Schodack Brook, West Hempstead

Having written previously about Pine Stream and Mill River that flow through the suburban community of West Hempstead, there is a third hidden waterway here that begins its course alongside a train station that may have been named after this stream, or perhaps not.

This very obscure stream appears on the surface in a ravine next to the Lakeview station on the West Hempstead Branch, looking south from Eagle Avenue, which crosses this single-track line at the source of the stream. The sources of this stream have been paved over and developed as tract homes marched across this landscape of gardens and farms. Water appears here only after a substantial rainfall. Lakeview is not an official village, and most letters addressed to this community have it as part of West Hempstead, itself not an official village but part of the larger town of Hempstead. So the question here is whether Lakeview is named for a long-forgotten pond on Schodack Brook, or the much larger Hempstead Lake that is a ten-minute walk east of this station?

Where it Flows

The giant 1956 map from the NYC Parks Department headquarters shows the hidden waterways of southern Nassau County, such as Valley Stream, Motts Creek, Pine Stream, and Hempstead Lake. For clarity, I highlighted Schodack Brook which flows into Schodack Pond than then merges with Mill River at South Pond within Hempstead Lake State Park. Southern State Parkway cuts through the map, bisecting the Lakeview community. There is so much that I can write about this map, and I’ll do it after my usual survey of Schodack Brook.

Looking north, we see two culverts at the source of Schodack Brook, underneath Eagle Avenue. Do these culverts serve as sewers that collect water on the nearby streets, or do they originate further inland? Old maps indicate the headwaters of Schodack Brook at Maple Street and Woodfield Avenue. That block today is shared by residences and the Western Beef supermarket, with its sizable parking lot.

Schodack Brook has a deadly history and distinction for the oldest documented photograph of a train accident on the Long Island Railroad. On the evening of February 3, 1875, a train manned by eight workers tested the strength of the trestles on the line following a heavy rain that swelled Schodack Brook. The train ran north to Hempstead without problems. On its return run, the weight of the locomotive engine broke the trestle. The train fell into the stream and the engine exploded, killing the engineer, brakeman, trackmaster, and a fireman who drowned after the explosion. The site of this incident is a few feet north of Eagle Avenue. No trace of the stream is evident there today. The site is a parking lot for a local taxi service.

The Lakeview station began operating in 1892. On this 1914 map, we see two developments on either side of the station that share its name: Lake View Park, and Lakeview Acreage Estates. There is a small pond next to the station, but is it convincing enough to say that it was the station’s namesake? The community known today as West Hempstead appears on this map as Hempstead Gardens and that name has been retained in the train station north of Lakeview.

In this 1931 Brooklyn Daily Eagle story on Lakeview, the development is described as a colony of Hempstead, the urban community that is a couple of miles to the northeast of Schodack Brook. Its developer, Reuben Hillman created a private pond at Schodack Brook with a rustic bridge. This pond appears on some maps as Trout Lake and it was stocked with fish by its owners. Hillman is remembered with a street in Lakeview that borders Hempstead Lake State Park. The previous landowners, building contractor Thomas Donlon and retailer Ephraim Jennings, also have nearby streets carrying their names. One early advertisement for Lakeview described this community as “restricted” meaning that it was marketed only to white consumers.

Today the brook can be seen flowing between homes in Lakeview and then it goes into a culvert at Colonial Avenue, flowing beneath the dead-end Hampton Drive. I am unsure if the course here belongs to Nassau County or the adjoining property owners. But even as a “private” stream, it may be subject to the state’s wetland protection laws. Having much of its natural flow lost to development and sewers, Trout Pond has mostly dried up but as it was the centerpiece of the Lakewood community, I am convinced that it was the namesake of this “village” and its train station.

Schodack Brook’s natural appearance can be seen within the state park, where it widens into Schodack Pond, and then merges with Mill River at South Pond. Looking at old maps and news articles, its namesake is unclear. Perhaps a former landowner? Then I noticed that there is Schodack Island State Park in Rensselaer County, the Town of Schodack, and Schodack Creek. Its name is of the Native Mahican origin meaning the land of the council fire. Long Island was the homeland of the Lenape people, but it is possible that a white sportsman or property owner found this West Hempstead stream comparable to the one in upstate New York and named it Schodack Brook.

In the News:

NY1 reports on the 20th anniversary of the closing of the landfill at Freshkills Park.

Queens Post reports on the upcoming restoration of Bowne Park’s pond.

4 thoughts on “Schodack Brook, West Hempstead

  1. Tom Padilla April 26, 2021 / 5:44 pm

    The “fireman” who died was likely a trainman on the locomotive with the engineer. Among other duties an engine’s fireman was responsible for stoking the boiler’s firebox with wood or coal; not, as you suggest, a fireman in the contemporary sense of a person there to put out a fire.

    Like

  2. Debra Doughty-Lucas September 2, 2021 / 1:58 pm

    Many of my families homes had the Schodack Brook running behind their properties. It was a beautiful place to call home.

    Like

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