Friday, June 21, 2024

Leaning into History: The Story of the Steeple (part 1)

You might have noticed that the steeple atop the First Presbyterian Church located in the heart of Babylon Village was not exactly upright for a little while (more about that next time). However, you might not know that this steeple has quite an interesting history.

The present-day church was erected in 1870. The lovely structure we see today on Main Street is actually the fourth of the Presbyterian churches which had served this area since 1730 (the original was destroyed by the British). In 1872, after the incorporation of the Town of Babylon, its official name changed to the First Presbyterian Church of Babylon, Long Island. The towering belfry, 250 feet above the ground, has served as a landmark for seaman since 1871 and is listed as a marker on nautical maps.

The tower also houses a four-faced clock.

“On Thursday evening, 12, (1871) a grand promenade concert and reception was given at the American Hotel, in Babylon, for the purpose of raising funds for the purchase of a village clock to be erected on the new Presbyterian Church. The ‘Reunion’ was a great success – mainly through the efforts of our enterprising neighbor, D.S.S. Sammis, who originated the idea of procuring a village clock by means of a social entertainment that would afford not only pleasure for a time, but furnish a reminder of the occasion for all time in a faithful public timepiece. Over $750 was netted for the object in view, which cost about $550. The surplus money was applied to the purchase of a new 1,000-pound bell for the new church.” And on Saturday, April 1, 1871, the Village Clock was put in position atop the First Presbyterian Church on East Main Street.”             

                            Excerpted from South Side Signal

In 2015, the clock, which was maintained by the Village, found itself without a municipal caretaker, the first time in over 144 years. The clock custodian, who manually tended to the winding and basic maintenance of the clock, retired. At that time, the Village-owned clock was given to the Church, who installed an electric motor to power its hands.
                                                                            Judy Skillen & Wayne Horsley

For more information about the history of the First Presbyterian Church, visit


Next up: The Story of the Steeple part 2: All fixed and better than ever.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Eavesdropping Through the Decades


It is with immense pleasure that both Judy Skillen and I are introducing an original blog on the history of Babylon Village. Judy, the present President of the Village of Babylon Historical Society and I, the newly appointed Village Historian, admit to a combined 100 years of ‘Being in the Room’ or at the very least, listening in on the events of our community.   The blog will be posted monthly on the Historical Society website and will be reaching out in the future to other venues to expand the readership. 

Babylon Village is in a unique position to tell the story of Long Island.  The one square mile community offers the best of Long Island. The fact that we have a rich history was central to the beginnings of Long Island and why we live here. Many of us heard the stories of some of our luminaries of the past: Robert Moses, Robert Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), Nathanial Conklin and his mom, the Cuban Giants, and the list goes on. What has not been told is our more recent History. Babylon Village and its surrounding community has historically matured and changed at a fast pace and many stories have not yet been told. These are the stories we want to share, stories that will be new to some and may recall a memory for others.

Some of us have been promoting the axiom, ‘Babylon Village, where history is made’. The stories we share here will hopefully be poignant, often humorous and always enriching. As an example, we believe there is a direct line from the woman of a new group called the Beautification Society of the early 1970’s to the successful restaurant businesses of today. Do you remember the half barrels placed throughout downtown overflowing with flowers? From the Great South Bay and the collapse of the world class clam population to the erection of the Village Gazebo, there are stories to tell.  

Judy and I truly hope you will join us in reminding you of those stories. We have full access to the records of the Historical Society that will provide us with background primary sources and will often have photos that we can publish. As far as Judy and I are concerned, I quote Bob Dylan, ‘May your hands always be busy’- Forever Young -Wayne R. Horsley 

Next up: Leaning into History: The Story of the Steeple (part 1)