'Long Island: Our Story': Al Capone Was In the Lineup
Beginnings: When the Carmans family built their mill at Carmans Lane around 1700, the area was known as Huntington West Neck South. Salt hay sprouting from the region's marshy wetlands and harvested for animal feed was the big draw for settlers who carved up the one-time Indian tribal land into small farms. From its beginnings, Amityville was a commercial center. The earliest mills, such as Ireland's mill, which operated until 1915, soon expanded into other ventures. The Irelands, another founding family, opted for a tavern and bakery. Carman's was a general store and post office for a time. Even as late as the turn of the century, neighbors from Massapequa and Copiague came to Amityville to do their shopping.
Turning Point: Like other South Shore communities in the early 1900s, Amityville evolved into a swinging summer playground, where the rich and famous built homes, rented cottages or relaxed in several seaside hotels. Annie Oakley of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show often visited the homes of Fred Stone, a popular vaudevillian, on Clocks Boulevard and comedian and satirist Will Rogers, who rented across the street. There was also the infamous gangster Al Capone, whose tenure in Amityville was marked by nothing more sensational than an occasional vacation baseball game on his lawn.
Washington Ate Here: On his historic post-revolutionary trip across Long Island in 1790, the first president dined at the East Amityville home of Zebulon Ketcham, whose home had recently been an inn and a tavern. In his diary Washington recalled Capt. Ketcham's home as being a "very neat and decent one."
How It Got Its Name: Tired of the cumbersome name of Huntington West Neck South, residents met in 1846 to decide on a name for the post office. According to one version, the meeting soon turned into bedlam, causing one participant to exclaim, "What this meeting needs is some amity." Another version has Samuel Ireland, the prominent mill owner and largest landowner in town, standing up and declaring that they should name the village after his boat. Its name was Amity.
Where to Find More: "Amityville History Revisited," by William T. Lauder, at the Amityville Historical Society.