Babylon - the Name, the Zip Code, Etc.
Some historians have reported that one of the first residential homes in what is now the Village of Babylon was built by the Heartte family (or Hartt, many variations exist) around 1760, on East Main Street, just east of the Presbyterian Church property. A prior name for the Babylon area was Sumpwams, a Native American term believed to mean “straight walker,” referring to an “upright or just person.”
Geographically, the name Sumpwams is associated with Sumpwams Neck (a “neck” is another term for a peninsula), which is the body of land on the south side of Main Street, between the Carll River (Argyle Lake) and Sumpwams Creek (Hawley’s Pond). Variations of the name Sumpwams include Sumpawams, Sampwams and Sampawams.
Please note: Spellings and pronunciations of Long Island Native American words and names are subjective and typically determined by community residents. The Native Americans had a spoken language, and records kept by Colonists, starting in in the 1600s, contained their interpretations of the Native American language. The European settlers (primarily Dutch and English) typically used phonetic spellings, which often differed among documents and writers. The meanings of Native American words can also differ among historians and researchers.
The name Babylon is attributed to Nathaniel Conklin and his mother Phebe Conklin. An industrialist from the Half Hollow Hills area of Huntington, Nathaniel Conklin was widowed early in life. In 1803, he brought his mother Phebe Conklin to Babylon to care for his young sons, and built a family home at the northeast corner of Deer Park Avenue and Main Street. After experiencing the busy area with taverns and inns, Mrs. Conklin reportedly complained and called the place “Babylon,” after its biblical predecessor. Contrary to his mother’s description, Nathaniel inscribed the words “New Babylon – built by Nat Conklin – 1803” on the cornerstone of his home. The stone is now exhibited at the Nathaniel Conklin House museum at 280 Deer Park Avenue (the house was moved to that location in 1871).
The Nathaniel Conklin House and stone inscribed “New Babylon – This House Built by Nat Conklin 1803.” The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988_ and is a museum. Images from the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, 1936.
Instead of New Babylon, the name Babylon was adopted. The post office name was changed from Huntington South to Babylon in 1830. After the railroad came to Babylon in 1867, the railroad company named the station “Seaside,” which also changed the Post Office name to “Seaside,” but the change was short-lived because residents preferred “Babylon.” There had been some concern by the railroad company that vacationers and visitors would be turned-off by the Biblical-inference, but the name Babylon continued.
Excerpt from a description of a railroad excursion on the new South Side Railroad of Long Island, published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 15, 1867. The writer asserted that, “from the Biblical reputation of Babylon, city people concluded that its Long Island namesake must be very wicked.”
South Side Signal, July 30, 1887
Not just in the Town of Babylon, but across Long Island, the assignment of zip codes can cause confusion about “where” things are located. The Babylon Post Office was established in 1803, originally named Huntington South. The name Babylon was adopted in 1830. Up through the 1800s, the Babylon Post Office was located within existing stores. Merchants could apply to be the Postmaster and an area of their store was designated for postal business. In the 1920s, a new post office building was built on West Main Street (now Post Office Café) and by the 1940s it was located on the east side of Deer Park Avenue. In 2006, the current Post Office, at the corner of George and Cooper Streets, was dedicated to Babylon native and Army soldier Jacob Samuel Fletcher, who was killed in Iraq in 2003.