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  • Writer's pictureLocal History Collection

Moving Forward by Looking Back

By Carol L. Clarke, Archivist

It’s been seventy years since the Bryant Library settled into its current home in the Roslyn War Memorial building in early 1952. It was a time of great change in the community. Two years earlier, the Viaduct over Hempstead Harbor had opened to traffic, diverting traffic away from downtown and causing a number of local businesses to close. Longtime residents were leaving the area, and houses built decades earlier were either falling into disrepair or being demolished as new residents flocked to purchase brand new homes being constructed on the former farms, estates, and polo fields surrounding the Village.

Leonard & Paul Lehrman, 1957

In the midst of the growth and change taking place all around them, the librarians and volunteers who established the library’s Local History Collection recognized the need to document the rapidly disappearing knowledge of what life in Roslyn had been like for earlier generations. Although they saved information on contemporaneous events by clipping articles from local newspapers, little effort was made to collect photographs or documents to document the history that was happening around them on a daily basis.

Seventy years later, as we live through times of great global, national and even local change, Local History Collection staff feel a similar sense of urgency to learn and document as much as we can about another period of Roslyn history that is quickly fading from memory — the decades of the nineteen fifties, sixties, and seventies.

1970s photo of Brower Plaza, which stood adjacent to the Roslyn Train Station

Over the past several years, in response to articles in the Bryant Library Newsletter, online solicitations, and personal contact with visitors to the Bryant Room, we have heard from a number of former and current residents. They have shared memories of weekend drives from NYC to watch their family’s home being built in one of the new subdivisions in East Hills or Roslyn Heights, playing with neighborhood kids on vacant building lots, attending school in the newly constructed Harbor Hill, East Hills, and Junior High schools and, as teens, attending shows at U.S. Blues and My Father’s Place. Others have shared less nostalgic stories about having to leave Roslyn because their homes were in the path of road and commercial development.

Girls chat outside the newly constructed Roslyn Junior High School.

Reminiscences, such as those shared by former resident and builder Frank Martucci during a recent Zoom chat, contribute to our knowledge but also raise more questions.

Ariel Morabito and Carol Clarke talk with Frank Martucci & his daughters Gail & Judi

Here are some of the topics we hope to learn more about:

  • The experiences of local women who worked at the state-of-the-art Helena Rubenstein cosmetics factory when it opened on Northern Boulevard in 1953.

  • How the construction of the Long Island Expressway impacted Roslyn residents when it arrived at Mineola /Willis Avenue in 1957.

  • Information about local businesses located around the train station in Brower Plaza.

  • Civic involvement in environmental and civil rights issues and other social movements.

Former Helena Rubinstein Plant which opened in 1953

Ensuring that future generations of researchers will be able to engage with the same breadth of information currently available to those seeking to know more about nineteenth and early twentieth century Roslyn is a major goal of the Local History Collection. Get in touch by filling out our contact form, emailing us, or sending us a DM on Facebook or Instagram. You can also contact us by phone at 516-621-2240 x260.

You may possess the answer to an important historical question!


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