Monday, November 30, 2009

Plymouth Colony - a View of Sycamore St

The years of 1926-27 were ones of unprecedented transformation in West Hempstead, brought on by changes to the two major modes of transportation to New York City, rail and highway. In 1926 the LIRR moved the WH station south of Hempstead Ave and built a fine new station house. More importantly, the LIRR electrified the rail line so that the branch would be served by more efficient electric trains rather than steam engines. Then, in 1927, the first portion of Southern State Parkway was completed connecting West Hempstead to NYC. The LIRR upgrade and the new parkway made WH an attractive option for home buyers who were looking to move out to 'the country', while still within commuting distance to their workplaces. Many local farm owners took advantage of the rise in property values and sold their farms to developers.

Two such farmers were Edwin Duryea and his brother Frank, who owned a farm between Hempstead Ave and Woodfield Rd, with Woodlawn and Chestnut Sts forming its north & south borders, respectively. Ed Duryea was a prominent local citizen who was deeply involved in WH's early progress including the establishment of its school district in 1911 and its fire dept. in 1919. In Dec 1926, the Duryeas sold their 35 acre farm to the Spiro Realty Corp. who contracted the Bach Construction Co. to develop 'Plymouth Colony', the cluster of quaint tudors that now line its streets.

The image below, taken from a Nov. 9, 1930 Brooklyn Eagle article, shows a rare glimpse of Sycamore Ave. looking east from Hempstead Ave. The development for the most part was divided up into uniform plots and buyers were offered a choice of three similarly styled tudors, resulting in the neat row of homes you see below.

Having been converted from farmland, expectantly absent from the photo are the trees that now line the streets and fill the back yards of the homes. The one tree that can be made out in the "then" shot (on the left in the foreground) evidently did not survive. Though the photo was printed in the Eagle in Nov. 1930, it must have been taken sometime in mid 1928, because by the end of that year, a brick business building went up at the far left that would have almost totally obscured the house at left in the foreground, as can be seen in the "now" shot below. After nearly eighty years, two of the original occupants of that building are still there - the Community Cafe and Riesterers Bakery.

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