A History of Holbrook

Holbrook’s Deeply Rooted History

The area of land that we know as Holbrook was part of a Royal patent obtained by William Nicoll, a wealthy New York City Politician, in 1697. This documentation was needed to certify his purchase of the land area from the Secatogue Indians. There was almost no settlement for a century and a half.

In 1848, Alexander McCotter bought about 5000 acres and offered small tracts for sale. The first school was built in 1860, followed three years later by the first church. The building became St. John’s Lutheran about 1900 and is still standing today, just south of the L.I. Railroad crossing on the east side of Coates Avenue.

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Holbrook, NY - c.1904
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Holbrook, NY - c.1904
old Holbrook, NY map

There are a few unconfirmed stories about how Holbrook got its name. The only consistency is that both stories involve a stream or brook. One such story is that the community was called Old Brook; another that the area started as Hollow Brook. The streams and brooks are long gone, but there had been some geographic evidence that a brook may have existed running from the northeastern side of the community toward the southwest. The topography has undergone major man made changes as the area has been developed with new homes and businesses, thereby losing the last surface traces of any waterways.

Holbrook General Store - c.1909
Holbrook General Store - c.1909
Pine-Hurst Hotel, Holbrook, NY - c.1914
Pine-Hurst Hotel, Holbrook, NY - c.1914
Holbrook Community Hall - c.1918
Holbrook Community Hall - c.1918
Holbrook NY Fire Department - c.1940
Holbrook NY Fire Department - c.1940

In 1927, The Holbrook Volunteer Fire Department was formed. 1929 saw the construction of Holbrook’s first firehouse, located on Broadway Avenue. It was a wood frame building with two sets of swinging double doors and a bell tower on the left front corner as one faced the building. The first siren was installed in the tower about 1934. With the growth of the department in members and vehicles, the firehouse was relocated to a newer one story building on the south side of Terry Boulevard in 1956. Two sub-stations were added to the District in 1973 and the present main firehouse was built in 1989.

In 1966 Gov Nelson Rockefeller came to Holbrook for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Holbrook’s real population growth began in 1969 when the new section of the L.I. Expressway from Veterans Memorial Highway in Islandia (it was Central Islip, back then) to Patchogue Road in Holbrook, was opened. Model homes began springing up along both sides of the expressway service roads. With the population growth came more cars for our oil-topped sand and gravel roads. Street lights, curbs and sidewalks began lining the new roads which were soon being repaved with asphalt instead of blue stone and more oil.

Gottleib & Katherine Wild's home, Holbrook, NY - early 1900s
Gottleib & Katherine Wild's home, Holbrook, NY - early 1900s
Holbrook General Store - c.1909
Holbrook General Store - c.1909
Wehrenberg's General Store, Holbrook, NY - c.1930
Wehrenberg's General Store, Holbrook, NY - c.1930

The L.I. Railroad tracks provide a dividing line between the Town of Islip on the south side and the Town of Brookhaven on the north. Holbrook’s railroad station once stood just west of the crossing at Coates Avenue. A little further west, near the Ronkonkoma Station stood a wooden water tower for the steam engines that serviced trains for the commuters, summer residents and brought the mail each day.

Before we had the convenience of the L.I. Expressway, it could take as much as 3 hours to get to Manhattan in the 1950’s. Well, I guess some things never change!

Holbrook NY Railroad Station - 1907
Holbrook NY Railroad Station - 1907
Holbrook Union Free School - 1926
Holbrook Union Free School - 1926
Holbrook NY Post Ofice - c.1948
Holbrook NY Post Ofice - c.1948
Coste Agency, Holbrook, NY - c.1957
Coste Agency, Holbrook, NY - c.1957

Holbrook Today

Local Trivia

Patchogue-Holbrook Road

Did you know that there was never a road known as Patchogue-Holbrook Road?

The name came about as a result of a punctuation mistake made by the person in the sign shop that supplied the signs for the Long Island Expressway construction. The exit sign should have read “Patchogue, Holbrook Roads” or “Patchogue Road, Holbrook Road.” Patchogue Road was the first intersection one crossed after exiting the L.I.Expressway. A little further ahead is Holbrook Road. The sign should have had a comma instead of the dash, making it incorrectly read Patchogue-Holbrook Road. New comers to Holbrook, not knowing any better, assumed that Patchogue-Holbrook was the name of that street. The fact is, the road neither begins nor ends in Holbrook. It runs from Waverly Avenue in the Holtsville/North Patchogue area to Ronkonkoma!

MacArthur Airport

Did you know that MacArthur Airport was never a military base?

During the 1930’s the Federal government, realizing that air transportation was important for the future economic growth of an area, offered to build airports for local communities that would dedicate a tract of land to be used for that purpose. MacArthur Airport was built in 1942 and though not a military airport, played an important role by being home to Sperry Gyroscope and several other companies that had significant roles in the defense of our country.

Johnson Avenue

Do you know how Johnson Avenue got its name?

It used to be called Moscow Avenue. The road started in Sayville and ran north through the area now occupied by MacArthur Airport, then merged into Smithtown Avenue to cross the L.I. Railroad tracks on a rickety wooden bridge at the Ronkonkoma Railroad Station. It became Johnson Avenue to honor the memory of the first local resident killed in World War II. Mr. Johnson was from Sayville and it is believed that he died December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.