Thursday, September 17, 2009

West Hempstead Home Bureau

The picture above comes from the Feb 19, 1922 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle, which featured the opening of the West Hempstead Home Bureau clubhouse, located on Woodfield (now Woodlawn) Rd. Their club house was significant in that it was the first community house to be built in WH that wasn't a school or church. Home bureaus existed across the state and were formed to promote various aspects of home economics to local communities, a function that was ostensibly an outgrowth of the various farm bureaus and agricultural societies that existed in NY the early part of the 20th century. The modest house above was formally opened on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 1922.

The land for the home was donated by James Bacon and his sister Lavinia, who owned a large estate on the corner of Hempstead Ave and Woodlawn Rd. (It wasn't until after 1910 that Woodfield Rd was extended north past Woodlawn to connect with Westminster Rd. Woodfield curved westward and continued to Hempstead Ave where Woodlawn currently runs. When the northerly extension was built, it was originally named Pine St. Eventually, Woodfield Rd. was remapped into a straight north-south arterial, and to avoid confusion, the street that curved westward was renamed Woodlawn). The estate was an inheritance from their father Thomas H. Bacon, for years the general manager of the Queens (and later Nassau) County Agricultural Society. The local home bureau was founded in 1918 with the help of Mrs. Francis B. Taylor, among others. Lavinia Bacon was its president until her untimely death in 1937. In its heyday, the Home Bureau held fairs, fashion shows, brought in speakers and held community picnics. Before her death, Ms. Bacon was credited with increasing the local membership to 1,800 women. As a posthumous tribute, the statewide Home Bureau federation named the award given to the local chapter who gained the largest percentage in membership after Ms. Bacon.

In 1942, the remainder of the Bacon estate was sold to the American Legion and the present Cathedral Post was built in 1955. The American Legion then sold most of its property in 1958 to the Nassau Community Temple, West Hempstead's first synagogue, which was quickly running out of space in their first location on Woodfield Rd. (The original synagogue building, now vacant, is the Quonset hut where Thirsty Beverage used to be located). Nassau Community Temple built their edifice at the NE corner of Hempstead and Woodlawn in 1960, but in 1993, they disbanded and sold their building to the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, which now uses it as their early childhood center.

The West Hempstead Home Bureau eventually was taken over by the Cornell Cooperative Extension which continues to provide educational domestic programs to the community.

It is a tribute to the Bacon family and their service to our community that their estate was not subdivided for private homes, as were so many farms and estates in our neighborhood, but remains designated for community use in some form or another.

As can be seen from the now photo below, very little has changed from when the house was built, almost 90 years ago.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in the 1950s a few doors away from the Home Bureau on Woodlawn Road. Never had a clue what it was until I read this article. Thanks for posting.

Tom Sullivan

arsailman said...

My family was members of the Nassau Community Temple mentioned, and my dad was the building chairman responsible for the construction of the second building...

Jacob said...


Thanks for your comment. I'd like to devote a separate post on the history of the Nassau Community Temple