21 Aug 2014
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Massapequa Historical Society Discusses Town's Past

Members of the Massapequa Historical Society told stories about the town's past.

Massapequa Historical Society Discusses Town's Past Massapequa Historical Society Discusses Town's Past Massapequa Historical Society Discusses Town's Past Massapequa Historical Society Discusses Town's Past

Many people that move to Massapequa come here to raise their family in a suburban area with a good school system. Some of these residents don’t know all of their town’s history. Had they been at the Massapequa Historical Society’s recent meeting, they surely would have learned something new about where they live.

Members of the Massapequa Historical Society discussed stories about the town at Old Grace Church to entertain and inform those attending.

One of the most interesting stories, told by long-time Massapequa resident Lillian Bryson, was about jasper blades that were unearthed below the Massapequa Lake.

In the 1960's, bubbles were coming up by the dam on Merrick Road by the man-made lake. When the lake was emptied and the digging was finished, old pipes were found to be the problem. That wasn’t the only thing found, however.

“While they were digging that they found a cache of jasper blades,” Bryson said. “Jasper blades don’t come from around here, they come from up in New England and further out west.”

Archaeologists carbon dated the blades and found that they were 6,500 years old. The blades were put there by a Native American over 2,000 years ago. According to experts, the blades were probably going to be used for trading purposes.

When the blades were dug up they were ten feet down. “They said that when they were originally buried it was maybe three or four feet down,” Bryson said.

According to Bryson, this is the greatest archaeological find in Nassau County’s history.

Two other stories, told by Massapequa Historical Society President Bill Colfer, intertwine with each other.

Up until the 1950's Massapequa was home to an airfield, called Fitzmaurice Flying Field (named after Colonel James Fitzmaurice who was one of the pilots of the Bremin which made the first successful trans-Atlantic flight from east to west).

According to Colfer, the airfield was privately developed but marketed by Michael Brady, Peter F. Colleran, and Frank Cryan. They were the real estate developers of Massapequa Park, Colfer says.

“They marketed Massapequa as being the first community in the country to have its own airfield,” Colfer said.

In 1929 a big dedication was held at Fitzmaurice Flying Field with Fitzmaurice himself in attendance.

“A lot of famous aviators, mostly a lot of very famous women aviators were here for the dedication of the field, and it became a marketing tool for them,” Colfer said.

In the ‘50's the population had gotten very large. Baby Boomers, the end of the war, and the simple fact that people wanted to move out to the “country” were all reasons for the population boom, according to Colfer.

Massapequa was desperately in need of schools at the time. People in the area were also worried about safety, mainly plane crashes. The airfield was closed because of this and all of the planes were moved to another airfield in Amityville, Colfer said. Hawthorne and McKenna schools stand today where Fitzmaurice Flying Field used to be.

The huge population boom in the 1950's required that the town start building more schools. So they began building East Lake Elementary School around 1950. It was being built on a farm site, Colfer said.

“After the war there was a real shortage on steel in the country and that’s an all steel frame, solid brick building,” Colfer said. “They had such a problem getting the steel that they actually started building other schools which were finished before East Lake was”.

These other schools, which included Unqua, Carman Road, Birch Lane, and Hawthorne, were only supposed to be temporary.

Before East Lake school was even opened to Massapequa, the half-finished building housed Farmingdale University classes for a semester. One the university’s buildings had burned down, so they leased the unfinished East Lake building, Colfer said.

Massapequa High School opened its doors in 1956. Before it opened, Massapequa residents went to high school in either Amityville, Baldwin, or Freeport, depending on the year, Colfer explained.

When the high school got overcrowded within only a few years, Berner had to be built as a second high school. Later, as the population declined, that became a middle school.

If you’d like to learn more about Massapequa, simply check out the little blue signs spread across the town. They’re all placed by historical landmarks and explain their significance, courtesy of the Massapequa Historical Society.

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