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Freeport celebrates 125th anniversary of village incorporation

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy kicked off the town's 125th anniversary celebration at the Excelsior Hook & Ladder No. 1 Truck Company on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. That's the same spot where an election was held in 1892 that determine whether to incorporate the village. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Freeport celebrated the 125th anniversary of its incorporation as a village last month, kicking off a year of history-themed events.

Residents voted 214 to 132 to be incorporated as a village in what was then part of Queens County on Oct. 18, 1892, at the Excelsior Hook and Ladder Truck firehouse on Church Street, Mayor Robert Kennedy said.

The driving issue was getting a water system for fire protection and other public services.

“The history of Freeport is one of independence, self-reliance and local control,” Kennedy said at an Oct. 18 ceremony at the firehouse commemorating the anniversary.

Kennedy also unveiled a 125th anniversary village logo, which calls Freeport the “boating and fishing capital of the East,” that will be used throughout the year.

Village officials also plan to focus on annual events, such as the Nautical Mile Festival, during the anniversary, Kennedy said.

Regina Feeney, a trustee of the Freeport Historical Society, said the organization is working with the library and the village to organize future anniversary-related events and digitizing more historical documents so residents can view them online.

“I think it gives people a sense of place and a sense of pride,” Feeney said.

Freeport was founded in the 1650s and was first known as Raynor South and then Raynortown after its founder, Edward Raynor. Raynor came to the United States from England as a child and settled on Long Island, according to village historian and Freeport Historical Society president Cynthia Krieg.

Residents voted to change its name to Freeport in 1853, reportedly because boat captains would dock there to avoid paying fees at New York City or Sag Harbor, Krieg wrote in a history on the Freeport Memorial Library’s website.

When it was incorporated in 1892, Freeport had 1,821 residents and was the third village in what’s now Nassau County to incorporate, according to a Freeport history blog run by Krieg and Feeney. Hempstead incorporated in 1853. Sea Cliff was next, in 1883.

Feeney said incorporation allowed Freeporters to have more control over their local government and have a say in how their taxes were spent.

“It just means that decisions about various things get made locally,” she said. “They get more bang for their buck and they get a say in where the money goes.”

The leading citizens in 1892 were landowners who wanted to develop the village and “they wanted things done without all the red tape” from the town and county governments, she said. Freeport’s first municipal leader, Carman Cornelius, held the title of village president, not mayor.

Now, Freeport has more than 43,000 residents, according to 2016 Census estimates, and is among 64 incorporated villages in the county. The village has its own police and fire departments, as well as its own power plant.

“We’ve grown quite a bit,” Kennedy said. “It goes to show the ability to become successful as an independent incorporated village.”

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