Legionnaires opposed them and the situation deteriorated, with fist fights breaking out.  The agitated crowd of about 1500 was eventually calmed by the efforts of  Col. Wickersham, the Legion post commander and by Rabbi Isaac Landman's impassioned speech in which he stated that the men that they honored that day did not die so "that America should be torn by racial hatred and religious conflict."  New York Times, 11/30/1923, p. 3).   The situation did not resolve itself until the police came and the Klan members retreated.

In researching this story, this author found that, as the participants feared, the ceremony overshadowed the reason for the memorial -- the nine young men who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. It seems appropriate, almost one hundred years later, to offer the names and stories of the men honored on the granite monument in Parise Park. 

SGT. Harry P. Bruhn lived at "Fair Oaks" on Pacific Avenue in Cedarhurst
Born on April 6, 1895, the son of a Danish immigrant carpenter, Sgt. Bruhn was a machine gunner with the 7th New York Infantry.  He died September 24, 1918 of wounds received in action and is buried at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in France. (Obituary: The Sun, October 18, 1918, p. 12.)

CPL. John R. Lantry , Jr. lived on Washington Avenue in Cedarhurst.
He was born July 30, 1891, and when he went into the Army he was 5'6" of a medium build with blue eyes and black hair.  John Lantry was single and worked with his father as a mason before he went into the Army.  He served in the 305th Infantry, Company M and died of lobar pneumonia on December 30, 1917 at Camp Upton, before ever seeing combat. He is buried in St. Mary's Star of the Sea Cemetery in Lawrence.
2nd LT. John Edward Mitchell lived on Pearsall Avenue in Cedarhurst.
He was born October 6, 1895 and on his draft registration, he is described as tall and slender with blue eyes and light hair.  Before the war he was single and worked as a clerk for Hard and Rand in New York City.  He served in the 23rd Infantry, Company F and died of disease on his birthday in 1918 at the age of 23.  Lt. Mitchell is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

1st LT. Gordon L. Rand was born on September 3, 1892, the youngest of six children. 
He graduated from Yale University in 1912 and went into business with his father's coffee-importing firm, Hard and Rand.  He enlisted in the Army in 1915 and served with the Cavalry on the Mexican Border in 1916.  When his unit was recalled in 1917, Rand enlisted in the American Ambulance Corps.    He was wounded the chest and side from artillery fire and was discharged because of his wounds.  He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for penetrating a zone of fire to deliver medical supplies to men who desperately needed them.  Although he was himself wounded, he completed the task and helped evacuate the men before seeking treatment.  When he recovered, he enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Air Service Signal Corps, a precursor of the U.S. Air Force.   Lt. Rand died from wounds received in action on February 5, 1918.  There is a headstone memorial at Trinity-St. John's Church in Hewlett, but Lt. Rand is buried at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial.  An  article in the Buffalo Evening Courier chronicles an event witnessed by Rand while he was in his plane and his efforts to create a memorial for the French soldiers lost in that skirmish.


1st LT Philip Newbold Rhinelander was in Harvard University's Class of 1918 when the war broke out.  Born in 1895, he came from a patrician family and was educated at preparatory schools in Newport, RI and California.  Philip Rhinelander left Harvard to join the American Field Service in July 1916 and in 1917 enlisted as an aviator.  Attached to the 20th Day Bombing Squadron.  Lt. Rhinelander was shot down during aerial combat over France, falling to his death on September 26, 1918 at Murville, over the German lines.  He is buried at Murville, Meurthe-et-Moselle in France.  There is an extensive and personal tribute to Philip Rhinelander at findagrave.com


Because James Laurence Scanlan had red hair,  his nickname was "Red".
Born August 10, 1892, his enlistment application of September 1918 lists his hair color, blue eyes, medium build and his mother's name and his address: Cedarhurst Avenue in Cedarhurst.  At the time of enlistment he was working for the Remington Arms Company in Hoboken, NJ.  This information omitted the fact that was already a war hero.  He had joined the French Foreign Legion in 1914.  A battle-related leg injury in 1915 ended his infantry career and left him with one leg shorter than the other.   After a lengthy recovery, he registered for the Lafayette Escadrille  (an all-American  squadron fighting the Germans during the time before America officially entered the war).   "Red" Scanlan had a colorful career in the Lafayette Escadrille, resulting in several dramatic crashes, before he retired in 1917.  The movies Flyboys (2006) and The Lafayette Escadrille (1958) portray some of the exploits of these American heroes.  Although Scanlan later registered for the draft in the U.S., his war wounds continued to plague him and he died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Far Rockaway on November 25, 1921 at the age of 28. (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 11/29/1921, p. 26.) He is buried in St. Mary's Star of the Sea Cemetery in Lawrence.

