Nov 16 2011

Preserving the Maine Maid Inn and the Vanderbilt Cup Races

Yesterday I was pleased to speak at the Town of Oyster Bay Town Board Meeting supporting the landmark designation for the historic Maine Maid Inn in Jericho.  Highlights of the meeting were published in FarmingdalePatch and Newsday:


FarmingdalePatch, November 15, 2011 TOBAY's History Lesson on Jericho Landmark

The shuttered restaurant known as the Maine Maid Inn was once a stop along the secret Underground Railroad; town board is asked to preserve it.


By Joe Dowd  

The Oyster Bay Town Board heard a detailed lecture Tuesday urging them to save a Jericho landmark that once served as a safe house for runaway slaves.


What's more, the board heard about secret stairways behind linen closets, one of the world's earliest automobile races, and Jericho's Quaker roots dating to the 18th Century. The Quakers' devotion to human rights was the linchpin of the freedom trail called the Underground Railroad.


It all happened at Tuesday's town board meeting when a team of civic leaders and historians made their case for making the old Hicks homestead, better known as the Maine Maid Inn, a town historic landmark. The public hearing brought a broad coalition of speakers who favored the preservation efforts.


Many stressed that the designation would not preclude the shuttered restaurant from being reopened as a viable business, but merely preserve the exterior of the building.


The building itself dates to around 1800 and was the home of Valentine Hicks, abolitionist and a "station master" on the Underground Railroad. The system, championed by Quakers and other abolitionists, was a series of passageways, land and sea routes and safe houses to shuttle runaway slaves northward and, ultimately, to Canada.


Hicks is better known for an actual rail line: He was the second president of the Long Island Rail Road and the namesake for the station and town we call "Hicksville."


In later years the building became a notable area restaurant under a variety of owners and incarnations. It closed more than two years ago and is now in foreclosure, overgrown with brush rising above its first-story windows.


Arguing for the landmark designation included Thomas Abbe, clerk of the Jericho Preparative Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers. The religious order's local roots date to a small enclave off Jericho Turnpike known as Jericho Corners. He began, as he does at regular Sunday meetings, by asking for a moment of silence to allow God's "Inner Voice" to come over the assembly.


Abbe told the board that many of the Quaker community's original buildings were preserved and are still standing, nestled in a triangle of woods formed by busy Route 25, N.Y. Route 106 and a winding country road known as Old Jericho Turnpike. Preserving the Maine Maid Inn is key to retaining the sense of history of the place, he and others said.


Just up the road, an immaculately preserved meeting house is nestled beside a picturesque cemetery. In this serene, leaf-covered field lies the remains of two centuries of Quaker families. Their eternal resting place is hidden by a ridge, seperating them from a stream of cars speeding along the modern highway.


The historical power-point primer was delivered by Dr. Kathleen G. Velsor, associate professor of the School of Education at the SUNY College at Old Westbury. Velsor has spent 15 years studying Long Island's connection to the Underground Railroad. The common link, she said, is the Quakers, a religious group devoted to equality and freedom of all people.


Among her detailed findings, gleaned from an array of primary sources:

•The Hicks homestead was one of several key stops along the route. Concealed behind a linen closet was a secret stairway to an attic where runaway slaves could rest and find shelter before moving again.
•A Quaker home on Post Road in Old Westbury served as another stop along the route. A wagon with a false bottom was used by the Hicks family to conceal their human cargo beneath piles of flax and hay.
•Runaway slaves were smuggled across Long Island Sound to Westchester via sloops. From there, runaways were shuttled to a kind of no-man's land known as "The Oblong." A two-mile wide border-area had divided English-settled Connecticut from Dutch New York dating to the Colonial era. The Oblong was settled in part by Quaker families.

For Long Island history buffs, it gets even better:


Howard Kroplick, an expert on vintage automobiles, said the Inn at the old Hicks homestead served as a primary grandstand viewing area for the Vanderbilt Cup Races of the early 1900s. Thousands lined the streets in front of the inn to view America's earliest race cars in competition, he said.


