The location of our Village on the Great South Bay and it’s accessibility to the Atlantic Ocean has had a tremendous impact on the lives of those who have lived here from pre-Colonial times to the present. The area now known as Village of Babylon was part of the land agreement between the Town of Huntington represented by Jonas Wood and the Native American peoples represented by Montaukett Indian Chief Wyandanch in 1657, commonly known as the “Indian Deed of Five Necks, South Side.” Known as Huntington South, farmers came down from Huntington to the Great South Bay area to harvest “salt hay,” used for bedding, livestock feed, and other household uses.
With travelers coming from the north to the Bay and travelers from New York City going east, Babylon was well situated as a stop-over place, creating the need for stores, hotels and services. Flounder, blue fish and shellfish were abundant in the bay, providing income and sustenance for the settlers. Fresh streams from the north provided power for mills that produced grain, lumber and paper. By 1800, Babylon became a hub of activity.
Nathaniel Conklin, a widower, built a home for his mother and two young sons on the northeast corner of Main Street and Deer Park Avenue in 1803. Legend has it that Nat’s mother was unhappy with her home across from a raucous tavern at the American House hotel and compared the area to the debaucherous biblical Babylon. The Conklin house now stands on the northwest side of Deer Park Avenue near the railroad where it was moved in 1871, and is now a museum. The cornerstone, on display inside the museum, was inscribed “New Babylon, This House Built by Nat Conklin, 1803.” The cornerstone inspired this area to be called Babylon.
When the railroad arrived in 1867, the Village became a thriving resort area. Starting in 1871, a horsecar line ran from the depot to the steamship dock where ferries sailed to the beaches. In 1910, the line was extended west to Amityville for trolley cars. From the 1800s to the 1930s, Babylon village had at least fourteen hotels.
The area called Huntington South became the Town of Babylon with its own governing board in 1872. The Village of Babylon incorporated in 1893. Following World War II, the local tourist activity dwindled. Instead, the post-War suburban boom provided homes for returning veterans. With convenient train service to New York City, commuters, then like now, found Babylon a great place to live and raise a family.
People of renown who have lived here include Gone with the Wind actress Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen, NYS Parks developer Robert Moses, and TV personality Robert “Captain Kangaroo” Keeshan.
Note: Marconi’s company had a telegraph station here but he was never a resident. In fact, there is no evidence that he ever visited Babylon village.