Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Main Street Great Neck, 1912

A century ago, postcards were the favored social networking tool.   Because of this non-electronic format, we have a record of one of the main shopping areas in our community, as it appeared a hundred years ago.
Postcard view of Main Street, Great Neck, circa 1912.
This view of Middle Neck Road, called Main Street here, was printed in Germany for the Ninesling’s  Brothers Department Store, some time before 1912.  The card was addressed to Hasel L’Hommedieu of St. James, L. I. (in Smithtown).  By 2011, this card had found its way to Las Vegas.  The L'Hommedieus were also a prominent Great Neck family around this time, very active in the business, religious, and civic life of the community.
A sign painted on the H. Ninseling & Sons store, on the right, advertised dry goods, furniture, and sporting goods as well as laundry - phone number GreatNeck 134.  A date at the roof line indicates that the building was constructed in 1881.
The view looks north from Beach Road.  Just visible on the left is the canopy of the LeCluse Brothers General Store.  One of this store's owners, Egbert LeCluse, was a member of the Alert Fire Company, and later a justice of the peace.  He had the distinction of having the first telephone in town, GreatNeck 2, because he was instrumental in bringing phone service to Great Neck.   Calling GreatNeck 1 got you the local phone company office, which opened on September 28, 1899.   Mr. LeCluse is also said to have helped dig holes for Great Neck's power and telephone poles.  Telephone numbers from this period can be found in the Library’s collection of telephone books on microfilm.  Several of these books will soon be available online, through the library's website.
Egbert LeCluse - from the Great Neck News, December 10, 1937.
Behind the LeCluse store sat the colorful Kortlander & Rempe general store, which sold wine, liquor and groceries.  Behind Kortlander & Rempe was the Lincoln Market, phone number GreatNeck 81.
Horses and carts also appear in the background of this image.  The strangely small automobiles traveling on the minimally paved road were added after the photo was taken, probably to make the image seem more up-to-date.  If you look closely, you can see the "cut marks" around the images of the cars.
A very similar postcard in our collection offers a less colorful view of the same scene.  On first viewing, these images look the same, except for the automobiles.  A closer look reveals that the images were definitely taken at different times, as small details, like the people posing on the sidewalk, are not the same in each.
Postcard view of Main Street, Great Neck, circa 1909.
West side of Middle Neck Road at Beach Road, part of the area shown in the postcards above, in 1977. Photo by Mort Shapiro.
The 1912 postcard was purchased with money from the Risha Rosner Memorial Fund, which is made up of contributions donated in recognition of Risha Rosner, a dedicated, longtime Great Neck librarian and local history enthusiast who passed away in March of 2010.  To contribute to this fund, please call the Great Neck Library Reference Department at 516-466-8055, ext. 218.  Contributions are spent on adding items to the library's Local History Collection, and preserving, conserving and providing better access to the collection.

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