PFC. John J. Sullivan was from Cedarhurst. 
He served in Company C of the 106th Infantry.  He died of wounds November 17, 1918.

PVT. Ralph B. Watts  served with Company B of the 102nd Infantry.  He enlisted at Hartford, Connecticut in 1916 and during the summer of that year, served on the Mexican border.  Deployed to France, he died April 1, 1918 and  is buried at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in France. (The Daily Long Island Farmer, April 12, 1918, p. 1)

Apprentice Seaman (US Navy) Lawrence Lockharte Wood was born in January 1896 and lived at the corner of Oak and Center Streets in Cedarhurst. He enlisted in the Navy in 1916 and died of pneumonia while at the Naval Training School at Newport, RI on, June 6, 1917.    Lawrence Wood was the first young man from the Rockaways to die in service in World War I (South Side Observer, March 1,1918, p. 1)

In addition to the nine men listed on the memorial, the
World War I Roll of Honor: Nassau County, New York  June 1, 1922

also lists the following servicemen from the Branch communities who were lost in World

War I, the war to end all wars:

  • Artuse, Bruno        Mott St., Inwood, L. I. N. Y.        Pvt., Co. I., 28th Inf.        Died of wounds, November 13, 1918   
  • Batta, Alfred M.        Henry St. Lawrence, N. Y.        Pvt., 1st cl., Co. I., 308th Inf.        Killed in action, October 6, 1918   
  • Carmen, Timothy E.        Woodmere, N. Y.        Sgt., Co. G., 306th Inf.        Died of wounds, September 3, 1918   
  • De Mott, Thomas S.        West Broadway, Woodmere, N. Y.        Pvt., 1st cl., Btry. C., 311th F. A.        Died of broncho pneumonia, February 28, 1919   
  • De Ponso, Lidovico        Lawrence Ave., Lawrence, N. Y.        Pvt., Btry., F. 301st F. A.        Died of broncho pneumonia, October 14, 1918   
  • Desimore, Generino        Henry St., Inwood, N. Y.        Pvt., Co. B., 305th Inf.        Died of wounds, September 27, 1918   
  • Dramis, Theodore        Henry St., Lawrence, N. Y.        Pvt., 1st cl., Co. M., 113th Inf.        Died of wounds, October 11, 1918   
  • Harigel, John        Lawrence, L. I., N. Y.        Pvt., Co. C., 83rd, Inf.        Died of influenza, October 14, 1918   
  • Hirsch, Ike        Lawrence, N. Y.        Pvt., Co. F., 325th Inf.        Died of pneumonia, October 9, 1918   
  • Kalley, Nelson        Jeannette Ave., Inwood, L. I., N. Y.        Pvt., 1st cl., Co. C. 106th Inf.        Killed in action, September 27, 1918   
  • McGinn, Frank J.        52 Red Wood Ave., Inwood, L. I., N. Y.        Pvt., Hdqrs. Co. 57th Arty.        Killed in action, October 31, 1918
  • Monaghan, Edward        Ocean Ave., Lawrence, N. Y.        Pvt., 1st cl., Co. M., 113th Inf.        Killed in action, October 10, 1918   
  • Sullivan, John        Central Ave., Lawrence, N. Y.        Pvt., Co. M. Ord. Dept., U. S. A.        Died of broncho pneumonia, October 19, 1918  (not the same as John J. Sullivan from Cedarhurst)
Listed in Haulsee, et al.  Soldiers of the Great War In Three Volumes (Soldiers Record Publishing Association, 1920)
  • Hicks, Charles Reeves, Jr.     Cedarhurst          Died of Disease       Sgt.  [born November 21, 1890]

Additional Information:

Incident at Cedarhurst Park, November 29, 1923

Veterans' Day and Those Who Served

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Goats - not Ghosts! -- Franklin Butler Lord's Meadow Edge Farm

In the early morning of October 11, 1907, Rev. John J. Fouse ,  was awakened in his parsonage, across the street from the Lawrence Methodist Episcopal Church, by a noise that seemed to come from the Church.  As he watched, a white figure appeared in the doorway and Rev. Fouse crossed the street to investigate.  What he found was not paranormal.

