A signpost at the corner of Poe Place and Keats...

A signpost at the corner of Poe Place and Keats Court in Plainedge. Credit: Rose Warren

Native Americans named our island Paumanok, meaning “land of tribute.” The Dutch started calling it “Lange Eylandt,” translated by the British to mean a long island.

Like the Dutch, I would like to see a few changes made. The names of some Long Island towns and streets could use some freshening.

The inspiration came while walking through my neighborhood with my granddaughters, Samantha, 10, and Sophia, 17. Some nearby Plainedge streets are named for poets. The names I recognized were Keats, Poe, Longfellow, Emerson, Milton, Holmes, Miller, Whittier and Coleridge.

The three of us researched the poets and some of their famous works. The girls liked Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.” I liked reading Edgar Allan Poe’s words “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’  ” I would have preferred living one block over on Poe Place — it conjures up eerie images. Every Halloween I would have posted a raven at my front door to greet the arriving children.

All the poets are American or British, but not one is from Long Island.

Walt Whitman was born on Long Island in the Town of Huntington. My family has visited his home and stood at the threshold of his birth room. In his famous book “Leaves of Grass,” he writes of “Paumanok” in the 1860 edition, employing the Native American name rather than “Long Island.” Whitman fondly recounts the natural beauty of his hometown.

The Plainedge builder should have given the hamlet a Whitman Avenue. Why wasn’t the poet honored with a street name here? It seems like a glaring omission. After all, Huntington Station does have a road, school and mall bearing his name.

Whitman, though, has no town, village or hamlet named after him. Wyandanch is named for the powerful chief of the Montaukett tribe. Levittown bears the name of its builder, William Levitt. Valentine Hicks, a famous Quaker and abolitionist, is memorialized with Hicksville. Smithtown is named for Richard Smith. Legend has it that Native Americans gifted him all the land he could encircle in one day while riding a bull.

Long Island has a rich history of famous people with Long Island ties. Nikola Tesla built his wireless transmission station in Shoreham in 1901-02. Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field on his 1927 transatlantic flight. I envision local areas being renamed to honor these pioneers. After all, Whitman wrote, “Never stop dreaming.”

Long Island celebrities who did not change the world did bring us entertainment. Town names could be changed to reflect their contributions.

I whimsically imagine Huntington and Levittown being renamed. Change Mariah Carey’s original hometown of Huntington to Mariah Manor. Eddie Money grew up in Levittown. The new name? Moneytown.

Reader Rose Warren lives in Plainedge.



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