Second Edition Of Woodbury History Book Released

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Spreading knowledge of local history

The latest in Tom Montalbano’s collection of local history books is the second edition of An Early History of Woodbury, Long Island, New York.

Tom Montalbano

“Nobody ever treated Woodbury as if it was an entity of its own,” Montalbano said. “It’s always Syosset, and also Woodbury. They use our schools and library, but they never talk about the actual background and history of Woodbury.”
And Woodbury, according to Montalbano, has a very interesting history.
For example, American poet and essayist Walt Whitman taught in Woodbury on the corner of Woodbury Road at a one-room schoolhouse for a short time.
“It was kind of a disaster,” Montalbano said. “He wrote letters to a friend of his talking about how much of a disaster it was. It’s interesting because we named a school after him, but he didn’t have any good things to say about Woodbury.”
There’s also Revolutionary War history in Woodbury, with a mix of people who were Loyalists and Patriots.
Montalbano, a researcher and historian from Syosset, said the book involved decades of research and more than a year of daily writing and editing.
Montalbano said it was his favorite of all the Syosset-Woodbury books he’s written, including Images of America: Syosset, The Syosset Fire Department: 1915-2015, and Early Merchants of Downtown Syosset, which was distributed by the Syosset-Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.“I kind of have, it almost feels like a curse, because my first book about Syosset came out on Sept. 13, 2001,” Montalbano said. “I was all prepared to do all kinds of presentations and things, and of course Sept. 11 happened two days earlier and then [the first edition of An Early History of Woodbury, Long Island, New York] comes out in February or March of 2020, and a couple of days later the world shuts down.”
“So I’m almost afraid to put it out again,” Montalbano said.
The second edition of the Woodbury history book includes updates, since a lot has changed in the three years since its release.
“Entire shopping centers have been knocked down and all sorts of things,” Montalbano said. “So I decided to bring it up to date.”
Montalbano has also acquired new historical photos and documents since the book was first published.
“One of the things I added was a chapter on the influenza pandemic of 1917, 1918 really, which really didn’t seem to have a lot of relevance until we had our own pandemic 100 years later,” Montalbano said. “In going back and really digging deep into what happened back then, it was so similar to what happened to us in 2020. People didn’t want to wear masks, they didn’t believe it, the president of the United States was saying there was no pandemic and people were arguing with each other, whether they should be allowed to go out.”

The Second Edition of An Early History of Woodbury, Long Island, New York.
(Book cover courtesy Tom Montalbano)

He explained that the local parents would send their kids out to play or work on the farm, until the district had to step in and encourage parents to keep their children at home.
Additionally, Montalbano included information on the new shopping center at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Piquets Lane.
“What was in there before was a two-and-half story building that was a buffet, it was one of the first buffets ever in Long Island,” Montalbano said. “It was this large imposing building, and they finally knocked it down and they built a shopping center. It had been a landmark for years and it was in my book, so I had to get rid of that and bring it up to date.”
The Baylis General Store that was on Woodbury Road, which became Jack & Rose Florist, burned down.
“That was a real shame,” Montalbano said. “That building was almost exactly as it was in the 1800s all through the early 1900s. It was a general store, and Theodore Roosevelt had stopped in there and all kinds of things. The owner of that store is the namesake of J. Irving Baylis Elementary School. And on Valentine’s Day of last year they had a massive fire.”
Montalbano first got involved with local history in 1990 when he saw an ad from the Syosset Public Library, which was undergoing an oral history project by interviewing longtime residents from Syosset and Woodbury.
“I was involved with audio engineering, I’ve been involved my whole life with it,” Montalbano said. “If they were going to do it, they should do it right. So I volunteered to do the recording and the editing and all the production of those tapes, those sessions, those were history sessions, and as we got involved I started to get to know the people, these were longtime residents of the town and I started speaking to them privately. They were giving me photographs and giving me additional stories and things and started writing it down. I got really interested in Syosset history, where I have never really been all that interested as a kid growing up here.”
Shortly after that, Montalbano wrote a book about the Syosset Train Station and gradually, he had so much information he had to do something with it.
A fellow historian friend of his recommended he do an Images of America book.
The Images of America book series is from Arcadia Publishing, and it is crafted by local authors like Montalbano. There are currently over 8,500 books within the series, telling the stories of people and places throughout the United States.
“I sent my manuscript to them, and they loved it and they put the book out,” Montalbano said. “That was in September, 2001 and that book sold like crazy. It sold over 7,000 copies, which is a lot for an independent book, and they’re still selling now. I know they have them in all the drug stores and book stores and things. But I’ve since done three more books and a whole bunch of articles.”
Montalbano said it is definitely a challenge searching through historical records, including those going back to the 1600s and early 1700s.
Fortunately, there were people 200 years ago who brought records up to date, aiding in Montalbano’s research.
“For the town records that go back to 1653 in the Town of Oyster Bay, there was a point where somebody, when they were still legible, went through them and translated them from the old English to the more comprehensible language for that generation,” Montalbano said.
Montalbano said in some ways, that’s what he’s doing now for people 200 years from this point.
To purchase the second edition of An Early History of Woodbury, Long Island, New York. online, visit Amazon.

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