Primary credit Doug Kerr

Islip, New York – Main Street

Main Streets 2017: New York

Primary credit Doug Kerr
Lily Flanagans Credit Doug Kerr
Primary credit Doug Kerr Lily Flanagans Credit Doug Kerr

Islip goes way back. Over the years, this saltwater town on the south shore of Long Island has been home to Native Americans, fishing and boating families, important clamming and oystering businesses, and wealthy summer people from New York City who built mansions and country clubs, some of which still stand today. The present-day Islip is an inviting suburb, with a highly walkable Main Street that offers excellent shopping and a wide variety of eateries.

There are actually two Islips — the town of Islip and Islip hamlet, one of nearly 20 villages and hamlets within this historic community. Running through the core of town is Main Street, also called Rte. 27A and Montauk Highway. A recent profile in Newsday, Long Island’s newspaper, called this “one of those main streets that make you just want to stroll.”

If you do explore Main Street, you’ll be strolling on layers of history. Centuries ago, this was a settlement of the Secatogues, a subdivision of the Algonguin tribal group. In 1683 a Secatogue sachem, or chief, sold a large plantation to an Englishman who named his property Islip Grange, in honor of his hometown across the Atlantic. The name stuck, and this grew into a town largely supported by fishing and shipping.

After the Long Island Railroad came to Islip in the mid-1800s, the town flourished even more. The Doxsee Clam Company and Blue Point Oyster Company, which by 1900 was shipping oysters all over the world, both started in Islip and became widely known — and wealthy summer people brought more prosperity to town.

Islip’s population quadrupled in the decades after World War II, as this became an attractive bedroom community for New York City commuters. It’s not hard to see why: Islip has beaches, bays, canals and ponds, and quite a bit of noteworthy architecture. An illustrated map, “The Historic Islip Trail”, identifies 31 places of interest, most along Main Street/Rte. 27A.

In Main Street’s central shopping district, you’ll find unique stores to explore. Among them are Balcony Arts and Antiques — “take a peek in the back to see the original stage of the Islip Star vaudeville theatre that was housed there in the early part of the 1900s,” suggested Newsday. When you get hungry, your options on Main range from a bakery and an ice cream parlor to Italian, Greek, Mexican and American diner food. How can you go wrong?

All photos taken by Doug Kerr

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Primary min 9

Syracuse, New York – Armory Square

Main Streets 2016: New York

Armory Square is an example of how a city can take a declining neighborhood and turn it into a showplace where people once again want to live, play and shop. This centerpiece on the west side of Syracuse’s downtown rebounded from a post-World War II flight of businesses and residents, and today it’s thriving again.

Ranged around Armory Square are architecturally significant historic buildings, along with new construction designed to fit in with the neighborhood. Central to it all is the former Syracuse Armory. This imposing red-brick complex was once used to quarter cavalry and infantry, and it’s now is home to the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology. The “MOST” is a major downtown attraction with fascinating hands-on exhibits, the Silverman Planetarium and the 216-seat Bristol IMAX Omnitheater.

Densely built and very busy at the turn of the 20th century, this area once hosted over 20 hotels, thanks to the train station here. But after the railroad industry fell on hard times, many buildings in the Armory Square neighborhood were demolished between 1940 and 1960. The work to rebuild and revitalize the Square began in the early 70s, and in 1984, the Armory Square Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It covers much of  what is now known as Armory Square and includes well-preserved buildings such as the railroad station and the Labor Temple.

There’s perhaps no better symbol of the importance of this neighborhood to Syracuse’s identity than the Shot Clock Monument, right in the center of Armory Square. This landmark is a replica of the 24-second clock that, according to the monument plaque, saved basketball from stalling tactics, and was first used in Syracuse in 1954. Basketball is very important here; the Syracuse Orange at Syracuse Unversity are one of the nation’s most storied and competitive college teams.

Today the Square is where Syracuse residents gather for many events. During summer and into the fall, the Wednesday Walk is the time to get out and learn about the city’s history, parks, architecture and meeting spaces. Also in summer, the Candlelight Series draws people to Armory Square for music and food.

But it’s not just special events that make the square a place to visit. Some of the city’s best-known restaurants have found their way to the neighborhood. Interesting local stores abound — and when Syracuse goes out for a night on the town, Armory Square is often where folks are headed.

Candlelight Series photo courtesy of Chuck Wainwright
All other photos courtesy of Downtown Committee of Syracuse

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