24 Jun William Floyd Elementary visits the Mastic House
When I first heard the name William Floyd, as a Long Island native my first thought is “Oh that parkway out by Mastic?”. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common occurrence in my area, as no one ever seems to remember the man after which the road was named. William Floyd was one of the men to sign the Declaration of Independence around 1776, and one of only four New York residents to have such an honor! Definitely way cooler than just some heavy trafficked parkway. The William Floyd Estate, or the Mastic House, is located in Mastic and is actually under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and is regulated by Fire Island National Seashore. While it technically isn’t actually a part of Fire Island, the Floyd family donated the entire estate to the National Park Service back in the 1970s, so that some part of history could be preserved for future generations to enjoy and learn about the past, as well as learn a bit more about one of the most significant men from New York. The house and its contents have been preserved for nearly 250 years by the family, so walking into each room is like entering a time capsule back into the 1800s. They have kept everything from clothes and furniture to even old china and other small artifacts that were buried around the house hundreds of years ago. All of these items are on display in the house and can be viewed during a ranger-guided tour. While there are many places that attempt to recreate conditions of olden times, such as Williamsburg or the Old Bethpage Village Restoration, the William Floyd Estate is different in that everything in the house has always been there and left in a natural state, almost as if the family just walked out one day, leaving everything where it was. These other sites are restorations where conditions of certain time frames are recreated or reenacted, but most of the attractions were built fairly recently to resemble something that would have been used during the designated time period. Each tour is led by an incredibly knowledgable park ranger or staff member, some of whom still know some of the Floyd family descendants! They have incredible facts and stories from the family themselves about growing up or taking vacations in the home and their amazing experiences there. These tours are open to the public, but this week we had a few classes from William Floyd Elementary School take their first tour ever in the home of the namesake of their school! It was amazing to see the look on the children’s faces as they got to experience what it would have been like to live in a house so old and full of memories that are so very different from what they are so used to seeing nowadays. Many of them were surprised to see something as simple as a rotary phone, but were very much taken aback when they got to see some of the chamber pots in the 25 room house, as they learned they didn’t have bathrooms or running water back then! While the kids got to learn an amazing amount of new information about the man for whom their school was named, I felt I had learned so much myself about someone who was so influential in not just the history of New York, but also the history of the United States. A man who had James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as house guests, who had taken such care in protecting his childhood home, and who went on to have such a major impact on the formation of our country.