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The History Behind Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve

More than a place to pass the time, Hoyt Farm represents a part of Commack's past.

is known for a number of recreational and educational activities. Visitors will find a playground, water park, nature museum, picnic tables and more. The park also represents centuries of Commack history.

Just a short walk from the recreational area, a house can be found. According to Colonel Rockwell’s Scrap-book, published by the Smithtown Historical Society in 1968, John Wicks constructed the center portion of the home around 1770 on land originally purchased by his father Elnathan Wicks.

The home remained in the Wicks family until 1910 when a Willard Wicks sold the home to Edwin C. Hoyt, according to the book. Hoyt made alterations to the house by adding the east and west wings and the upper dormer.

According to the preserve’s park manager Jeff Gumin, the Hoyt family had a successful orchard containing apple and peach trees. It was called Crooked Hill Farm, and the property was approximately 350 acres. Hoyt’s apples and peaches were sold as far as the Bronx and the Hamptons.

Gumin said about 24 of the apple trees still remain. They use no pesticides on any of the vegetation in the park, so the apples aren’t recommended for human consumption. However, the animals on the property do eat them.

The Town of Smithtown purchased the property in 1965 from Maria Hoyt, and the 133 acres of land developed into Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve.

The center portion of the home that Wicks built now includes a museum. Smithtown historian Brad Harris said three small rooms are decorated with furniture left by the Hoyt family to show how a house in the early 1900s would look. The rooms include furniture, cutlery boards, sideboards, and paintings that the family owned. In the central hallway, visitors will also find Edwin Hoyt’s desk.

Gumin said the Hoyt’s old bath house is used for the park’s educational programs. Visitors will find reptiles and amphibians there, and students learn about the geology of Long Island. In the old blacksmith barn, children have found items such as nails and pieces of pottery as part of an archeological dig.

There are also two World War I cannons on the grounds. According to Harris, the cannons were once displayed in front of Smithtown’s Town Hall. Around World War II when the town hall received new ones, they gave the World War I artillery to Hoyt farm.

Gumin, a life-long resident of Commack, said the township of Smithtown is supportive of the park’s preservation efforts. While some of the original outer buildings no longer exist, the ones standing remain basically unaltered and in good condition.

The staff at Hoyt Farm encourages visitors to walk along the nature trails past the house. The park manager said as he walks along the paths, he finds old locust rails that were used to fence off the orchards from the roads, a foundation to an old barn and remenants of old equipment.

“The whole park is just history,” said Gumin.

Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve is open year round from 8:00 a.m to dusk, except Memorial Day to mid-October when it’s open 9:00 a.m to dusk. The Hoyt House museum is open from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekend days from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Phil Levine January 15, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Hoyt Farm was given to the Greater New York Council Boy Scouts of America and served as Hoyt Farm Scout Camp from the late 50s to early 60s. It was then taken over by the town of Smithtown. I have a camp neckerchief and neckerchief slide here on a shelf in my living room. In the mid 70's, our Boy Scout Troop 402 met in the haybarn that used to be located to the right of the current entrance gate. The Scoutmaster's name was Mahoney and later, Willens.
Robert Farrell November 18, 2013 at 09:55 AM
Hi Phil, I was a member of troop 402 when we first got permission to use the old barn at Hoyt Farm. I remember when a group of us spent a hot weekend cleaning the place out and getting it ready for weekly meetings during the summer months. I was with Troop 402 in the late 60s, early 70s. The scoutmaster at the time was Mr. Morel. Mr. Mahony took over the year I moved to another town. Does anyone know what the last year for Troop 402, when it disbanded? I grew up near Hoyt Farm, and have many fond memories of the place. I went to JFK Jr. High school and one of the Hoyt's daughters was in a few of my classes. Don't recall her first name, but she would be 56 yrs old like me. Anyone have any history of Troop 402 to share?

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