Board members listened intently to the 90-minute presentation and agreed to consider granting the designation.


Newsday, November 15 2011 "Landmark status eyed for Maine Maid Inn"


By Bill Bleyer


Oyster Bay not only is likely to designate the Maine Maid Inn in Jericho a landmark but will also look into buying the 222-year-old structure to preserve it, Supervisor John Venditto said yesterday.


His comments came at the close of a town board hearing on the landmark designation that was supported by 14 speakers.


While the board made no decision in order to allow for additional written comment, Venditto said, "I doubt seriously that anyone would take issue with its historical importance."


The house was built for prominent Quaker Valentine Hicks, the second president of the Long Island Rail Road and a former postmaster, and is thought to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. It became a restaurant in 1950 and has been empty and deteriorating for more than two years.



Venditto told commissioner of planning and development Frederick Ippolito to look into purchasing the property with town environmental bond funds. Ippolito said the property probably could be acquired for about $700,000.


The town could then find a restaurant operator to run it, Venditto said. Matthew Meng, president of the East Norwich Civic Association, which sought landmark status for the building on Old Jericho Turnpike to protect it from possible demolition, said several potential operators have come forward, including a company that offers historical theater productions.


Georgia-based Ciena Capital has begun foreclosure proceedings against building owner Rajiv Sharma and in a May letter to the town objected to landmark designation.


But Ippolito said landmark status "only protects the outside of the building" while allowing for interior renovations.

November 24, 2011 UpdateSyossetJericho Tribune "Venditto Proposes Purchase of Maine Maid Inn"
"Listeners at the Oyster Bay Town Board meeting for granting landmark status to the Maine Maid Inn in Jericho were surprised and delighted (shown by sudden applause) as Supervisor John Venditto proposed the town might purchase the historic building....." 


More Information on the Valentine Hicks Homestead

The Valentine Hick's Homestead was directly on the courses for three Vanderbilt Cup Races (1905, 1906 and 1908).











 The crowds watching the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race in front of the Jericho Hotel, 265 yards south of the Valentine Hicks' Homestead and the center of this once vibrant hamlet. The Maine Maid Inn was the starting point for many vintage car events over the last 50 years including the "Run for the Sea" Tours and the Vanderbilt Cup Centennial Celebrations of 1968, 1978 and 1988.





The 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race armband for Dr. William Jackson Malcolm found at the Malcolm House directly across the street from the Maine Maid Inn.





Walter Gosden also recalls that the Maine Maid Inn was also the former home of Harrison Hurlbert Boyce, the inventor of the Boyce Moto Meter, a device that read the temperature of a radiator's vapor. Patented in 1913, the Boyce Moto Meter dominated the automobile gauge industry for two decades.




Links to related posts on and the Internet:

The Action in Jericho- 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race

The Vanderbilt Cup Race Courses (1904-1910)

The history of Boyce Moto Meters

Boyce Moto Meters

The Moto Meter Patent Filed by Harrison Hurlbert Boyce, a citizen residing at Oyster Bay.


Index: Archives on

Archives: Monthly Highlights (2008-2011)



Nov 18 2011 Tom Abbe 1:00 PM

Brilliant reporting Howard. Your contributions to our knowledge about the Maine Maid Inn are important keys to understanding Long Island’s past. Thanks for all the care and attention. I’m inspired! Tom

Nov 20 2011 Frank Krawiecki 9:39 AM

All Long Islanders, historians and car enthusiasts alike, are deeply indebted to the efforts of Tom Abbe for preserving the heritage of the Quaker’s role in the Underground Railroad and the importance of maintaining historical buildings along the route of The Vanderbilt Cup Races.

Jan 08 2012 Meredith Slawe 6:43 AM

This is a fascinating piece of history.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.