East Williston Village Historic District
The East Williston Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The East Williston Village Historic District contains the community's largely intact, nineteenth and early twentieth century residential and commercial core. The East Williston Village Historic District consists of fifteen properties located along both sides of East Williston Avenue and around Station Plaza (Sagamore Avenue). This area represents the settlement and development of the village and has been its main east/west access route. A total of twenty-five contributing buildings compose the East Williston Village Historic District, including two commercial buildings, a railroad station, one church, ten residences, and eleven related dependencies. There is one non-contributing modern building within the district, a village maintenance garage on the edge of the Village Green Park.
East Williston is a small incorporated village located in the center of densely developed Nassau County in the southeastern corner of the town of North Hempstead. The village comprises an area of less than one square mile. According to 1977 census records, the village had a population of 2,852. It is situated approximately twenty-five miles east of New York City. East Williston and its adjacent communities are relatively flat due to their location on the broad Hempstead plain.
The East Williston Village Historic District was identified by means of a comprehensive historic structures inventory conducted in 1982 by a professional preservation consultant from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. It was undertaken with the cooperation of the village historian, the support of the Village of East Williston, and under the guidance of the Historic Preservation Field Services Bureau, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The inventory focused on the historical development of East Williston as illustrated by its historic buildings. The inventory did not include any attempt to identify properties whose primary significance was archeological.
The East Williston Village Historic District boundaries reflect the extent of the village's historic development. Modern construction as a result of East Williston's rapid mid-twentieth century suburban growth clearly delineates the historic district from the surrounding twentieth-century residential neighborhood. The Long Island Railroad lies west of the East Williston Village Historic District and it is surrounded on three sides by dense modern suburban development. Generally, the properties included in the East Williston Village Historic District retain their large original village lots.
A variety of building types, architectural styles, and periods of construction are represented in the East Williston Village Historic District. The earliest extant building identified in the inventory and included in the East Williston Village Historic District is the early nineteenth century Willis farmhouse at 15 East Williston Avenue. Originally a representative Long Island farm dwelling with a two-story, three-bay, side entrance hall plan, it was greatly expanded with a late nineteenth century addition. The majority of buildings within the East Williston Village Historic District were built as residences during the late nineteenth century and are similar in scale, plan, materials, and decoration. Stylistically, many of the residences exhibit details (locally interpreted) which relate them to Victorian Gothic and Italianate architectural idioms. These buildings (18, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38 and 42 East Williston Avenue) share the following design characteristics: wood frame construction, clapboard and shingle sheathing, generous asymmetrical plans, and a variety of carved wood detail at porches, gable ends, and bay windows. Also included in the East Williston Village Historic District are two residential examples of the early twentieth century American Colonial Revival style at 22 and 26 East Williston Avenue. These houses also have wood frame construction and sheathing, asymmetrical plans, and local interpretations of Colonial Revival decoration at the porches, windows, and rooflines. Most of these late nineteenth and early twentieth century dwellings have extant carriage barns at the rear of their parcels. The early nineteenth century Willis House also retains a small group of farm support buildings.
A portion of East Williston's business district is included at the western edge of the East Williston Village Historic District. East Williston and the adjacent community of Williston Park to the west are separated by the Long Island Railroad and have, historically, shared the same business district on either side of the railroad tracks. All of Williston Park's nineteenth-century commercial structures are gone, while East Williston still retains a remnant of its historic commercial district. Station Plaza, with its small picturesque late nineteenth century brick railroad station, forms the nucleus of the East Williston Village Historic District's commercial enclave. Two altered, yet rare surviving frame commercial buildings face the railroad station. These two late nineteenth century buildings are related in scale, materials, and decoration to the residences in the district along East Williston Avenue with their two-story, gable ended facades, wood frame construction, and carved decorative detail at rooflines, storefronts, and porches. The adjacent Village Green Park completes the business district's historic setting and provides the visual link with the East Williston Avenue residences.
See also: East Williston Village: Beginnings
The East Williston Village Historic District contains a significant and cohesive collection of buildings which reflect the historic settlement patterns, architectural tastes, and economic development of the village between the early nineteenth century and 1925. The majority of buildings included in the East Williston Village Historic District are associated with East Williston's prosperous late nineteenth century and early twentieth century growth, the village's most active historic period of development. The East Williston Village Historic District contains the largely intact historic core of the village and locally interpreted examples of popular late nineteenth and early twentieth century American picturesque architectural styles (including Italianate, Eastlake, Colonial Revival, and late Gothic Revival idioms) are represented within its boundaries. The East Williston Village Historic District also contains a small late nineteenth century commercial enclave and a rare surviving early nineteenth century Willis family farmhouse. The East Williston Village Historic District recalls the community's development from an early nineteenth century agricultural settlement to a prosperous suburban village at the turn-of-the-century (1900).
