HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF SOUTH FLORAL PARK
In 1643, on the 4th of July, a tribal chief put his mark on the deed for the land that would one day be known as Elmont. He negotiated with the Reverend Richard Delton and a group of English colonists for the purchase of the Hempstead Plains. This treaty stated that the land was to be enjoyed by the settlers and their heirs, forever, freely, firmly, quietly and peacefully. The purchase also included the areas known today as part of Valley Stream, Rosedale, Laurelton, and a good portion of Springfield Gardens, along with Bellerose. It was divided among the 66 original settlers, two of which were Thomas Foster & his brother Christopher. The Foster brothers named their part of the huge land purchase Foster’s Meadow. It was a long, flat land with endless green fields, great for farming, raising sheep, and hunting the wild game that inhabited the flatlands. Soon thereafter, the Foster brothers sold off sections to some farm families. In a ten-year period the population of Foster’s Meadow had only risen to eighteen families although it was a town filled with a network of old Indian trails, toll houses, & trolley lines that ran down a deserted Hempstead Turnpike. (continued below)
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that some real change took place. German farmers from Brooklyn made a journey to Foster’s Meadow to work the vast farmlands. In the late 1800’s a plank road was built on the area that is now Hempstead Turnpike, signaling a large rise in population. The planks for the old plank road were cut from local trees at a sawmill near what is now Thyben’s Saddlery. Additional growth was evident with the original schoolhouse built in 1865 on Elmont Road, now occupied by the Elmont Fire Department, to where children were driven by horse and buggy. As enrollment increased, South Floral Park children went to Belmont Blvd. School, now known as Clara H. Carlson, in honor of a dedicated educator. Again, the number of families increased and Covert Avenue School was constructed. (Later, in 1954, Stewart Manor School was constructed and to this day remains the school our children attend from K-6th grade.)
The village’s growth slowly continued and in 1918 the United Methodist Church of South Floral Park was built. The first pastor leading the congregation was Edgar Jackson who served from 1918-1922. Pastor Gustave Lass was leading a faithful congregation at the time of our incorporation. The church remains an integral and vibrant part of our community and it was later declared a historical site by Nassau County Planning Commission in 1976.
In 1925, we saw the inception of a vision. A vision wide in scope and varied in purpose that would bear long reaching fruit; fording the gap from horse drawn trolley to state of the art technology while keeping the vision intact; the integrity unswerving in the pursuit of the American dream.
And in that year, we became incorporated in 1925 as the Village of Jamaica Square, because residents wanted their own government ruling on local issues that would apply solely to them. Until then, the village was mostly dirt roads and asparagus and potato farmland, with well water and outhouses, and no streetlights or electricity. William J. Ruppert was the first mayor (1925 – 1933) & while in office, the residents then totaling 600, agreed to rename the village in 1931 to South Floral Park.
The adoption was signed and this newly-created South floral park village ran northeast of Jamaica square from Chelsea to Tennessee Street and from Memphis Avenue to Arthur Avenue. Additionally, seven block east and west avenues by four blocks north and south streets. Kingston Avenue area was a cow and sheep grazing field where one would go to get fresh milk. And even though it was developing with the installation of power lines and water pipes, men still hunted rabbits and the area was a secluded place for summer homes. Also, under Ruppert’s administration, the first firehouse was built which was later updated with the construction of the new village hall and fire house. The fire department was then-called the Jamaica Square Chemical & Hose Company #3 and the Ladies’ Auxiliary was created to support them by hosting fundraisers, setting up aid stations, and work events for seniors and children.
William Hand (1933-1939) and William Sweeney (1939-1942) followed as mayors and in 1942 mayoral duties were passed to Barney Strup until 1966. By this time, the village consisted of 150 homes on 64 acres of land and it was under his direction and acquisition of a grant that the first village hall was built in 1953; and also the Highway Department and the Village Justice Court. To date, he is the longest-running mayor in office. William J. Hoffman was the next village mayor from 1966-1971. South Floral Park’s periodic newsletter, The Villager, debuted under the editorship of Mayor Hoffman. Next, was Mayor James Lorenzo from 1971-1990. Under Mayor Lorenzo’s administration, the Firemen’s Memorial Park was dedicated in 1974; the Save Our Community Coalition began; curbing, sidewalks, and road-paving projects started; and new technology and computers were brought in to the village hall. In addition, our current village administrator, Sally Ponce, was appointed by Mayor Lorenzo, and has served in the operation of day to day activities for 27 years. Additionally, in 1989, community-minded residents formed the Civic Association with Elva Soto as president. In addition to creating the Armed Forces Day Celebration in the village, the Civic Association erected a monument in 1991 on the village hall lawn dedicated to all those brave men & women who have served our country and “especially to those who have made the supreme sacrifice”.
By 1990, the village’s first woman mayor was elected and held office until 2002. Mayor Arlene McMullen had been a dedicated trustee before her run and afterwards served as The Villager’s editor until present-day. While Mayor McMullen was in office, South Floral Park and the neighboring three villages (Floral Park, Stewart Manor, and Bellerose) started a joint venture in developing the 4-Village Studio. Within a few years, the dream of having an exclusive cable channel for the four villages became a reality. Toni Warren became the liaison on the Cable Committee and she continues to volunteer for the network today.
In 2001, during the most trying time in our nation’s history, the residents of South Floral Park once again showed how willing they were to give of themselves. The days following September 11, were tragic ones for everyone. Our firefighters and paramedics showed the true spirit of the volunteerism as they worked tirelessly at the ravaged site of the World Trade Center.
History was made a second time in 2002 with the election of Angel Soto, South Floral Park’s first Hispanic mayor. Mayor Soto, a very active member of the community, had served as Chairman of the Nassau County Emergency Management Office and Chairman of the Water Authority of Western Nassau. While in office, he arranged for a memorial site dedicated to the late Mayor Lorenzo and he began a project to facilitate the installation of a generator for the village hall and fire department buildings in case of any emergency power outages. In 2010, Geoffrey N. Prime made history again in being elected the first black mayor of South Floral Park. Under Mayor Prime’s administration, the installation of the generator was completed and the village’s website was created and launched. This website will prove to be a direct tie to the residents & provide them with an abundance of village information for every-day living. Shortly thereafter, the village also started its own Facebook
page whereby a more one-on-one, everyday conversation may be had with residents & more specific village business may be shared on a regular basis. The village anxiously awaits Mayor Prime’s upcoming achievements.
After 30 years in village administration, in 2015 Sally Ponce retired as Village Clerk-Treasurer. She & her husband Hector, have been residents of the village for many decades & raised their 4 children here. She was excited to join Hector in retirement & pursue their many interests including traveling, reading, & visiting casinos.
Additionally, long-time Building Inspector Paul Hunt, Village Court Justice, Honorable Michael Santo, & The Villager newsletter editor Arlene McMullan also retired from their positions with the village, at the end of 2015.
In view of the many changes, the Village has prospered and grown since 1925–Always guided by the same vision, the same hopes, and the same dedication. Thus, making the Village of South Floral Park a true mark in the pages of history that celebrates the achievements of the American Dream. Let us go forth and continue to make our village a great place to live…A Community with Pride.