Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Skunks' Misery, Hungry Harbor, Cookie Hill, and Rum Junction

Location:   Valley Stream, New York
Year:   1843

The area of Long Island that is now the Village of Valley Stream was purchased by the Dutch from the Rockaway Indians in the 1640s, and remained essentially undeveloped until the 1840s, when Robert Pagan (1796-1870), a Scots immigrant, purchased a farmstead there. Changing the family name to "Payan," he began holding religious services in the family parlor for the local farmers scattered throughout south central Queens County (at that time Nassau County did not yet exist). 

The Pagan-Fletcher House, Valley Stream's first residence
 Irritated with having to travel a half-day to Hempstead to retrieve his mail, Payan applied to become the Postmaster of what he called "Valley Stream" after the little creek on his farm. The U.S. Postal Service approved his application in 1843. 

Payan's Post Office was also in his parlor. He handled mail for the nearby farmsteads, which all acquired rather colorful names of their own, such as Foster's Meadow and  Skunks' Misery. The red-light district of the burgeoning town became known euphemistically as  Cookie Hill, while the area around the "downtown" business district along Rockaway Avenue became known as Rum Junction because of its saloons. Eventually, as the village expanded, most of the local names were forgotten. Hungry Harbor, a section that has retained its name, was the impoverished area of town.  

Payan lived long enough to see the railroad reach Valley Stream in 1869. Traffic through Valley Stream increased dramatically in the late 19th Century since people used Merrick Road to reach South Oyster Bay (Massapequa) and its then-popular racetrack. However, few city folk chose to settle in the area.

Valley Stream remained a community of scattered homes and farmsteads until the postwar 1940s, when returning World War II veterans began seeking  homes in suburbia. A developer, William Gibson, bought up a sizeable tract of land in the area, christened it "Gibson" after himself, and built some 800 homes in the area. He also pressed for a second railroad station to serve Gibson. 

Gibson Railroad Station
 Gibson's eponymous housing development burst the floodgates, and within a few short years, Valley Stream developed into a bedroom community of about 20,000. 

The Green Acres Mall was built in 1956, and enclosed in 1968, making Valley Stream an important retail sales center. 

The village is very conveniently located just beyond the City line for suburban commuters.  

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