Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00
Nearly 100 people gathered along West Shore Road on September 25 to witness the unveiling of two bronze sculptures celebrating Port Washington’s sand mining history. They are the focus of a new park located at the last remaining tunnel used for the sand mining operations that took place along Hempstead Harbor from the 1880s to 1980s.
The sculptures depict three sand miners standing above the tunnel, looking down at the site where thousands of immigrants came to earn a living. The other sculpture depicts sand flowing from two large hands onto the southern portion of Manhattan, representing Port Washington’s role in supplying the sand used to build New York City’s skyscrapers and sidewalks.
The dedication ceremony represented the culmination of years of effort by a devoted group of volunteers who formed the Sandminers Monument, Inc., a not for profit foundation established to honor the sand mine workers who labored in Port Washington for over 100 years. Leo Cimini, the group’s president, and Dr. George Williams, a prominent local historian and retired teacher, were the driving force behind the creation of the organization.
The idea for the project stemmed from a letter Dr. Williams wrote to Mr. Cimini in 1996 about Port Washington’s sand mining history. Mr. Cimini, president of the John Michael Marino Lodge of Port Washington at the time, invited Dr. Williams to speak at a meeting and the response was overwhelming. After hearing from former sand miners and their experiences, Mr. Cimini said he knew he had to get more involved.
The Town of North Hempstead agreed to accept the monument and develop the surrounding property into a small but extraordinary park. “I am extremely proud to have this outstanding monument in our back yard,” said Supervisor Jon Kaiman. “It not only stands as a visible symbol of North Hempstead’s storied history but also as a testament to those whose labor helped lay the foundation for the outstanding quality of life North Hempstead residents enjoy today.”
Councilman Fred Pollack, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the Sandminers Monument, Inc., said, “This is a unique monument. It recognizes the historic roots of Port Washington, the role the sand miners played in creating our community, and will remind future generations that what we do each day truly does matter.”
The park, which will be known as Sandminers Monument Park, was designed by Stephen Meehan, a landscape architect selected by the organization. The monument itself was designed and sculpted by Edward Jonas of Tallahassee, Florida. The Town’s Department of Highways did the construction work, installing walkways, lighting and the historic signage designed by Blumlein Associates. The Town will complete work on the park in the near future, after adding a small parking lot and additional landscaping.
Sandminers Monument Park is located on town land on West Shore Road, adjacent to the Harbor Link’s Golf Course. The dedication ceremony was attended by Bishop William Murphy; numerous state, county and town officials; residents; and a number of former sand miners and their families.