Amityville to Babylon to Fire Island, S Shore Long Island Historical Driving Tour
More historic homes, museums, and a lighthouse to drive to, along the southern shore of Suffolk County, N.Y., eastward from Amityville.
Thirty miles outside of New York City, nestled in the Long Island town of Amityville, stands the house forever linked to the Amityville Horror phenomenon. On November 13, 1974, the estate was the scene of a mass murder. Using a .35 Marlin rifle, 23-year-old Ronald J. DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family while they were asleep, which included his parents and four siblings.
The Frank W. Smith House at 43 Barberry Court was built about 1901 in the Queen Anne style. Smith was a local businessman with a dry goods store and lived in the new house with his wife, Olla, until 1908. The new owners in 2004, the Guidice family, have restored the interior and exterior and furnished the interior with late Victorian antiques. The Frank W. Smith House was listed in the New York and National Registers of Historic Places in 2010 for its local significance in the development of Amityville and for its architectural style. The circa 1901 carriage house, a small wood frame structure in the rear yard, also is part of the nomination.
Argyle Park commemorates the history of the Babylon Hotel which was located here and was the birthplace of the Cuban Giants, the first African American professional baseball team. A group of players from several different amateur baseball teams, many of whom worked at the Argyle to hash out the plans for the team in 1885. The original name for the team was the Babylon Black Panthers. The players were all service workers for the upscale hotel which catered to wealthy vacationers from New York City.
The historic home at 280 Deer Park Avenue is the Nathaniel Conklin House, built in 1803. Conklin owned a local tannery and a great amount of land in the Babylon area. The house originally stood on Main Street and was moved to this location in 1873 to become part of the Washington Hotel complex operated by John Lux. By 1915, the house was a boarding house run by Mary Mentz. In the 1940s the vacant house was deeded to the American Red Cross, who used it as a headquarters until the late 1980s. The Nathaniel Conklin House was saved from demolition in 1989 and has become the property of the Village of Babylon.The house was listed in the National Register in 1988 and houses museum exhibits.
The building at 117 W. Main Street was constructed as the Babylon Library and opened in October 1911. The Neo-Classical Revival style, one-story concrete structure was enlarged with a rear addition in 1964. The library functions moved elsewhere in the village in 1969. The "Old Babylon Library" has become a museum operated by the Babylon Village Historical and Preservation Society. A fountain to the east of the main entrance is a recent reproduction of an historic fountain that once stood at the corner of Main Street and Fire Island Avenue in the village. The Old Babylon Library was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. The museum contains exhibits on local history and is open for most of the year on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
The Fire Island Lighthouse stands just to the east of Robert Moses State Park. At the Robert Moses water tower, go east to Parking Lot #5. There is sometimes a parking fee; traffic can be heavy during summer beach season. Park on the east side of the parking field and walk along the boardwalk to the lighthouse. The tower was built in 1858 to replace a shorter lighthouse nearby that dated to 1826. Next door is the light-keeper's house from 1859. In 1974, the light station was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. A voluntary effort raised over a million dollars to save and restore the lighthouse, and the Coast Guard returned the tower to active duty in 1986. The light station is within the Fire Island National Seashore, administered by the National Park Service. The Coast Guard signed over operation of the lighthouse to the Fire Island Preservation Society in 2006. The Fire Island lighthouse, at 168 feet, is the tallest of Long Island's 20+ lighthouses!
This joint structure is the meeting place of the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association and a contributor to the culture of the Fire Island Community. The community house was floated across Long Island in 1944 with the theatre being built a few years after. Through the Owners Association’s efforts, a safe space for queer individuals was created in a time when they were targeted by laws against them via the theatre and the events the organizations held. With the structure’s relation to these efforts in a pre-stonewall era, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
One of the oldest homes on Fire Island, this early 20th-century bungalow was purchased by Frank Carrington in the late 1920s. Carrington rented the property as a vacation home when he was not living here and supervising the Paper Mill Playhouse and The Arts Project of Cherry Grove. Guests included the famous writer Truman Capote, but the most notable quality of the property was the way Carrington operated it as a place where members of the island's small gay community were welcome. The home is also one of the few surviving examples of an early twentieth-century bungalow style home. Today the home is in dire need of repairs, but preservationists and concerned individuals are rallying for the restoration of the home which was one of the late Carrington’s last requests.