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Gov. Cuomo nominates 4 LI sites for historic registry status

Hempstead's Old Town Hall is among four Long

Hempstead's Old Town Hall is among four Long Island sites nominated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for placement on state and national historic registers. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Pillars of Long Island’s past — a legendary post-World War II suburb; a hotbed of early aviation; a critical element in the battle against Nazi Germany; and a stronghold of Roman Catholicism — could qualify for grants and tax breaks.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo nominated four Long Island sites for placement on state and national historic registers and, if approved, they would receive the financial benefits.

The four sites are:

  • The Hempstead Town Hall Complex, for marrying revival and modern architecture and witnessing “the birth of Levittown with its far-reaching social implications,” the draft application said. Hempstead’s 1918 Georgian Revival Old Town Hall with its clock tower exemplifies its “pride in its own Colonial history as a foundation to lead it into the future,” the draft said.

At first, the town spurned Abraham Levitt’s plan for inexpensive, assembly-line houses, fearing they “would rapidly deteriorate,” the draft said. “Many World War II veterans, who desperately needed housing, were outraged,” the draft said. Faced with hundreds of protesting veterans on May 27, 1947, the town retreated. More than 17,000 homes would go up in five years.

  • Garden City’s Mitchel Field and Flight Line, which was the last glimpse of the nation for many aircrews in World War II, according to the draft. Aviators prized the Hempstead Plains, site of Mitchel Field and the Flight Line. The land was flat and the “prevailing winds” helped underpowered planes take flight, the draft said.

In 1909, pilot Glenn Curtiss was the first to fly a plane using aileron, or hinged flight controls. International air races were held; flying schools, airplane factories, and the military all moved in. Camp Mills trained more World War I pilots than anywhere else, the draft said. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the iconic Jazz age writer, was stationed there in 1918. Long before leading the first air raid on Japan after Pearl Harbor was bombed, then-Army Air Corps pilot Lt. James H. Doolittle in 1929 made the first instrument-only flight from that base.

  • Riverhead’s Wading River Radio Station, where FBI agents posing as German spies misled Hitler about the D-Day invasion, according to the application. Wading River agents also proved key in persuading President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to develop atomic bombs because Hitler was trying to do so, the draft said.

During World War II, the FBI set up a secret radio station in Wading River; the bluffs offered clear transmissions with Germany and the forest hid a large antenna. It was so remote that no one would hear the diesel generator. Wading River’s first transmission was to Hamburg, Germany, on Jan. 28, 1942; hundreds more were sent until the war ended, the draft said. The Germans were tricked into revealing their interest in the atomic bomb.

  • Brentwood’s Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, a 211-acre campus where Mother Mary Louis, wielding much more sway than many women of her time, built the convent, academy and the Sacred Heart Chapel. The order has expanded to serve the broader community, housing a Muslim school, for example.

The motherhouse site mainly was built from 1901 to 1965 in the Mission Revival style, but there also is an exceptional Romanesque chapel — the marble and stone are drawn from all over the world, it said. The landscape, though altered, was designed in 1869 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Central Park’s architect in chief. Focuses include preserving the land, offering places for meetings, events and classrooms, and aiding the underserved.

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