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HICK'S NECK
The Story of Baldwin

1900 TO THE PRESENT

From the Turn of the Century
to World War I
Our Village was now called Baldwin by most people, although some old timers still liked the former name "Baldwins" better.

By 1902, the first telephone in Baldwin was installed in the General Store of Mr. Wortman at the point between Foxhurst Road and Grand Avenue. Villagers had to visit the store to make or receive a phone call. It became easier to travel with the opening of the New York and Long Island Traction Company trolley that ran through Baldwin along Atlantic and Church Street from 1903 to 1926. For five cents you could go to Rockville Centre or Freeport, or for 20 cents, all the way to Brooklyn in open-sided summer cars and closed cars in the winter.

By 1907, the village had its first high school building, and students from other villages came here to attend.

More people moved into "Beautiful Baldwin" as it was called by Charles Luerssen, a village realtor, for its fine homes nearby to New York City, its modern improvements, and also for its boating, bathing, and fishing delights. In 1911, the village had only two churches, but soon held many more. Another village improvement was the addition of gas light street lamps in parts of the village from about 1910 until the 1920's. After 1911, the Baldwin Water Company installed water main pipes. This was a great improvement.

By 1910, one special sight to see over Baldwin was an early "aeroplane." Two brothers, Albert and Arthur Heinrich, lived near today's Plaza School. They are believed to have built the very first successful all-American powered monoplane (a plane with one wing, unlike a biplane). They flew it for the first time in that year and they built better planes after this first success.

Once people drove the roads of the village by bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles only. Now the automobile (the "horseless carriage") was becoming more and more common. At that time, it was harder work taking care of these early cars than it was taking care of horses, but newer model Fords, Chevrolets and others were better built. Better cars needed better roads, so some of Baldwin's main roads were soon paved. By 1915, more and more cars appeared and fewer horses were seen. People started travelling faster and faster. Early silent movies were shown in the theater now occupied by Sportarama on Grand Avenue. This building was also used for school programs, as well as occasional school basketball games and plays.

By 1917, the old railroad train depot, which was in very poor condition, was replaced with a handsome new station for the village. At this time, Baldwin actor, Victor Moore, was making silent films in Baldwin. He called them his Klever Komedies.

The United States entered World War I in 1917. The Star Shell Plant was opened in 1917 to make exploding shells, which were used by the army to light up the night skies during battles. Also in this same year, Orenco, The Ordinance Engineering Corporation, opened a factory on Brooklyn Avenue to build U.S. Army airplanes. The Heinrich Brothers also built planes for the army during the war.

The Roaring Twenties
New homes were in demand and 400 were erected in '27 alone. Old farms were divided, gas and water mains were installed, cedar hedges were cut down, and corn and potato fields were sold as lots. The Fredericks, Cornwell, and Sprague farms were swallowed up by subdivisions. Lanes became streets, footpaths metamorphosed into sidewalks. Small homes rose on Thomas Avenue, on Harrison, North up to Seaman, still farther North on Stanton.

The first electric street lamps replaced the old gas lamps. The companies of Bee Line, Ben Sherman's Baldwin Bus Co., and Baldwin Harbor Bus Company as well as others took over the local business of the old trolleys. An 18-hole golf course at the Milburn Country Club stood on the site of today's Baldwin Shopping Center and Baldwin Senior High School. From 1924 to 1925, the Cos-Clemin Aircraft Corporation owned the old Orenco factory on Brooklyn Avenue. In addition to building seaplanes and training planes, it also built the very first ambulance airplane in the United States. This was another aviation first in Baldwin.

To the dismay of many people, another first was made in 1920 by the United States Government. A Prohibition Law was passed making alcoholic drinks illegal. Dealers who smuggled illegal alcoholic drinks into the Baldwin area were called bootleggers and rumrunners. Often, large boats in the ocean waters off Baldwin were met at night by smaller speedboats that carried cases of illegal drinks to the shore and waiting trucks to be sold elsewhere.

Some people wanted Baldwin to become an incorporated city, to have its own taxes, fire and police protection, and mayor and public services to improve the fast-growing community. The village voted against it. This has been tried at other times in our history, as well.

Church Street was the shopping area for the harbor residents, although it suffered two large fires in 1922 and 1927. The new high school opened and in 1929, the new Sunrise Highway became the major east/west route through Baldwin. This solved some of the traffic problems of the old Merrick Road, which was often jammed with cars on weekends. In that same year, a small company moved into the old plane factory on Brooklyn Avenue for a short time, and later became a world leader in aircraft and aerospace development. The little company that grew in Baldwin was the Grumman Aircraft Corporation.

In 1920, Baldwin's estimated population was 5,000. The great numbers of newcomers to Baldwin moved into their own houses or rented some of the newly built apartment houses. By the year 1930, there were about 12,000 people living in Baldwin, nearly five times as many as ten years earlier.

The 1930's and the Great Depression
At the end of a prosperous ten years in the 1920's for Baldwin and for the country, the entire nation was thrown into confusion when the New York stock market crashed. As a result, many people lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings. Without jobs, they could not pay their bills, and many became poor people overnight. The nation's economy took many long years to recover and gain back its strength.

During these hard times, there were still some improvements made in Baldwin. In the early 1930's, Baldwin's Sanitary District #2 became important. No longer did residents have to arrange to cart their garbage to the dump or dig trash pits on their property. In 1933, Baldwin's Century Theatre opened on Merrick Road and the first film shown starred Wallace Beery.

By 1924, electrical appliances were in many Baldwin homes. The refrigerator had replaced the old oak icebox as well as the deliveryman who brought the blocks of ice. The village was proud of its new fire headquarters in 1936.

In 1939, Baldwin was the largest unincorporated village in all of New York State with over 4,000 homes and 119 apartments. When 1940 arrived, Baldwin's population was over 15,000.

World War II and the Growth Years
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Many American lives were lost. Baldwin men and women joined the armed forces to go to war against Japan, Germany and Italy.

At home, the Civil Defense was planned and air raid drills were practiced. Certain items such as gasoline and rubber tires were not always available because the Army, Navy, and Air Corps needed them. Several times, German submarines were seen off the south shore. The Baldwin Naval Ordinance Plant supplied some of the military needs of the Armed Forces. Finally, in 1945, most of our brave men and women returned home. The United States, and our allies, had won the war.

After the war, Baldwin began to grow again. Many World War II veterans were moving to Long Island and starting families.

In 1957, the Long Island Rail Road tracks through the center of the village were raised, allowing cars and people to pass safely under them. Before this, the trains had often blocked road traffic, and some people lost their lives at the grade crossings and on the third rail. The handsome old 1917 depot was torn down. From the late 1950's and into the 1960's, homes were being built on filled meadowland where the early farmers once cut salt hay.

In 1980, Baldwin's estimated population was 31,630 living in over 10,000 homes.

To join the Baldwin Historical Society, please call (516) 223-6900.

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Baldwin Waterfront,
1950

Baldwin waterfront reels used by commercial fishermen to dry nets.

Image

Grand Avenue
Northwest Corner Sunrise Highway & Grand Avenue

 

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Foxhurst Road
& Grand Avenue

Old Library, former Wortman's Store

 

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Grand Avenue
& Merrick Road,
1952

Milburn Hotel, Southeast corner, Merrick Road and Milburn Avenue.

 

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Grand Avenue
& Merrick Road

1950

Baldwin Corners looking North at left the second Baldwin Inn.