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A Look Back

Kleindeutschland to Levittown


William Levitt and Sons built more houses in East Meadow than any other single developer. Eleven sections were planned in 1950 in a German-American farming community with heavy marriage ties, traditionally associated with nearby Hicksville. It seems that all the boys literally married the girls next door. Tracing family histories within this community is especially confusing because multiple generations of both boys and girls used their parents’ first names. Many of these farmers joined a mutual aid society called des Freundschaftlichen Wohlthätigkeits-Verein, and the local branch met at Charles Kiestling’s residence.

Sections 17 and 22-25 had been part of the vast Hempstead Plains Company holdings, following the 19th century sale of the plains to Alexander Turney Stewart. The posh Meadow Brook Hunt Club, located just west of Merrick Avenue at Stewart Avenue, ran its regular hunts in this section of East Meadow after its 1881 inception.

As the plains were developed into suburbia and high society estates were built in the neighborhood, the Meadow Brook Hunt Club shifted its focus to horse racing, then polo, and finally golf. When property was taken by the state for the Meadowbrook Parkway extension in 1954, the club moved its headquarters to Jericho. Some of the grounds have been incorporated into Nassau Community College. A revolutionary-era road to Hicksville ran from Uniondale through the hunt at this location; Old Westbury Road ran northwest through the properties to Old Country Road through the 1920s but now ends at Carman Avenue.

Sections 22 through 25 surround Bowling Green School, which was set aside by Levitt as a school site. Section 22-23 land was acquired from the Rottkamp Family, whose farm homes still stand on Carman Avenue. The Rottkamps were one of the largest families on Long Island; there are over 2,000 descendants of Bernard Rottkamp and Caroline Engel, who wed in New York City in 1851. The family members who remained farmers, children of Henry and Theresa Wulforst Rottkamp, migrated from Elmont to East Meadow in the 1920s. Though they only spent about 25 years living in East Meadow, the Rottkamps transformed Carman Avenue: the 1930 Federal Census lists seven households just with the name Rottkamp living one after another, growing vegetables. A sister, Mary Teresa Rottkamp, lived across the street with her husband John Finn. The character of New Road, as it was also known, and New Bridge as a German-American farming enclave came to a screeching halt in 1950 as the Rottkamps, Schneiders, Gassers, and their neighbors sold off farms en masse to Levitt.

© Scott Eckers

Dr. Scott Eckers is the author of East Meadow (in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series). He is a trustee on the East Meadow Board of Education and serves as a school administrator. He is also an entertainer and recording artist.