History Hidden In Plain Sight

A pocket park’s forgotten past


This elegant 1924 line drawing by Renè Cinquin (1898-1978) captures with perfection a forgotten green space that once graced our village. The park is just one of the many illustrations featured in Cinquin’s Aero-view of Valley Stream, a “bird’s eye” map that faithfully depicted Valley Stream during that time. In today’s parlance, it would be a considered a pocket park; a small public space, located on an irregularly-shaped plot of land.

“It had a big circle in the middle, and if you crisscrossed it, the paths would lead to its four corners,” explained Frederick F. Sherdel (1915-1996) in his 1991 oral history recording. “There was a gigantic flagpole with a flag that was hung every morning and taken down at night.” Often, public parks that were geometric in design had centerpieces – in this case, a flagpole, which helped to ground the space and highlight the park’s importance. The four paths emphasized the park’s unification with the other streets. The park first appeared in the 1914 E. Belcher-Hyde Atlas of Nassau County – possibly the year of the park’s inception. World War I had just started, and this might have been the village’s way to honor our soldiers.

If you were to superimpose a 2017 map over this 1924 rendering, the park’s corner boundaries would be as follows: (1) northwest corner of Sunrise and Fourth (parking lot of former Concord Diner); (2) northwest corner of Brooklyn and Fourth (traffic island with street clock); (3) northeast corner of Sunrise and Rockaway (location of Boy Scouts “Rum Junction” plaque); (4) northeast corner of Brooklyn and Sunrise. Miraculously, unintentionally, two remnants of this park, (2) and (3), have survived.

Fast forward to 1929: “And then the Sunrise Highway came. Dump trucks were readied to pour the concrete and pave the road. There stood an ancient, sprawling oak tree at least 10 feet in diameter – not far from the park. It took them weeks to chop down that tree,” lamented Sherdel. To view the map in its entirety, please visit https://www.loc.gov/item/75694859/

Location: Formerly Rockaway Avenue, now Sunrise Highway