In the center of a peculiar loop in eastern Hicksville sits a 19th century building that has served the hamlet in the most disparate of ways.
The Hicksville Gregory Museum is home to thousands of fossils and minerals from all over the world, as well as artifacts from Hicksville. Open six days a week, the building itself is a local artifact.
“It’s a great town,” said Don Curran, 61, of Freeport, the museum’s curator for 23 years. “The people who live here and all around really care about it [the museum], and they can come here to enjoy it.”
The museum was named by Gardiner Gregory, a Hicksville schoolteacher and avid collector. Hundreds of his accumulated fossils, minerals, moths, wildflowers and butterflies fill the cases along the old building’s walls. He opened the original museum in 1963 in his home on Cottage Boulevard, but expanded into what was the Heitz Place Courthouse in 1969. He died in 2005 at the age of 88.
Curran’s earliest record of the building, owned by the Town of Oyster Bay, dates to 1895. The museum once served as Village Hall -- although Hicksville was never an incorporated village -- a jail and a courthouse. The jail’s first reported prisoner was housed there in November 1895, occupying a jail cell where a bathroom is today. He was tried for disorderly conduct in what is now the museum’s main exhibit area.
Curran doesn’t have any records of murders or other heinous crimes from back then, but there were other interesting incidents. One story involves a horse thief who was caught after he stole a neighbor’s horse and used it to pull his carriage down Broadway. Many of the other crimes were alcohol-induced disorderly conduct and coin counterfeiting.
According to Curran, the building served as Village Hall until 1935, when it became the Fourth District Court. The court vacated the building in 1967.
Today Curran has accumulated thousands of new artifacts, like prehistoric sea creatures, fossilized dinosaur footprints from New Jersey and industrial-grade diamonds. The museum sees between 50 to 100 walk-in visitors each week and 100 to 200 people coming in scheduled groups.
“It’s an easy way for the people who live around here to see something they’d have to travel into the city to see,” he said.
For more information on the Hicksville Gregory Museum, visit gregorymuseum.org.
Above, Don Curran, 61, has been the curator of the Gregory Museum in Hicksville for 23 years. Here he examines pyrite, also known as fool's gold.