Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Rare Old Sketch of Halls Pond and the Hall-Wall Feud

Note: This coming year will mark the 50th anniversary of Halls Pond Park as a county park.



The image above comes from the September 20, 1896 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle and is a rare sketch of Halls Pond in the 19th Century, perhaps the earliest known image of the pond in existence. Back then, it was called Wood's Pond and was but one of a series of ponds that formed along Pine Stream which eventually emptied into Smith's Pond in Rockville Centre, one of the storage reservoirs of the Brooklyn Water Works. The 1896 article as well as a follow-up article from June 25, 1899 focused on the water quality of the Brooklyn water system, about which some argued that the growth of vegetation in the tributary ponds was contributing to the foul odor and taste and questionable healthfulness of the water. The picture above, showing the pond blanketed in lilies, was presented as evidence of the typical type of vegetation prevalent in many of the ponds of the South Shore. (If you wish to see a similar example of a local pond carpeted in water lilies, go to Hempstead Lake State Park and hike down to Schodack Pond, a small body of water tucked away in a wooded area of the park). But, as a sanitary engineer interviewed in the 1899 piece correctly pointed out, the lilies and other vegetation, rather than polluting the water, actually worked as a purification system by aerating and filtering the water as it flowed down to the storage reservoir.

Now, a little about the name. The pond was originally called Wood's Pond after it's original owner, former Town of Hempstead supervisor Martin V. Wood. Wood willed the property to his daughter and son-in-law, William S. and Jeanette Hall. Their son, Martin V. W. Hall, president of the Hempstead Bank, became the eventual owner. In the 1920's, the Halls' beautiful Mansard style home across the street was sold to Charles S. and Eva Wall (Eva was the granddaughter of President John Tyler) and thereafter, it seems, the pond became known as Walls Pond. In the 50's the home fell vacant and eventually burned down.

Toward the end of that decade, Nassau County began buying up the pond and surrounding land to create a new park. By that time, the Wood/ Hall sole surviving heir, Martin Hall's son Bruce, had moved to Syosset while one of Wall's sons, Charles Jr., remained local. When the County dedicated the park in 1961, they chose the name Halls Pond. Evidently, Bruce Hall's prominent standing in the county (he continued for years as president of the Hempstead Bank until his retirement in the 80's) was enough to persuade the County to use the park name to pay tribute to his family. Charles Wall Jr. promptly fired off an irate letter to the County stating that for the previous three decades the pond was called "Walls Pond", and demanded to know why it was being changed now. Further, he alleged that the Halls were not worthy of the tribute anyway, since they were snobbish and wealthy elitists who fit in more in the exclusive North Shore estates where Bruce eventually moved than among the average, middle-class folk of the South Shore. Wall's argument fell on deaf ears at the County and ever since, the name Halls Pond has stuck. The Walls did get a token local tribute in the naming of West Hempstead's "Wall St.", a small avenue off Nassau Blvd. near where their home once stood.

Below is a "now" shot of Woods-Halls-Walls-Halls Pond , approximating the location of the "then" shot above. Photo is taken from Tara Conry's wonderful, new local online news publication Malverne/West Hempstead Patch.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, Mr Wall (didn't know his name was charles) lived in a small log cabin on Nassau Blvd across from Hall's Pond ... he was a cranky old man and had all sorts of rusted junk laid out all over his front lawn in a perpetual tag sale ... in the mid 1970's I remember paying a few dollars for a cement bird bath that I carried home in my little red wagon and gave to my mom as a mothers day gift ... Mr Wall used to tell my friends and me that Hall's Pond was really Wall's Pond but we never believe him lol ... I still have a photo of his old cabin that I took before Mr Logoteta bought the property and had the cabin rebuilt into the the updated log cabin antique store that exists there now ... I will try to find that photo and scan it in one day for you ... thanks for the great article !

Anonymous said...

I would love to see that picture. I am a resident of WH.

Fred Limbach said...

I attended Eagle Ave. School in the late 1940s and Charles Walls was a classmate. Fred Limbachowin

Anonymous said...

I well remember old Charlie Wall and the old log cabin he lived in on Nassau Blvd. across from the pond back in the 1960's he got a burro from my uncle Arnold 'Whitey'Carlson and used to carry it in the back of his vehicle to political meetings. DPL