He discovered that the church's new addition was occupied by a flock of forty angora goats, which had wandered in an open door and settled in for the night.  All but one were asleep.  This story appeared in newspapers as far away as the Cincinnati Times and the Daily Arizona Silver Belt.

The goats had escaped from Franklin Lord's Meadow Edge Farm, where they had been purchased to eat weeds on the lawns and meadows. 

Meadow Edge Farm was part of the Lord Family's extensive holdings in The Branch.  Their property extended from West Broadway (the railroad tracks) all the way to the Hungry Harbor Road.  When the property was purchased, around 1880, The Branch area was part of Queens County, and encompassed the watershed later known as Lord's Woods.

Before Franklin Lord's death in 1908, the farm, raised rare Berkshire pigs, White Leghorn chickens, Guernsey, Jersey, Ayrshire and Holstein dairy cows and, of course, the angora goats.  It  was located on West Broadway, a 337-acre site of meadowlands and forests.  During its years of milk production, which ended with the closing of the dairy farm in 1912 (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 5, 1912, p. 14),  it was a consistent winner at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, and at the National Dairy Show in Chicago for excellence in milk and cream. In 1924, the last twenty of the family cows were offered for sale (Daily Review, January 25, 1924). The chickens, which were also award-winning layers, remained well into the 1920s.   In 1926, Lord's sons (S.D., Edward and George) sold the land  to a  real estate syndicate for $2 million.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 5, 1912, p. 14.

Franklin B. Lord, c1900
 (photo courtesy Library of Congress)

Daniel Lord, c1850
 (photo courtesy Library of Congress)
Franklin Butler Lord (1850-1908) came from a family of distinguished attorneys.  His grandfather, Daniel Lord  , had a national reputation as " a remarkable lawyer."  His maternal grandfather, Benjamin F. Butler, was Attorney General of the United States under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.    Franklin Lord was a member of the law firm of Lord, Day and Lord, founded by his grandfather and his father, Daniel de Forest Lord (1846-1899). According to an article in The New York Times  (2/14/1926, p. RE2.), the property was purchased originally by Daniel Lord  for less than $300 an acre, or a total of about $110,000.  It had been in the Lord family for three generations and had been largely undeveloped since its purchase.  By May 1926, advertisements for a public auction of Lord Estate lots were appearing in The Times and other newspapers. 

English and Spanish-style homes designed to sell for less than $12,000 were constructed in 1928.  They were designed to contain six rooms and bath, a built-in standing shower, an extra lavatory and garage. (NYT, 1/17/1928, p.51.)  The seller was listed as the Woodmere-Cedarhurst Corporation. Louis Minsky (1862-1934), the father of the burlesque producing brothers, was the president of the Lord Estate Corporation at the time of his death in 1934 (NYT, 1/17/1934, p. 17).  In 1938, "the Seymour property... known as Sosiego" , twenty acres on Broadway in Lawrence, was purchased by Henry Greenberg and Louis Goldschmidt through Joseph Jackson, a broker, of Lawrence (NYT  7/31/1938, p. 34).  Sosiego was the name of the mansion and gardens built by Daniel D. Lord V, Franklin's brother, and later owned by his daughter Frances Seymour.  (Spinzia, p. 225)  It was located at 20 Westover Place, Lawrence.   The house currently on that site was built in 1921, according to Nassau County tax records.
Blogger S. Berliner shares his thoughts on the Lord's Woods and Robert Arbib's book of the same name.  Arbib, who grew up in the Five Towns of the 1930s and 40s, wrote an evocative account of his formative years exploring the woods, and the process of development that reduced the woods to a small sliver of trees behind the LIPA/National Grid building on Mill Road.

Further reading:
 (may require HW-library card login)