A previous blog discussed the settlement of Biltmore Shores
in the 1920s by Fox and Frankel. The attempt there was to attract entertainment
personalities to the Massapequas and drive up the property values throughout
the area. Fox, in fact, had brought out bathing beauties to swim and sun in the
to curiosity seekers and potential customers. He had sold several large and
ornate Spanish-style residences, but the 1929 stock market crash bankrupted him
and forced him to sell the eastern portion of his property to Harmon National
Bank. The bank's officers were eager to develop this area, but were wary about
building large, expensive homes on the
Biltmore Shores model. They chose the strategy of putting minimum house on
maximum land, betting that buyers from New York City would be attracted to inexpensive
homes and to the open space that the area offered. It worked well, as customers
moved slowly but steadily into what they called Harbour Green. The standard
home lot was set at 100 by 100 feet, houses were typically two stories, with
basements, and the builders tried to retain as many trees, bushes and other
natural qualities as possible.
There were three residences in the area in 1931, when the
neighborhood that became known as Harbour Green began. One was the Grace Church
Rectory, originally a Floyd-Jones family house directly across the street from
the small wooden church set in the midst of the Floyd-Jones Cemetery. Another
house, at the southeast corner of Cedar Shore Drive and Nassau Road (now Harbour
Lane), belonged to William Wiley Jr., son of the rector. A third, across Cedar
Shore Drive from Wiley's house, was owned by Frank Avignon. These buildings were
not part of the Harbour Green development.
The first residents of Harbour Green were Mr. and Mrs.
George Pearson, who had moved from Brooklyn to Amityville in the late 20s and
were looking for a small private house in the area. They selected a lot on the
corner of Hampton Boulevard and Bay Drive and paid 50% down. The actual price
is not available, but the houses were offered at between $4500 and $7500 in a
contemporary advertisement. Harmon National Bank offered long-term mortgages,
earned money from the interest, and supervised construction, eliminating the
need to pay a contractor's fee.
The Pearsons were joined by another ten residents in the
first three years, with houses built as far south as Adam Road. The area to
Dartmouth Road was filled in and additional homes were built there in the next
seven years. All told, 113 houses were constructed in Harbour Green from 1932
to 1941, when construction stopped because of the need for supplies to aid the
war effort. The first settlers were frequently dubbed "The Pioneers"
because the area resembled a wilderness: overgrown, undeveloped and swampy . As
development continues, however, their area came to be viewed positively by
outside observers, to the extent that Life Magazine ran a photo spread
in 1936 featuring a house on Cedar Shore Drive as an example of appropriate and
attractive new housing.
The end of the war saw a tremendous surge in home-building
on Long Island. New houses were built in Harbour Green also, as land was filled
in as far south as Gloucester Road and Gloucester Canal was dug out. Building
in this phase was done by several contractors, because Harmon Bank had sold its
interests in the area during the war. The Harbour Green Association,
incorporated in 1938, became the neighborhood watchdog , ensuring that new homes
fit the profile of existing properties, enforcing the 100 by 100 lot size, and working
with the Town of Oyster Bay on curbs, road construction and maintenance of
vacant lots. The aim was to keep Harbour Green as rural as possible, as
Biltmore Shores expanded on its western border and the lowland to the east (Bar
Harbour) became occupied by private houses, a large shopping center and Birch Lane School.
However much Harbour Green residents may have looked with dismay at the loss of
their "wilderness" surroundings, they doubtless conceded the value of
a convenient multi-store shopping center and a nearby grammar school (as well
as the high school, completed a few blocks east on Merrick Road in 1955).
The most dramatic postwar change to Harbour Green was the
construction of Grace Church in 1962. The 1844 Church, located in the midst of
Grace Cemetery and built originally as a Floyd-Jones family church, had become
far too small to accommodate the worshippers who were moving into the
Massapequas. Church elders voted to erect a new building and secured agreement
from the Harbour Green Association to locate it just south of Merrick Road on
the west side of Cedar Shore Drive. The existing Floyd-Jones house, used as the
Rectory, was relocated to the southwest of the new church and a school was
subsequently built south of the church. The overall effect was of a large, handsome
house of worship, fronted by a spacious lawn, serving as a welcoming symbol to
a separate community with its unique history. The Church and its related buildings
stand today, as do the 400+ buildings that define Harbour Green.
A NOTE ON SOURCE MATERIAL
Most of the material for this blog comes from a history of Harbour
Green, written by Irving Doyle, one of the early settlers, in 1983. The
document is part of the Historical Society of the Massapequa's archives and is
available for review at the Delancey Floyd-Jones Library, located on Merrick
Road across from the entrance to Harbour Green.