Homes for Sale in Bethpage

Beginnings:
Unlike much of the vast Hempstead Plains, Indians used this area because a stream, the Massatayun, flowed through it, providing a source of fish. When Englishman Thomas Powell purchased the area from the Marsapequas, he noted the nearby hamlets of Jericho and Jerusalem (now Wantagh) and turned to the gospel of Matthew in naming his purchase: “…as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him, and when they drew night unto Jerusalem and were come to Bethpage … then sent Jesus two disciples.” Powell changed the spelling, however, supposedly because he didn’t like words with too many h’s in them. When Powell died in 1721, the Bethpage purchase was divided among his 14 children, Quakers settled in the area, establishing a school in 1741.

Not That Central Park:
Around the time of the Civil War, locals adopted the name Central Park for their community. In time, taverns, hotels and a business district grew around it. By the 1930s, residents had grown tired of having their community confused with the park in Manhattan. It was not unusual for mail intended for Long Island’s Central Park to be misdirected to Manhattan. In 1931, the State Park Commission purchased the Benjamin Yoakum estate and the nearby farms, and gave the new state park the historic name of Bethpage. Residents petitioned the postal service to change the name of Central Park to Bethpage in 1936.

Turning Point:
That same year, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. picked the open spaces of Bethpage for its airport and factory. Grumman evolved into Long Island’s largest employer and one of the most famous names in aviation. Among other aircraft, the lunar module that landed on the moon in 1969 was built in Bethpage. Grumman transformed Bethpage into a thriving, modern suburb. The company was taken over by Northrop in 1994, which began selling off buildings and land on the site soon afterward.

Brush With Fame:
The Beau Sejour hotel, founded in 1908 by Frenchman Bernard Pouchan, sat off the Vanderbilt parkway. Celebrities including opera star Enrico Caruso, filmmaker D.W. Griffith, Gen. George Marshall, President Harry Truman, actor Charlie Chaplin, and, of course, the Vanderbilts, flocked to its restaurant. Roald Amundsen stayed there while preparing for his expedition to the North Pole. The hotel was razed in 1974.

Where to Find More:
“The Bethpage Purchase,” a series of 1961 articles from the Long Island Forum published as a book, and other material available at the Bethpage Public Library.

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