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A Look Back

Transforming Old Families and Farms to New Homes off Bellmore Avenue

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The triangular neighborhood west of Bellmore Avenue (also previously known as Westbury Road), east of Merrick Avenue, and north of North Jerusalem Road consists of three developments. The earliest – and largest – centered upon Stratford Drive, was planned between 1947 and 1949 by Louis Sokolov Brothers and Sons

Marlen Homes, as it was known, was built on property that had been farmed for generations. In the 19th century, Gotham Post and Benjamin Post lived there; in 1859, the land was owned by E. Smith. At some time before 1873, it was purchased by Peter Crosby Barnum. His daughter Kate Vail Barnum inherited much of her parents’ estate in the 1890s. By 1914, she had sold off that part of the property to the family of Leo Levy, who still owned it in 1927. Prior to World War II, the Stoller family owned it. A small parcel at the southeast corner of Merrick and Prospect avenues was rezoned to business in 1949, following purchase by the Sokolovs. Three prewar homes from the old families remain on Bellmore Avenue.

Model homes were marketed toward veterans and non-veterans in 1948 and 1949. By 1950, 123 out of 153 planned dwellings in Marlen Homes were sold. The Cape Cods featured sliding-door closets and were priced at an affordable $9,500 and $9,990. Their apparent popularity brought the price up by a thousand dollars later that year. In 1950 and 1951, small ranch houses designed by Karl E. Block went on sale for $12,990. They included tiled bathrooms, expansion attics, patios, and attached garages, of course – all essential features of the quintessential East Meadow early-1950s home.

In 1956, the Sokolovs were involved with the Sadkins, Wenigers, and other local developers in the creation and operation of a corporate suburban real estate syndicate called All-State Properties. Howard J. Teas and Ernest Steinbrenner of Teas and Steinbrenner, one of the most important survey companies of the period, joined the group to venture into real estate development. Teas was president of Nassau Suffolk Civil Engineers in 1953. Working together, All-State built a considerable percentage of Long Island homes in the 1950s.

Just east of Marlen Homes rose Paul-Lee Homes, led by H. Rosen and Son (Hyman Rosen and Leo Rosen of Maynard Homes, Inc.). Paul-Lee Homes (the name likely derives from Pauline and Leo Rosen) was built on the Stringham property. The Stringhams had owned this tract of land for many generations – one of the longest continually-held properties in East Meadow. Benjamin Stringham (1829-?) seems to have come to East Meadow through his employment as a laborer on P. C. Barnum’s farm around 1850, though his ancestors (originally de Tringham) had been in the Town of Hempstead since the 17th century (and were distantly related through marriage to the Carmans and Browers, other early East Meadow families). By 1857, Benjamin obtained a mortgage on some of the Barnum property on Bellmore Avenue and was living there with Mary Riley, his wife of two years. Their six children were raised in East Meadow; the property was taken over by their son Elmer (1872-1955), who in turn married Hariett “Hattie” Cloudman (1880-1957) and raised their own seven children on the farm until moving away in 1914.

When driving or walking through the neighborhood, notice the distinctive cul-de-sac-like arrangements in the middle of Barbara, Paula, and Carla lanes. The streets were established by Marlen Homes and originally ended at the cul-de-sacs but were extended towards Bellmore Avenue when Paul-Lee Homes was planned in 1950. Rosen offered his three-bedroom Paul-Lee Homes, laid out in the typical style with basements attached garages, for $13,490. The two-bedroom model was $1,000 cheaper.

Little Whaleneck Road, which previously ended at North Jerusalem Road, was extended into the neighborhood by Welbilt Homes, Inc. in 1953 for the creation of Rocco Homes. The community of brick split-level homes was completed in 1955. This section belonged to James P. Seaman, a wheelwright, in the 19th century. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the land belonged to Amos and Carrie Rhodes. Prior to suburban development, the property was Steven and Annie Olish’s vegetable farm. The Olishes, originally from Poland, raised their twelve children there. Their neighbors were Willet and Elsebert (William and Elizabeth) Vandewater. Curiously, the 1920 census enumerator (and neighbor) John W. Seaman referred to North Jerusalem Road as Seaman Avenue. There is no indication the road was even known as such outside his opportunistic census records. Another unusual substitution found on his records was “Fisher’s Avenue” for Prospect Avenue.

© 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.