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Historic Hempstead Town: Wantagh Railroad Museum

By: Kate Nalepinski
Wantagh Railroad Museum

Wantagh Railroad MuseumPhoto Courtesy Wantagh Preservation Society

“History is important—we learn from the past.”

Hempstead Town historian Tom Saltzman speaks in understatement, of course, in assessing the value of our collective past, particularly when it comes to the centuries of wood and stone and brick and mortar that are part of the foundation of the most populous township in America.

“More and more historic buildings are being torn down and destroyed, by either neglect and or greed,” Saltzman continues. “Landmarking at least prevents the destruction of… buildings that have been important in the history of the town, its population and its families.”

The Town of Hempstead is the place more than three-quarters of a million Long Islanders call “home,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it not only the largest township in the United States but one of its most diverse and historic in terms of the homes and buildings that have marked the time. From the waterfront bungalows in East Rockaway village on the south to Garden City estates in the north, Hempstead Town’s architectural offerings exhibit both a rich past and a vibrant present. The future, and how it will connect with that past through the plethora of historic landmarks, remains in question.

Join us now as we begin a multi-part series celebrating some of the most celebrated historical structures in the Town of Hempstead.

Wantagh Railroad Museum
1700 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh
The Wantagh Museum is made up of three structures: the station, the “Jamaica” railroad car and the re-created 1904 Wantagh post office. The “Jamaica” car that sits on the property was built in 1912 for the Long Island Rail Road, although the station was constructed on Railroad Avenue by the South Shore Railroad in 1885. It was moved in 1966 to save it from demolition when the Wantagh Railroad service was expanded. “The station was a blueprint that was used a number of times throughout Long Island back in the 19th century,” says Bob Meagher, former president of the Wantagh Preservation Society, which was established in 1965.