A History of New Salem
This is an excerpt from “Port Washington in the Twentieth Century: Places and People” by George Williams, published by the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society in 1995. (Copies of the book may be ordered from the Society at 336 Port Washington Blvd. The cost is $10.00 per book plus $3.50 postage/handling.)
The Gate Rights map of 1709 indicates that the property belonged to a patent established by John West, lawyer for the local native Americans. This land was sold to the Van Wycks and farmed. The southern boundary of the property was purchased by the family of John Sands who owned Inland Farm and several hundred acres of land that extended to Hempstead Harbor. The Sands property was sold to the Willets family in the 1830’s and inherited by the Lapham family in the 20th century. Part of this area was developed into Southport.
According to the 1914 map, the area of New Salem was owned by John Gallagher, of Goodwin and Gallagher Sand and Gravel. The property along Middle Neck Road, later Port Washington Blvd., was rented from Colonial Sand by a family named Walters who farmed it. In the late 1930’s 110 acres of the King Bank property, as it was called, was secured by Cy Williams and W.J. Harter. W.J. Harter was the president of the Williams-Harter Corp., which was listed as the architect.
Cy Williams, an MIT grad, belonged to the paint manufacturing family of Sherwin-Williams. His partner was Walter J. Harter, a builder. They conceived of the New Salem community and published an elaborate 20 page booklet going over the specifications for these colonial homes in this community. (If you would like to see this booklet, please contact the NSCA President) The office for the company was at 1 Salem Lane.
The New Salem Development was opened in August, 1938, emphasizing reproductions of a New England colonial village. Even the brochure for the community was written in Olde English: “The greatsft Care has been taken that all Detail be authentick, and here are many ancient and unusual ideas in great Variety, viz: diamond fhaped panes of glaff set in leaded cafements such as were brought by packet from abroad and may be seen in the Hathaway Houfe at Salem; the famous fanlights and sidelights contrived by the incomparable McIntire; overhanging ftoreys as in the Saltonstall-Whipple Houfe at Ipfwich; richly ornamented Mantels in the manner of Sir. Chriftopher Wren; the gambrel roofes of the Dutch Colonials; the quaint low houfes of the fifherfolk of Cape Cod, and other evidences of Colonial days too numerous to tell of.”
A map of New Salem shows the planning of the streets – Colonial Road (south side), Plymouth, Salem Lane, Colby, Deerfield, and Crestwood (built between 1938-1939) whereas most of the homes on Alden, Lowell, Hawthorne, Winthrop and Lynn Roads were constructed between 1940-1943. The map lists the names of every owner up until 1942. (Map is available on website) One hundred and ninety-five plots and homes are shown. The intent of the builders was to make each home somewhat different so that roof lines, window placement, exterior facades would not be identical and the houses would not be all placed the same distance from the road. Salem Lane reflects this diverse approach. There are no sidewalks. The lawns extend to the street and large overhanging trees grace the lane. Generally speaking what is common to many of the original houses was a slate roof, attached garage, open side porch, second floor dormers and cobblestone driveways. Some of the homes are two story center or side colonials. All have living room fireplaces. The exteriors often had some stone or brick in the front but in the main the houses were wooden shingled and a few had board and batten.
New Salem attracted many airline pilots such as John Themm, 19 Winthrop Road, and Edward Harrington, airline captain, 17 Winthrop Road (1943). Harrington was chief pilot for Eastern and two of the planes that he flew are in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
Among the original owners were Wally Gramer, 5 Plymouth (Sept., 1938) who operated a real estate agency in town; the Hon. William S. Hults Jr., 14 Lowell (May, 1940), NYS Senator and later Motor Vehicle Commissioner; Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Badenberger, 33 Lowell (Aug., 1939). Cy (Clarence J. Williams, Jr.) built a home for his family at 12 Crestwood (Nov. 1939) and his partner Walter J. Hgarter built one next door at 10 Crestwood (Dec. 1939).
Other original residents: Mr. and Mrs. Edward Mayo of 19 Deerfield (Feb. 1940) were the parents of Alyce, who married Peter Falk, movie actor and star of the television series “Columbo.” Also an original owner was Lt. Commander Joseph H. Gibbons of 7 Alden Lane (June 1940). He purchased the home in 1940. Gibbons was the commanding officer of naval combat demolition units at Omaha Beach, WWII. In Port Washington he organized the P.W. Auxiliary Police. The Gibbons were living in this house in the late 1960s. His son John taught Social Studies at Weber Junior High School in the early 1970s.
During this early period were Ralph and Mary Rice who purchased a home at 7 Winthrop (Nov., 1941). Ralph was an architect, trustee of the Vincent Smith School, who designed two additional buildings for that school. The Rices established the science award at Vincent Smith, which is a private school located at 322 Port Washington Blvd.
