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Long IslandSuffolk

Huntington’s early roadway history set in concrete

A century has passed since roads were first paved in Huntington, with dirt, wood block or stone composite, giving way to concrete.

Few of those roads remain as the town, like other municipalities, moved toward more affordable asphalt. But one stands as a testament to the vintage paving and has gained historic designation for it.

Sammis Street, just south of the entrance to downtown Huntington off New York Avenue, was paved in 1928 as part of Huntington’s third major paving project, financed with a $500,000 bond. It was concrete then and will remain that way — in 2002, Sammis Street was designated as a historic roadway because of its concrete construction and towering thick sycamore trees that also date to the 1920s. The block is the only concrete road in the town with such a designation, town officials said.

“Out of the 800 or so miles in the town, there are only a handful that are still concrete,” town historian Robert C. Hughes said. “So it’s nice to hold on to that, because it shows the progress and development over the years.”

The designation prohibits asphalt or other blacktop material to resurface or patch any part of the two-block street. The trees — 37 line each side of the street — are to be preserved and replaced in kind if they become diseased or damaged.

Constructed in 1909, Sammis Avenue, as it was then known, was built at the request of A. Smith Sammis and Brewster G. Sammis. The Sammis family is one of the town’s earliest and was most prominent in community leadership and politics. Quentin Sammis served as the town supervisor in the 1960s. The street, within the Old Village neighborhood between New York Avenue and Nassau Road, appears on a map in 1909, but without houses. Today there are about 40 houses on the block, town officials said.

Charles Porter, who has lived on the block for 20 years, said in 2002 the town had been blacktopping other concrete streets in the neighborhood. He and neighbors wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to Sammis.

“We took it before the town board and with that many people, the politicians paid a lot of attention,” Porter said.

One of those neighbors, Marie Gross, moved to the block in August 1926 when she was 3 years old, and watched as they poured the concrete two years later. Inspired by her memories, including mischievously leaving her footprint in the concrete before it dried, she enthusiastically joined the preservation effort.

“My mother was sentimental and happy to help,” said Gross’ daughter Loretta Gross, 63, who grew up in her mother’s house and remains there today. “She loved telling her stories about growing up on the block.” Marie Gross died in 2012.

“There was a lot of happiness when the street got its designation,” Gross said.

Residents don’t know exactly when the street’s trees were planted, but town officials said they are likely a “reflection” of the City Beautiful Movement popular in the 1890s and 1900s. The initiative was aimed at introducing beautification through monumental civic centers, parks and trees.

“It was a wonderful place to grow up,” Loretta Gross said of Sammis Street. “It’s still beautiful, and I’m happy to remain here.”

Historic roadways in Huntington Town

  • Route 25A
  • West Neck Road
  • Long Island Motor Parkway (Vanderbilt Parkway)
  • Sammis Street
  • Whitman Heritage Corridor, which includes Hartman Hill Road, Mount Misery Road, Highhold Drive, Chichester Road, West Hills Road, Downs Road and Sweet Hollow Road.

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