Hicksville Water District History
Those who have served on the board of commissioners and in the role as superintendent of the Hicksville Water District have had a significant impact on the utility’s history as well as the quality of the product and service provided today.
Water District Rich in History
For over three-quarters of a century, the Hicksville Water District has been providing high quality, pristine public water to the customers living and working in the service area. Our rich history virtually parallels the growth of Long Island, and demonstrates how a public utility should respond to increasing service demands. Although the district was officially formed in 1921, the impetus for a public water supplier in this region of Nassau County goes back long before that time.
In fact, it was the early settlers of this area who often first made mention of the lack of fresh water. Though they dug their own wells and cisterns, most of the fresh water used by Hicksville’s first residents was obtained from a pond fed by a fresh spring located where the Milleridge Inn stands today.
In 1844, new concerns about the need for water were raised following a devastating two-day fire that destroyed the train station, engine house and storage sheds in the train yard. The fire struck in the middle of the summer, when many of the existing wells had run dry and water levels of the small cisterns were just too low to extinguish the flames.
Still, it wasn’t until the turn of the century (1902) when the Oyster Bay Town Board granted a franchise to the privately owned Nassau Water Company to establish a water works company. It was located on a small triangle of land located just west of Broadway, between Old Country Road and West Carl Street. The Nassau Water Company served the district for almost 20 years, but the residents of Hicksville felt the utility was being mismanaged and complained about the service. Those complaints were justified as the water mains were badly rusted, causing clothes and cooking utensils to become stained.
Frustrated by the company’s inability to provide adequate service, 700 of the 4,500 local residents got together and petitioned the Oyster Bay Town Board in support of forming their own “Hicksville” Water District. The measure was passed on August 30, 1921. During this same meeting Ernest Franke, William D. Magill and August P. Deppisch were elected as the first water Commissioners of the new water district. They held their first meeting at an office in the Nassau Lumber Company on September 2, 1921.
It wasn’t long before bids were taken to purchase land for the construction of much needed new wells. In the summer of 1923, almost 5 acres near the railroad tracks on Bethpage Road were purchased from George Blyman for the price of $6,000. The Karlson & Lee Company was then hired to dig two 150-foot wells and build the district’s first administration building, which also included a two bay garage. Soon, the new wells were producing 2 million gallons of water a year, traveling through 17 miles of new pipelines. Things were really looking up for the district and its customers.
However, over the next 20 years the population of Hicksville continued to grow. The demands of an increased customer base, coupled with the need for more adequate fire safety, seriously stretched the capability of the utility’s infrastructure. The combination of drought conditions and some large fires left the wells very low. In the last 1930s, district officials began lobbying Oyster Bay Town for $90,000 to upgrade the drinking water wells and water equipment, but the funds were denied.
When the Pickle Works factory burned down in March of 1941, the district’s two wells almost ran dry. Soon after, the New York State Health Department stepped in and ordered the district to make the necessary changes needed to supply water to the residents and provide adequate fire safety for the community.
A $50,000 bond was issued on January 2, 1942 to add an additional well. But, with event of World War II, the third well was not completed until 1947.
Today the Hicksville Water District proudly looks back on over 90 years of history, growth and service to the community. From its original building and two wells situated in a field on the outskirts of the community, the district has grown to nine plants and 15 wells strategically located throughout a 7.9 square mile area. The utility’s original 17 miles of pipelines have been upgraded and expanded to more than 165 miles. Perhaps most dramatic of all has been the increase in district’s customer base from 4,500 in the 1920’s to an excess of 47,800 today.
Fire safety has been a major priority in planning the district’s growth. From the original 207 fire hydrants in the beginning, some of which were actually used in the Pickle Factory Fire, the district is now responsible for the upkeep of more than 1,650 hydrants. The condition and modernization of the district’s infrastructure has contributed to the low insurance rates enjoyed by our residents.
For over 90 years, the Hicksville Water District has played an important role in the history of the community it serves. We look forward to many more years of providing dedicated service and a quality product to local residents and business owners.
|William I. Magill
August P. Deppisch
Laurence Bevan, Jr.