The Old Bethpage Village Restoration might seem a topic more appropriate for an 1870s website than a 1970s one, if it weren’t for the fact that so many of us visited this historic “living museum” as schoolchildren during the decade. Let’s take a look back at this living museum that has both educated and entertained thousands of visitors, young and old, over the years.
Located off of Exit 48 of the Long Island Expressway, the Old Bethpage Village Restoration opened in 1970, offering a collection of historic buildings, most of which were relocated from other parts of the island. For example, the Bach Blacksmith Shop came from Hicksville and the Manetto Hill Methodist Church once operated in Plainview. The only structure to be originally located on the site is the Powell Farmhouse. In total, there are 51 restored buildings on site, along with seven reconstructed buildings. Only twenty or so of the structures are open to the public.
What really brings the Old Bethpage Village Restoration to life, however, are the employees who dress in historically appropriate costumes and perform the tasks that were common in centuries past, such as candlemaking, blacksmithing and farming, all while educating the public about the hard life early settlers faced. Visitors can also pop into the general store for some good old-fashioned stick candy, or step up to the bar at the tavern for a pretzel and ice cold glass of birch beer.
Special events are held year-round at Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Many locals visit during the holidays, when much of the village is decorated to resemble a 19th century Christmas celebration. It is also the site of the Long Island Fair each year, which features baseball games played by 1800s rules and plenty of foods, arts and crafts. There are ghost tours during Halloween and summer celebrations during the Fourth of July.
With all of this historic activity, it’s no wonder that Old Bethpage Village Restoration has long been a favorite spot for educational activities and school field trips. Durings the 70s, thousands of local kids were regularly brought in by the busload to tour the historic grounds and gain perspective of the hardships these earlier settlers faced.
Will future kids do the same thing? Sadly, that remains to be seen. Old Bethpage Village Restoration has recently been threatened with closure, due to budget cutbacks, despite the fact that some 30,000 kids visit each year. Ultimately, it is the local residents in this century who will decide the fate of of this Nassau County park, one that survived the elements for hundreds of years but may not survive modern politics.
Do you have fond memories of visiting Old Bethpage Village Restoration as kid, either with your family or as part of a school field trip? If so, we hope you’ll take a moment or two and share your recollections with us in our comments section below.