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Minute of History: Farmingdale 1912

(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Sunday, July 15, Patricia A. Christiansen, deputy mayor of the Village of Farmingdale delivered this speech. The “Minute of History,” is a series of speeches delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer.)

Let’s go back for a few minutes to look at Farmingdale in 1912. This suggestion is inspired by a very favorable article on our village, which appeared in an issue of the old Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the late autumn of 1912. The headline reads, “Many New Factories in Farmingdale, Long Island.”

An unnamed reporter apparently had the assignment to visit Farmingdale and speak to various leaders, including the village president, Adolph Bausch. Let’s assume he arrived by train and walked to Mr. Bausch’s “handsome home” at the southwest corner of Main Street and Fulton Streets. The journalist would most likely have used a much-needed concrete sidewalk built a year earlier by the village from the “depot,” as the station was called, to Main Street, a distance of several hundred feet. With unpaved streets, the norm a century ago, the sidewalk was a major improvement, especially when heavy rain turned the streets into a quagmire.

The reporter notes the convenience of the Cross-Island Trolley, which connects, with three lines of the LIRR at Amityville, Farmingdale and Huntington.

He notes the several pickle works in the vicinity of the station, and later, Mr. Bausch, who would be called “mayor” today, proudly mentions them in the interview.

Turning from South Front to walk south on Main Street, the reporter notes the two local banks. The First National Bank of Farmingdale still has a storefront office, but the Bank of Farmingdale has just opened a freestanding brick structure at the northwest corner of Main and Conklin. Both banks were established in 1907.

The several hotels on Main Street are not mentioned in the article, although they are clearly noted on 1910 maps of the village. The population in the 1910 census was 1,567, about one-sixth of our current number.

The reporter from the Eagle gives considerable space to the faith communities of the village. He meets with Rev. A. S. Hagarty, pastor of the Farmingdale Methodist Episcopal Church, which was located about where the Farmingdale Meat Market now stands. The white frame church, built in 1843, was the forerunner of today’s United Methodist Church.

The article mentions the Friends Meeting House, and that “there are a good number of Quakers in the area.” It also notes that a Lutheran congregation “has recently been organized,” but does not mention the name of St. Luke’s, which was founded two years earlier. The article also neglects to mention St. Thomas Episcopal Church, which dedicated its present church in 1906 after fire destroyed the original 1875 structure in 1885.

The article from the Eagle devotes one brief paragraph to St. Kilian Church, “one of the most important Catholic charges in this section…the church building is a handsome brick edifice.” The following two paragraphs describe the Nazareth Trade School on Conklin Street, where 400 orphaned boys reside under the care of 30 Dominican sisters. “The boys are taught cobbling, printing, baking, carpenter work and farming by laymen so thoroughly that when they leave the school they are able to work at the trades they have been taught…the school has a company of well-drilled cadets and a fife and drum corps in which the people of the village, as well as the school take much pride.”

The article also notes the recently built brick school, which replaced the original wooden Main Street School of 1874. “The building architecturally is one of the best on the Island, and has a competent force of teachers.” Farmingdale High School was established in 1913 in this building, less than a year after the reporter’s visit, with the formation of a ninth grade.

The reporter then visited Village President Adolph Bausch. Mr. Bausch, a prominent citizen, also owned the Bausch and Sons woodworking business, originally located at the corner of Rose and Richard Streets, but moved to a larger new factory on Eastern Parkway in 1910. He also had served on the board of education, and was a founder of the First National Bank of Farmingdale. Mr. Bausch enthusiastically told the journalist that new factories were the key to growth. “We have a fine village here – everything a factory needs. And, to get a factory we simply show our advantages. We have some good ones now which ought to grow into great benefits for the village and we hope to get more in the near future.”

With his intense interest in attracting light industries to locate in Farmingdale, it is interesting to note that Mr. Bausch did not mention the fact that the legislature in Albany had passed a bill which was signed into law by Governor Dix in April 1912 establishing the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island. This school, to be located in Farmingdale, was to become Long Island’s first public college. Now known as Farmingdale State College, it is currently celebrating its centennial year.

A century ago, workers usually lived near their place of work. A small number might have commuted to the city or other towns along the LIRR, but most walked to work. Had the reporter from the Eagle walked Washington or Columbia rather than Main Street, he would have seen the fine group of brick row houses recently built by Martin Meyer, owner of the brick works, primarily for use by his workers.

In the interview, Mr. Bausch also noted the benefit to residents made possible by the village’s purchase of the water system in 1909. The pumping system was modernized, and new mains were bringing village water to several streets previously unserved.

It is clear from this article and a review of the village board minutes of this era that the eight-year-old Village of Farmingdale was moving ahead confidently and with the best interests of the residents always paramount in the priorities of the village board members just as they remain today. Traffic and parking matters were not yet issues in that horse-and-buggy era, but, just as today, the young village in 1912 was already ensuring a safe and secure environment for its residents and business community.