The historic Soldiers and Sailors building in Huntington, NY is one of the most noticeable on Main Street. It sits on Old Burial Hill, which is sometimes also called Old Burying Ground.
Established sometime in the 17th century, Old Burial Hill is the earliest known public cemetery in Huntington and bears witness to war, violence and hardship for almost seven years. Starting in 1776, Huntington was occupied by the British troops and the residents experienced change like you wouldn’t believe.
Upon this land stood Fort Golgotha. It was built by the British with wood from the Old First Presbyterian Church which was torn down against the towns wishes. Colonel Benjamin Thompson ordered this construction and forced local residents to help. Even the Huntington military was forced to follow British orders. Not only was the area being taken over, the lack of respect for the dead was clearly shown through the removal of over one hundred tombstones. These were later used in the fort to create fireplaces, ovens and stone floors.
If that wasn’t enough, Colonel Thompson blatantly showed no regard for one of the church’s ministers, Rev. Ebenezer Prime. He had the forts exit be built right on his grave so when he passed through he would walk all over him. This especially made the townspeople upset and angry. After the British troops left in 1783, Fort Golgotha was torn down and the Old First Presbyterian Church was reconstructed a year later where it still stands today.
The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building was built to be a memorial for the brave men who fought and died in the Civil War. In 1886, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Association was founded by veterans and residents of Huntington and thanks to their fund raising efforts the building was finally completed in 1892. It was actually designed by the New York City firm of Cady, Berg and See which was very successful at the time. This proves that Huntington had picked itself back up and became an ideal place to live despite the war and its small population.
The building’s architecture depicts the Tudor Revival style of design. This style showcases natural elements and is created with simple and rustic elements. Although there is a good amount of detail it is not ornately presented like Victorian or Art Nouveau. It has heavy lines and looks more structurally sound. Most had high chimneys, pillars and pitched roofs and reflected the Earth’s neutral colors. It was also inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement which rejected mass production and focused on uniqueness and designs of the past.
For Huntington’s 250th anniversary it received the cannon on the side of the building. A gift from the federal government, this cannon once protected New York Harbor. Until 1958, the Huntington Public Library called the building home but later moved to its current location due to space restrictions. Since then it has been used for the town’s offices and is now the office for the Town Historian, currently Robert Hughes. To show their gratitude for their dedication it was donated to the Huntington Historical Society in 2000 for their many efforts to spread awareness of the memorial.
Since the completion of its restoration in 2008, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building now showcases an exhibit gallery as well as a visitor center. It is open most days of the week to the public. For more information you can call 631-427-4075.