In this early history of New Salem (1940s) came the actress and author June havoc who lived at 17 Salem Lane. Residents remember that she was visited by her sister Gypsy Rose Lee, about whom she wrote a biography, and the actor Van Johnson, who was reputed to have mowed the lawn.
It was during this same period that an extensive civic association newspaper the Salem News was distributed. It said: “New Salem’s Community newspaper, Live at New Salem and enjoy life at it’s best. A Colonial Village Re-created.” New Salem community members participated in a bowling league, and in a very active Women’s Club and Civic Association.
Other original owners were Fred, Jr. and Evelyn Read, 2 Lynn Road (1949). They were lifelong residents of Port Washington. His family lived on N. Bayles and Mrs. Read’s family, the Averys, lived on Third Ave.
Since the 1950s, Charles and Jennie Marchese have lived on Crestwood Road (#3 and later #16). He was a N.C. District Attorney and she a teacher of business at Schrieber High (1950s-70s).
In the 1960s Don and Doris Lentz lived at 1 Winthrop (Aug., 1941). He was a member of the Lions Club and was the principal of Weber Junior High School from 1955 to 1970.
12 Winthrop, house computed in July 1942, is presently the home of Joan Kent, who in 1994 is the President of the P.W. Library Board. She is a trustee of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, the Town Historian and a member of the Town of N.H. Historic Landmark Preservation Committee. She moved to this address in 1991 from Sands Point.
NEW SALEM SOUTHGATE
(West of P.W. Blvd. – also called New Salem West Gate)
In 1859 the property belonged to E.T. Underhill and in 1873 this was a farm belonging to H.C. Howell (who later purchased a farm which became Beacon Hill); in 1709 it was part of John West Patent which was sold and subdivided into farmland.
The farmhouse was shown to have existed at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. On the 1914 map, Murray and Reid, the sand mining company, owned this land. At least three buildings including a barn were on this property in that year. At the corner of this property was the Flower Hill School, and at the present time it is the headquarters of the Port Washington Police Dept., 500 P.W. Blvd. The Flower Hill School, which served as a primary school, grades 1 through 8, burned in 1924. The school was badly damaged, never rebuilt and torn down. The police dept. building was built in the 1960s.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wenner (Wenner’s Store and Vegetables) maintained a small farm here and raised pigs. The property stood between that of James Marino and the Nassau Knolls Cemetery. In 1938-42 Cy Williams and Harter, who had developed New Salem, built approximately 30 homes on the west side of New Salem – Derby Road Nos. 3-40 and Essex Court 5,6,9,11,15,17,19,21,23, and 25. These homes were Colonial Cape Cods which featured attached garages, stone brick and /or shingle exteriors, shutters. Some had dormers on the attic level and most have a chimney on one side of the house. Inside was a living room fireplace. No. 8 Derby and No. 23 Essex have gambrel roofs.
The film “Miracle on 34th Street” about Kris Kringle and the spirit of Christmas was partially filmed in Salem West Gate, late 1940s. In the final scene in the movie, a car is seen coming down Essex Court, stopping in front of 24 Derby Road, No. 22 can also be seen, and John Payne and Maureen O’Sullivan enter the house where Kris’ cane is mysteriously found. Remember?
One former resident wrote: “In 1950 owners of Nos. 18-20-22-24 purchased 50 feet of the woodland property from the Nassau Knolls Cemetery giving us lovely deep back yards… but back to 1949 – at that time there were 85 children living under 12 in the area… Only home owners and occasional delivery trucks came into the area so even the street was a safe place for the children to play the kind of games that were not for backyards – hop Scotch for instance.”
For a period of time John Gambling, the radio personality, lived at 3 Derby, which is the principal street in this development. It is a semi-circular road, beginning and ending at Port Washington Blvd. Original owners include Roland and Mary Petruski Pierce at 5 Derby (1938), the Otto Uhls at 9 Derby (1943) and the Angus MacInneses, 10 Derby (1938) and Reynold Aymars at 12 Derby. Roland Pierce is listed in the 1915 census; he was living with his parents Robert and Elizabeth and sister Alice on West Shore Road. The Pierces moved to 17 S. Bayles Ave. Roland married Mary Petruski whose family was residing at 10 Orchard Place in 1915. In 1994, 5 Derby is the home of Anna Petruski, sister of Mary.
In 1949 Raymond and Gertrude Rebecchi moved to 18 Derby (1942). In the 1950s and 60s Allen and Majorie Wurzbach lived at 8 Derby (1938). She was President of the League Women’s Voters from 1954-56.
In the late 1950s, Essex Court and then Tulip Road and White Oak Drive were extended from the original New Salem development to the west. Brick capes built here were built by North Terrace Homes Inc. 11 Willowdale Ave. P.W. in 1957.