As a taxi driver in Glen Cove years ago, John Palmirotto ferried workers from the city’s palatial estates to and from their jobs. But he had never been beyond their gates until Saturday, when Palmirotto, 92, and about 65 others toured two of the mansions as part of a celebration of Glen Cove’s 350th anniversary.
“This is gorgeous,” Palmirotto said as he peered up at the wooden ceiling in a 106-year-old mansion that was once owned by oil baron Herbert L. Pratt and is now the main building of the Webb Institute. “Look at that workmanship.”
Glen Cove is in the middle of six days marking the anniversary of how on May 24, 1668, Joseph Carpenter purchased land in what is now Glen Cove from members of the Matinecock Indian tribe. A downtown street fair that began Saturday continues Sunday.
Two bus tours Saturday went past 27 historic sites in the city. Participants learned that “School Street” is named after Glen Cove’s first district school, built in 1783, and that the Long Island Rail Road station, next to what is now called the Nassau Country Club, was funded by wealthy golfers and residents who found another LIRR station in the city “to be too proletarian.” They saw where scenes were shot for films like “North by Northwest” and the first “Sabrina”.
Lisa Colon, 50, a Glen Cove resident for 19 years, lives near some of the old mansions and enjoyed hearing about their history.
“One of the reasons why we moved here was the old homes, the history, the trees, the beaches, the winding roads,” Colon said. “It’s just a beautiful area.”
Palmirotto had lived his entire life in Glen Cove until he retired to Florida in 1990. But Palmirotto, who moved to Huntington Station in 2017 to be near his daughter, said he always missed his city.
“It’s my home,” he said. “I’m looking at all the trees in bloom. You don’t have that in Florida.”
Many of those who worked in the grand houses were immigrants. Decades ago, immigrants from European countries like Italy and Poland predominated in the city. Today most of the 29 percent of Glen Cove’s population that was born abroad is from Latin America.
Peruvian immigrant Jesús Torres, 32, has lived in the city nearly 15 years and on Saturday he was strolling through the street fair under the hot sun, the smell of sausages and peppers in the air, with his partner Gladys Mejia, 27, and their son Jesús Torres, Jr., 2.
Torres likes the tranquility of Glen Cove. He feels at home and plans to stay.
“Maybe we’ll live the rest of our lives here,” he said. “It’s a nice town. I want to see my son grow up here.”