Thanks to all of you who responded to my blog with items of interest and information. If you've lived in the Massapequas for more than forty years, you've seen enormous changes in the area. Several readers provided information about the Bar Harbour Shopping Center, so I'd like to provide some Historical context to a place many of you frequent today.
Massapequa experienced a revolution after World War II, as thousands of people, many from Brooklyn and Queens, moved "out east" to the private houses that were being built here, as well as in Levittown, Hicksville, Bethpage, etc. The area had a population of 3,000 in 1950 and grew to 16,000 in 1960. These new residents needed services, and they were provided rapidly and in striking numbers: seven schools from 1949 to 1960, eight houses of worship, numerous stores along Broadway, Park Boulevard, Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road. In addition, dirt paths became paved roads, open fields became parks and playgrounds and the Massapequa Railroad station was elevated (in 1953) to ensure the safety of residents. The Massapequa Park station remained at ground level until 1980, but that's a story for another blog.
New residents needed food, clothing, household goods and there were several stores, but no one place that provided a variety of services until 1958. A small "shopping center" had been built in 1938 along Merrick Road. It consisted of six attached stores on the north side of Merrick Road just west of today's Massapequa Bowling Lanes. It still exists, but is now lost among all the stores that dot Merrick Road. The new Bar Harbour Center replaced a vacant plot of flat land east of Park Lane on the south side of Merrick Road.
It consisted of two large anchor stores: Saks 34th Street on the west and Food Fair on the east. There were many smaller stores in the center, such as Florsheim, National, Kinney and Thom McAn shoes (lots of shoes were sold in the Massapequas back then!), as well as Kresge's, Walgreen's, Long Full Chinese Restaurant, a bank, beauty salon, cleaners, a sports store, and more. There
were thirty stores in all. It must have seemed a godsend to new residents, especially those from New York City, where there were shopping areas, but no one center where most needs could be met conveniently.
The accompanying photo shows the center's configuration and lists the stores that were there at its opening. Note the configuration of the buildings: a second row of stores, across from the row that is still there today, with a sidewalk between the two rows. Also note the walkways in front of the two rows of stores were covered, offering protection from the elements. The parking lot extended out to the street, and the front part was subsequently covered by a tennis court, today's Roslyn Savings Bank on the west, Capital One Bank directly across from the high school and JP Morgan Chase Bank to the east. Also note that the area behind the shopping center was used for parking. The Southgate at Bar Harbour condominiums were built in 1981, with the proximity of a comprehensive shopping center used as a selling point.
The area selected was devoid of houses because of its distance from the railroad, but it was across from Massapequa High School, which opened in 1955. No doubt the builders felt they could easily attract students from the school, especially because it was built without a cafeteria, a decision made by the school board in response to residents' complaints about the cost of new buildings. As anybody who went through the high school can attest, the shopping center became a place not only for lunch, but also to hang out. The merchants have changed and none of the originals are left, but the center still serves the residents.
1. The source for much of this blog is the 1958 Massapequas Annual, a yearly publication of Long Island Annuals, Inc., which published similar annuals for Wantagh, Rockville Center and other communities. The cost was fifty cents. It is today a priceless source of bedrock information about this area a half century ago. Copies of the Annual are located in the Floyd-Jones Library on Merrick Road across from Cedar Shore Drive. The Library is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 until 1 and is full of information about post war Massapequa.
2. There was a tunnel behind the stores that was used to unload goods out of sight of customers. When it was sealed with the opening of Southgate Condominiums, something was left inside. Does anybody know what it is?