The Wantagh Preservation Society is recreating the Wantagh World War I Memorial, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the war’s end — and honoring the men from Wantagh who fought in the war.
Tom Watson, trustee of the preservation society, said the centenary of the end of World War I is an appropriate time to honor Wantagh residents who fought in what is also known as the Great War.
The original Wantagh World War I Memorial was dedicated in the spring of 1919, Watson said. The preservation society hopes to erect a new and improved memorial on the triangular patch of ground near the Wantagh Long Island Rail Road station, where the original memorial stood. The new memorial is planned to be dedicated next March, 100 years after the original memorial’s dedication.
“Even though we might not be related to these men who fought in the war,” Watson said, “I still think it’s our responsibility to carry on the local history.”
Watson said he is often asked what happened to the old memorial. It was taken down many years ago and burned during a Memorial Day ceremony, he said. “That should make people feel a little better,” he added, “that it just wasn’t thrown in the trash.”
The preservation society must obtain permission from the Town of Hempstead before it can erect the memorial on what is Town of Hempstead property, and is currently being used for the ongoing construction work on the train station, Watson said. The LIRR must return the parcel to its former state before the memorial can be erected. Watson said he believed the town would approve the society’s request.
The group is now finding a business to recreate the memorial, and Watson said he would like it to be a local firm.
Wantagh’s history has been preserved in buildings, artifacts and records of significant events. Once called Jerusalem, the community was founded in 1643, when Capt. John Seaman and Robert Jackson bought 6,000 acres of land from the Indians. Between 1724 and 1742, the Town of Hempstead divided, which gave Jerusalem 900 more acres of land. In 1873, the community changed its name to Ridgewood, before becoming Wantagh in 1899.
The railroad arrived in 1867, and the original train station was renovated in 1885. (The first preservation society board of trustees meeting was held there in 1969.) The first post office was built in 1837, and a replica of it was built in 1907. Today that building is used by the society as a post office museum.
The Jamaica parlor car was built in 1912, along with 11 other train cars, and it was donated to the preservation society by the LIRR in 1972.
Boy Scout Troop 1 was founded in 1918, and has been sponsored since then by the Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church, on Wantagh Avenue, which was built in 1888. The troop, whose number is now 96, still meets there today. Earlier this year, the church held its 100th Eagle Scout court for a Wantagh scout.
To celebrate the troop’s 100th year, Paul Sigler, committee chairman of Cub Scout Pack 96, created a commemorative patch, and they were sold to raise money for the preservation society. Troop 656, also in Wantagh, presented the totem pole that is featured on the patch to preservation society President Betty Murphy in 1977.