Hoyt Farm Town Park, located in the Town of Smithtown, is well known by local residents for its numerous recreational and educational activities. The current boundaries of the park sit on what was originally a land grant known as the Winnecomac Patent, which dates back to 1703 when the Royal Governor of New York had granted land to Charles Congreve. After 37 years, however, Congreve had sold off the land in the grant to Elnathan Wickes, starting the settlement of one of the area’s most well-known families
In a scrapbook that was published by the Smithtown Historical Society in 1968, Colonel Rockwell writes that the original farmhouse which sits in the park and is still standing, was originally constructed in 1770 by Elnathan Wickes.
The home and land remained in the Wicks family up until 1910, when family member, Willard Wickes, sold the home to Edwin C. Hoyt. Hoyt was a wealthy businessman from New York City looking for a summer home at the time, however, when Hoyt had a nervous breakdown he decided to retire early and move his family to the farm. Upon moving from New York City to Commack, he would make significant additions to the original house, adding the eastern and western wings as well as the upper dormers, all to accommodate his large family.
Once the Hoyts moved into the farm, the family would have successfully re-created an existing, albeit dilapidated, orchard containing apple and peach trees, which they would resell under the name “Crooked Hill Farm”. The orchard trees had grown on approximately 350 acres of land. While most of the 350 acres have been sold off and are no longer orchards, someone walking the park’s grounds can still see living apple trees lined up and still producing apples. It is good to note that the park does not use pesticides, and it is not recommended to eat any of these apples.
In 1954 Edwin Hoyt passed away, leaving the farm and the property to his wife Maria.
According to Ten Mile River Museum and the New York Times, the farm was shortly donated by Maria Hoyt on May 5, 1956, to the Boy Scouts of America’s Greater New York Council, in memory of her late husband Edwin Hoyt. To celebrate the donation, the scouts held a ceremony that included over 300 scouts from queens. The only stipulation on the farm being donated was that 40 acres, of the 125 being donated, were to be preserved for conservation study only.
During the ceremony, George H. Peters, chairman of an advisory committee for the Long Island Chapter of Nature Conservancy had stated that Mrs Hoyt’s plan “will give the scouts a practical education in conservation” and added that the forty acres in Suffolk County were “Original primitive Long Island flora and fauna, a corner of wilderness.
It should also be noted that during the time the Boy Scouts operated the Farm as a camp Ellen Oswald was credited with the discovery of a new plant. Oswald had discovered a new color form of wildflower in 1964. the plant was tucked away in a rotted tree trunk in a dried-up pond.
In a newspaper article published on December 06, 1962, by the Long Islander. The Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts announced that they would be closing the camp due to a new state highway bisecting the property. During the time of this announcement, the camp was said to be able to accommodate as many as 5,087 scouts. The newspaper also is cited as stating that the Suffolk County Council was suggested to be interested in the camp to expand on its Camp Wilderness (now Cathedral Pines) and Baiting Hollow camp.
After the Boy Scouts had announced the closure of the Hoyt Farm Scout camp, County Executive H. Lee Dennison made an announcement stating that he wanted to continue the county’s park acquisition program. Dennison had urged the county and towns to purchase at least 20,00 acres of land. ~ Long Island Advance
In 1966, Maria Hoyt had made arrangements to sell the Farmland for $200,000, instead of the $2 million it was valued at. Unfortunately, before the town could approve the purchase, Mrs Hoyt passed away, surviving 11 years after Edwin Hoyt.
After Maria’s passing, her children stepped in and offered the town the opportunity to purchase the land for the same conditions set forth by their mother, Maria, and in 1967 the town approved the purchase marking the start of the Hoyt Farm Town Park.
On August 7th, 1966 the Long Island Press announced “Now it’s the Towns”, with a picture of the first park ranger standing in front of the house. The original Ranger was Stephan Pradon. On January 18, 1968, the Suffolk County News made the announcement that the Nature Center, as well as trails at Hoyt Farm, would finally be open to the public on July 1st of that year.
HOYT FARM PARK FEATURES & ACTIVITIES:
Baseball Fields, Benches, Fire Places, Horse Shoe Pits, a Pavilion, Free Concerts in the summer, Kid Climbing Toys, Nature Museum, Nature Trails, Picnic Areas, Rest Rooms, a sandbox playground, saws, slides, swings, tables, and water park.
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Park Hours: Sunday- Saturday: 8am – Dusk / except from memorial day to mid October when the park opens 9am to dusk.
House Museum: Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, on weekends only 1pm to 4pm
Nature Center: Memorial Day to Labor Day, 7 Days a week from 1pm to 4pm
Water Park: Memorial Day to Labor Day, 7 Days a week from 11am to 4pm
Residents: can park in the parking lot year round for no fee
Non-Residents: As a guest of a permit holder, there is a $12 parking fee. However there are alternate entrances to the park as well as.
For up-to-date educational events and activities, it is recommended to visit the Official Hoyt Farm website.
SOURCES USED IN THIS ARTICLE:
Long Island Press – Aug 7th 1966 Article
“The Hoyt House Circa 1770” – Smithtown Library Book