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Spinney Hill: Focus of Great Neck Historical Society Meeting

Spinney Hill traces it roots back to the earliest days of Great Neck, and a recent documentary film memorializing the African-American portion of the community is designed to make sure that history isn’t lost.

The film, Spinney Hill: The African American History of Manhasset and Great Neck, by Dedrick Johnson and Lloyd Means, will be the focus of a program about Spinney Hill presented by the Great Neck Historical Society on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Great Neck Library Community Room. The program is free and open to the community.

“Joseph Spinney is an important part of Great Neck history,” said Great Neck Historical Society President Alice Kasten. “And Spinney Hill has always been a unique community within Great Neck. We’re going to learn about the portion of the community that is named for him. We welcome the whole Great Neck community to hear about this distinctive part of Great Neck culture.”

According to Newsday, the producers of the documentary grew up in the Manhasset-Great Neck area. “Since 2007, Means, a Cablevision engineer, and Johnson, a transcriptionist, have spent hours researching and conducting more than a dozen interviews for the documentary.”

The film focuses on the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and will also explore recent developments such as the sharp drop in the area’s black population. “The population of African-Americans has really diminished,” Johnson said. “That’s sad because we have such a rich history there.”

The area, between Community Drive and Lakeville Road, gets its name from Joseph S. Spinney, a commission merchant who commuted to Manhattan by steamboat, and lived on East Shore Road, near present day Vista Hill Road, facing Manhasset Bay. He had been conducting prayer meetings throughout the area and felt there was a need for a Methodist-Episcopal church in the community. He purchased four acres on Northern Boulevard and, in 1872, donated the land as well as funds for a church, parish house and parsonage. For many years the church that he built served as an important social and cultural center.

Means said he wants residents to know that through his film, their “history is now preserved. If the demographics totally change, “ he said, “it’s preserved.”

Further information about the program is available by calling the Great Neck Library, 466-8055. The library is located at 159 Bayview Avenue.

Membership in the Great Neck Historical Society is only $15 for individuals or $25 for families. For additional membership options and further information, visit or call 482-2478.