Buildings associated with East Williston's seventeenth and eighteenth century settlement no longer exist within the village or in the neighboring communities. The earliest extant building in the village is the Willis House at 15 East Williston Avenue, which is included in the East Williston Village Historic District. Built sometime during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the eastern portion of the Willis House is representative of settlement era domestic architecture on Long Island. It exhibits architectural characteristics which are typical of Long Island's vernacular building tradition including a three-bay, two-story, side entrance hall plan; wood frame construction and sheathing; and a minimum of decorative detail. The western portion of the Willis House was added in the 1880's doubling its size. Although the wing detracts from the original farmhouse's historic appearance, it does reflect the village's most active period of historic development when the surrounding East Williston Avenue area was becoming an attractive residential neighborhood. The Willis property also contains a small group of farm support buildings which are rare agrarian survivors in the local suburban village and central Nassau County context.
Except for the Willis farmstead, all the buildings in the East Williston Village Historic District recall the village's nineteenth and early twentieth century growth; specifically, most of the buildings in the East Williston Village Historic District were constructed between 1878 and 1925. Of the fifteen properties included in the East Williston Village Historic District, the six residences on East Williston Avenue, the two commercial buildings on Sagamore Avenue, and the railroad station all exhibit design details which are based on the popular late nineteenth century American Victorian Italianate architectural style. The residential examples include the following numbers along East Williston Avenue: 18, 25, 29, 30, 34, and 38. Each of the above buildings share the following design features: wood frame construction and sheathing, gable roofs with main facade gable ends, porches (some altered), and a variety of restrained decorative details including decorative sheathing (both shingles and board and batten), plus carved and turned ornament at porches, windows, and rooflines. Decorative brackets can be found on most buildings within the East Williston Village Historic District. In addition, the buildings at 18, 25, 34, and 38 East Williston Avenue and 462 and 470 Sagamore Avenue all share similar three-bay, two-story plans with their gable ends facing the street. In comparison, the residences at 29 and 30 East Williston Avenue retain similar three- and five-bay, two-story, center entrance hall plans with central gable ends on their main facades. The East Williston railroad station is the only nineteenth-century brick building in the village and also exhibits restrained Italianate style details including wide overhangs, long brackets and turned porch posts.
Although a majority of the buildings in the East Williston Village Historic District exhibit details based on the late nineteenth century Italianate architectural idiom, other popular turn-of-the-century (1900) styles are also represented along East Williston Avenue. Specifically, 22 and 26 East Williston Avenue are good, relatively intact examples of early twentieth century middle-income residences which exhibit details inspired by the fashionable American Colonial Revival architectural style. Both buildings share similar design characteristics including symmetrical three- and five-bay, two-story, center entrance hall plans with various decorative details as follows: front porches with columns and roofline balustrades, pilasters, symmetrical fenestration, main entrances with sidelights, and Palladian windows.
The most recent historic building included in the East Williston Village Historic District is the Community Church of East Williston. Built in 1925, this building is located at (and marks) the eastern end of the East Williston Village Historic District. Originally, the church's congregation (established in 1889) met at various places within the village including private residences and the firehouse. As the congregation grew, the need for a larger permanent church became apparent. The congregation's trustees hired architect George Conable to design the new church. George Conable (1866-1933) became a well-known turn-of-the-century (1900) architect through his work in the New York City metropolitan area. He trained at Cornell University and worked in the architectural offices of Ernest Flaag, Hobart Upjohn, and William Austin.
Although larger than the adjacent residences, the church's distinctive design, low profile, uniform setback, and landscaped lot complement the East Williston Village Historic District historic visual quality and provide a clear division between the historic district and the surrounding modern residential neighborhood. The church's exterior and interior exhibit many of the design details associated with the stylish early twentieth century Gothic Revival architectural idiom including massive masonry (stone) walls, stone tracery and stained-glass windows, a broad slate roof, pointed arches, and a stone bell cote. The church and its landscaped property provide a picturesque enclosure to the East Williston Village Historic District eastern boundary.
The East Williston Village Historic District represents the various periods of historic development experienced by the community beginning with its early agricultural settlement by the locally prominent Willis family through its late nineteenth century village and early twentieth century suburban development.
Bailey, Paul. Long Island: A History of Two Great Counties. New York. 1949.
Meyer, Nicholas. East Williston History. Village of East Williston. 1977.
Seyfried, Vincent. The Long Island Railroad. Volume III.