Let's take a tour of West Islip's leftover elements. We'll start with the oldest remnants and proceed chronologically.
West Islip?s first residents were Native Americans known as Secatogues. They called the area Secatogue and the adjacent area, now known as Bay Shore, Penataquit. During construction of the little league fields, at the south end of Beach Drive, a Secatogue Village was discovered. Thirteen Skeletons were found in fire pits where winter burials took place. They were dated more than 5000 years old, dating the areas original residents back to at least 3000 B.C.
This former hostelry was built prior to the Revolutionary war. It was built by Nehemiah Higbie and kept in the Higbie family for several generations. The adjacent thoroughfare running North/South bears this family?s name. The inn used to serve as a stopping point for stage coach riders passing through West Islip.
Later it became a restaurant and catering hall. For a while it was vacant, but this year was reopened.
This small family cemetery is flanked by suburban houses. Some of the stones have dates going back to 1807. It is possible this cemetery is from the 18th century. Among the interred is a revolutionary war soldier, David Ruland, who fought under Washington in the battle of Long Island.
The smaller part of this house, at the end of Dubois Road, was once a single room schoolhouse. It was located at George St and Higbie Lane, when it was built in 1885. The building was bought by the Wagstaff Estate, and moved to its present location. It was pulled by horses over greased planks. They used it to house their gardener, Poppy Johnson.
Long Island?s south shore was home to many seasonal country estates. West Islip had its fair share of these sprawling estates as well, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. South Country Road, now Montauk Highway, was lined with them. Sadly the progress of suburban sprawl has erased these magnificent mansions.
Having been turned into apartments the Arnold Estate Mansion has survived. Located next to the Robert Moses Causeway on Montauk Highway, this apartment building is a glimpse into an age of eloquence.
An early surviving country estate house built sometime prior to 1873. Its two large chimneys support six fireplaces. The house is designed after the Minnesota home of famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Keith Carriage House
This apartment building was once the Riding Stables of Minor Cooper Keith, according to the book "First History of West Islip". However, a long time West Islip Resident, who grew up on the estate, informed me it was a cow barn. Keith built a railroad in Costa Rica. He also started a fruit, and shipping company to export bananas from Costa Rica. He died at the age of 81 on his West Islip estate in 1929. Your webmaster spent his early childhood in an apartment here.
Haakonson House and Barn
The Haakonson?s had a dairy barn and farmhouse. Around 1912 they would deliver milk, house to house.
In the first half of the twentieth century many Ukrainian?s came to West Islip to find work on the estates. The first such family was Alexandra and Josephine Kazenowski.
They heard about the area from a friend who worked on a Riverhead farm. The nearest store was Babylon and made shopping a hassle. The Kazenowski?s opened a store in part of their house. As business grew they opened a store on the southwest corner of Hawley Ave and Higbie Lane. It was built in the early 1920?s and still stands today, though vacant. I was always amazed at how this little deli survived near a busy 711 and I miss it.
In the days when many worked on the estates the store would extend credit between paydays. This policy forced the store to close for a couple of years during the great depression.
St Peters & St Paul?s Ukrainian.
This was the first Ukrainian Church in Western Suffolk County. It was originally a barn located on the Gilmore Estate in West Babylon. Today it sits vacant on Higbie lane.
Holy Family Ukrainian Church
Ground was broken for this church in 1870 and it was opened on Easter 1871. It was originally the Christ Holy Church. In 1889, its sister church was opened on George Street in Babylon. Soon, most services were held in Babylon. In 1931 the church would close every winter. In 1945 all services were moved to Babylon and the church became the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church. The steeple is missing, though its base is still present. It is believed the steeple came down in a bad storm.
This building on Hawley was originally part of the Lawrence Farm. It was moved here by a Ukrainian family to be used as a garage. Later it was sold to Mr. Dzus, founder of the Dzus Fastener Company. In 1957 this small building was given to the community as the first West Islip Public Library. In 1961 the library relocated to a strip mall on Union Blvd.
Dzus started out manufacturing fasteners in the 1930s out of a garage on Hawley Ave (see first library). In 1937 Dzus moved into its current facility on Union Blvd. The company is named after its founder William Dzus, a Ukrainian immigrant. Originally Dzus only manufactured fasteners for aircraft. During WWII all their production was used for defense. Today the fasteners are used in many industries such as automotive, surgical, railroad, and machinery.
In 1951 the Schwartz family donated a barn on their property to serve as a fire department for their development. Prior to this, fire protection was provided by the Babylon and North Babylon fire departments. The barn was originally the second floor of a carriage house moved from the Guggenheim estate. Now it is a residential house.
Side Note: I would like to take the time to thank the West Islip Historical Society, of which I am a member, for welcoming me and their help. Their website is http://www.westisliphistoricalsociety.org/.