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Amityville Village celebrates 125 years: A look back at its history

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, Amityville town historians talked about the town's 125th anniversary, which will be celebrated with various events throughout the year. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

When it comes to friendliness, Amityville has now got 125 years worth of experience.

Amityville, which calls itself “The Friendly Village,” next month celebrates the 125th anniversary of its founding. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the village historical society. In honor of the two milestones, here’s a look at a few chapters in the village’s history.

From farmland to vacation destination

In the 17th and 18th centuries, like much of Long Island at the time, the area of Amityville was rural farmland. By the 1840s, the village needed a post office, which is when residents decided it also needed a name, according to “Amityville History” by former director of the historical society William Lauder. It had been referred to as Huntington West Neck South. 

There are two versions of what happened next during a raucous 1846 meeting on the subject, Lauder wrote in 1992. In one, a local mill owner suggested naming the village after his boat, “The Amity.” In another, a resident declared, “What this meeting needs is some amity!”

In the late 1800s, just 500 people lived in the community, according to U.S. Census data. 

After the railroad came to Amityville in 1867, the village became a vacation destination for affluent city residents. “People would rent their house out for the summer and move in with someone else,” said Seth Purdy, curator of the village’s Lauder Museum. “Or if they had a boat, they would live there.” 

Hotels as high as four stories sprung up along the village’s shores. The village also built hospitals (including a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that drew the rich and famous, said Emil Pavlik Jr., 82, a historical society trustee and former village mayor.)

The last hospital, Brunswick, closed after more than 100 years in 2005. 

Midcentury population boom 

By the 1930s, Sunrise Highway was extended through Amityville and the population rose to 4,400, according to census data.

The village population ballooned in the post-World War II years, from about 5,100 in 1940 to roughly 9,800 in 1970. During this time, hundreds of residents worked just up Route 110 at Republic Aviation or at Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, Pavlik said. By the 1970s, a 100-unit housing complex, Snug Harbor condominiums, opened.

Businesses also flourished during this time, Pavlik said, with two supermarkets — A&P and Bohack — located side by side right on Broadway.    

Racial tension in the 1950s and 1960s lead to boycotts and protests over a lack of integration in schools. In 1962 the NAACP took the Amityville school district to federal court over de facto segregation.

State Education Commissioner James Allen ordered Amityville to come up with a plan to desegregate the schools in 1965, which they did.  

Modern day

Today, the village of roughly 10,000 residents remains largely what it’s always been, historians said, a quiet, friendly place to live. 

“It hasn’t changed its character much,” said Roger Smith, chairman of the 125th anniversary committee.

The village will have numerous events celebrating its two anniversaries, starting with a 125th anniversary celebration at the Mayor’s Spring Social on March 3, the date of the village’s incorporation. The historical society will have events each month of the year, starting this month with museum exhibits featuring vintage valentines, black history and Amityville’s history with presidents. 

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