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From Private Estate to Public Park

Many impressive Estates used to overlook Merrick Road, but they gave way to parks and schools in the mid 20th century.

For many years the descendants of Thomas Jones were conspicuous in the Massapequas by their estates. Large parcels of property with imposing mansions on either side of Merrick Road.

The first was Tryon Hall, completed in 1770 and the last was Holland House, completed in 1900. As the area's population grew and the buildings aged, their owners found it harder to maintain them. Their demise occurred in the period between 1925 and 1960 and they were replaced in ways that were responses to the area's population growth.

Here's a look at some of the estates you'd encounter traveling east on Merrick Road: 

Massapequa Manor - overlooking Massapequa Lake from the east shore, built in 1837, owned originally by Jennie Floyd-Jones and her family, burned in 1952, replaced by private houses on either side of Lake Shore Drive;

Sedgemoor - across from present-day , built in 1854 by Sarah Floyd-Jones and her husband Coleman Williams, demolished in 1953, replaced by private houses;

Holland House - built around 1900 for Ella Floyd-Jones and her husband William Carpenter, was sold and reopened as the Wagon Wheel Restaurant, then bought by the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center and replaced by St. Rose's Church in the early 1960s. The building, which was located where St. Rose's parking lot is today, was used as a place of worship for several years while the present church was being built;

Elbert Floyd-Jones Estate (no formal name given) - built in 1870, burned in 1926, apparently as the result of a Fourth of July fireworks celebration. The land remained undeveloped until the early 1960s, when it became the site of the and private houses;

Fort Neck -  the oldest Floyd-Jones estate, built in 1770 and the home of seven generations of Thomas Jones's descendants, it was abandoned in the 1930s and burned in 1940, to be replaced by a row of stores along Merrick Road and houses north of Beverly Avenue;

 Sewan - built in the late 1800s for George Stanton Floyd-Jones and his wife Anita. It fell into disuse in the 1940s, was bequeathed to the Catholic Church and sold to the School Board, enabling them to build Massapequa High School, which opened in 1956;

Unqua - also known as Rosedale, built by Major Henry Floyd-Jones (date uncertain), it was also located on the north side of Merrick Road and faced marshlands that later became . It was torn down in the early 1950s and the land became the site of a small shopping center.

The last estate to be inhabited by a Floyd-Jones family member was the Thorn Estate, also known as Little Unqua. It was located at Merrick and Unqua Roads and was the home of Louisa Floyd-Jones Thorn.

She was the daughter of Edward Floyd-Jones and the wife of Conde Raguet Thorn II. Her husband died in 1944 and she remained at the estate , living with servants and caretakers as she advanced in age.

We are unusually fortunate to have detailed information about this estate, courtesy of Barbara Fisher, a former Trustee of the Historical Society of the Massapequas.

Ms Fisher interviewed several long-time residents of the Massapequas in the mid-1990s and transcribed several of these recordings. One interview was conducted on November 7, 1995 with John Nolan, who spent the summer of 1957 working as a gardener's helper at Little Unqua.

He described the house as large, with two sets of porches, one over the other, painted a grayish blue, not as pretentious as some of the older mansions that existed along Merrick Road. The building faced Merrick Road just west of Unqua Road. There was a circular driveway in front that led in from the Unqua - Merrick corner and exited to the west near Unqua Lake.

To the right of the house was a formal garden with cedar trees and a variety of flowers and plants. Mr. Nolan indicated there was a garage behind the house close to Merrick Road and a gardener's house further back.

A barn was situated at the northwest, near the lake. A paddock with horses was located toward the rear of the property and a riding track was maintained at the northeast corner, an area that is overgrown with trees today. Mr. Nolan remembered that Louisa Thorn looked very old and was cared for by her gardener and her daughter, who apparently managed the estate. A complete transcript of this interview is available for viewing at the

Louisa Floyd-Jones Thorn was born in 1867 and died in 1961 at the age of 94. During the last few years of her life, the Massapequa School Board approached her about buying all or part of her property , but she refused to relinquish any control while she was alive.

The Board therefore built Unqua School across Unqua Road. The maneuvering for control of her property began soon after her death in May 1961. It seems her children had no interest in living on the 44-acre estate and were happy to sell it to the highest bidder. Who would that be? The candidates included:

  • The Town of Oyster Bay, which wanted to convert it to a park;
  • The Massapequa Board of Education, which wanted to use all or part of it for another school ;
  • The Nassau Shores Garden Club, which saw the site as an ideal location for an art and cultural center;
  • The Massapequa Chamber of Commerce, which lobbied for a hospital at the site;
  • Several real estate developers, who saw the site as in ideal location for a large shopping center.

The common feature in all these scenarios is recognition of the growth of the Massapequas. Just as the other Floyd-Jones estates were replaced by structures that met the needs of an expanding population, the attempts to control Little Unqua were tied to the area's explosion: from 20,000 residents in 1950 to 35,000 in 1960 and from 2,000 students in 1952 to 12,000 in 1958. Is it any wonder that Little Unqua attracted several suitors?

Today Little Unqua is The next part of this article will indicate how the property came to be what it is, and indicate just who Marjorie Post was.

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