History of Downtown Syosset
Commerce in Downtown Syosset essentially began in 1854, with the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road. Prior to the extension of the line to Cold Spring Harbor, Huntington, and Oyster Bay many years later, Syosset served as a transportation hub for farmers and businessmen throughout the surrounding area.
As a result, hotels, stage coach services, and businesses of all types sprang up around the railroad station, laying the groundwork for what eventually became the downtown shopping district.
Early businesses, as shown in these late 1800’s advertisements from the East Norwich Enterprise, were primarily geared toward equipment and services for local farmers, as well as the sale and auction of farm property, which was quite valuable due to the close proximity of the railroad.
Other booming businesses in the area during this era included horse and livestock sales, cider milling, a pickle factory, and entrepreneur enterprises such as DV Horton’s “Medicinal Root Beer.”
From the mid 1800’s forward, the Van Sise General Store on Berry Hill Road was one of the most active businesses in Syosset, offering everything from chicken feed to work boots.
The store also doubled as Syosset’s post office for many years, and continued to operate well into the 1900’s.
The Jackson Avenue storefront strip we know today was built in 1939, as Syosset began to emerge from the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
As evidenced by this photograph taken during construction of the strip, the overall appearance of Syosset’s downtown area has not changed much since the days when a small A&P Supermarket, a fruit stand, a barber shop, and a car dealership (!) lined Jackson Avenue.
Perhaps the downtown area’s biggest boost during the twentieth century came in the form of a major world war. During WWII, Syosset and the surrounding area housed a number of defense manufacturers, all of which employed hundreds of men and women. One such facility was at the corner of Jackson and Whitney Avenues, which manufactured parts for submarines and aircraft. Needless to say, at lunchtime, Syosset’s restaurants and pubs were very busy.
Over the years, Syosset’s retail district has expanded significantly, its “hot spots” constantly shifting as new restaurants open their doors and new retailers enter the mix. Still, the downtown area just north and south of the Long Island Rail Road crossing forms the heart of the community.
While today’s business tenants are of a much different nature, the strip itself – and the area surrounding it – have always retained a certain charm for old-time residents and new ones, as well.