West Babylon Community Profile
West Babylon's first one-room schoolhouse was erected in the early 1800s, on South Country Road (Montauk Highway), just east of Great East Neck Road. During the winter of 1836, the beloved poet Walt Whitman taught school in West Babylon.
West Babylon enjoyed the attentions of affluent vacationers who arrived during the height of Babylon's resort era, and built summer houses bordering Beaver Lake. But, it was middle class families seeking vacation getaways in the 1920s and 1930s that left an indelible mark on the landscape. Many of those summer bungalows eventually became year round homes, establishing the beginnings of neighborhoods that found their peak during the post-World War II population boom. Today, West Babylon is the largest hamlet within the Town of Babylon.
Dutch farmers found the soil of the West Babylon ideal for growing tulips, dahlias, and other flowering bulbs, thus establishing a thriving flower industry. Vast bulb farms, including Van Bourgondien Brothers. and Bulk's Nurseries, adorned the landscape. The windmill image used throughout West Babylon, today, refers not only to the area's Dutch heritage, but to a towering windmill that stood at Bulk's Nurseries during the mid-1900s.
The first West Babylon school was erected in the early 1800s, on Montauk Highway near Great East Neck Road. Poet Walt Whitman taught at the local school during the winter of 1836, while his family lived on a nearby farm (the site of which is now the Great South Bay Shopping Center).
The Great South Bay Shopping Center debuted in 1957. As pictured, stored included Abraham & Straus department store, Grand Union grocery store, and Pergament home store.
Starting around 1874, a branch of the Central Railroad of Long Island joined with the Long Island Rail Road near the intersection of Great East Neck Road and Railroad Avenue. Known as Belmont Junction, the railroad operated a freight depot and telegraph station until 1888. Belmont Junction was also a trolley stop for the Babylon Railroad trolley line that extended between Amityville and Babylon, from 1910 to 1920.
A Babylon Railroad electronic trolley car, circa 1915. The trolley appears to have a snowplow fastened to the front. Above the front windows is a “Great East Neck Rd” sign and on the side is an “Amityville” sign. These signs indicate that the trolley was headed west, toward Amityville, and that it was near Trolley Line Road, between the Babylon railroad station and Great East Neck Road. The trolley line ended in 1925.
Photograph from the collections of the Lindenhurst Historical Society.
Many flower farms and nurseries flourished in the West Babylon area. Around 1936, Bulk’s Nursery constructed a windmill along Montauk Highway to mark the site of their garden center.
Bulk’s Nursery, at the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Bergen Avenue, circa 1960.
In 1936, actor James Barton opened the first lighted sports park in Suffolk County, which hosted baseball games and wrestling matches. Barton’s Stadium is now the site of Santapogue Elementary School.
Although it is now the most populous hamlet in the Town of Babylon, the population of West Babylon was relatively small until after World War I