By: Eleanor Zatlin
The East Williston train station which was torn down on December 11, 2004, was the third-oldest train station on Long Island. The Long Island Rail Road was in the process of rehabilitating the station when an engineer’s inspection found significant structural problems, specifically with the mortar and the bricks.
In an effort to determine if the building could be saved, the Village of East Williston hired a historical engineer recommended by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. The structural problems were confirmed by the engineer. The train station was an historic building and required approval of the state's office of parks, recreation, and historic preservation to proceed with the demolition. In a letter dated December 2, 2004, the state approved the railroad’s demolition plan and the station came down nine days later.
A summary and timeline of important aspects of the station’s history follows.
The LIRR branch from Mineola to Glen Head was built in 1864. This extension of the railroad is shown on the Beers, Comstock and Cline Map of 1873 with no stations between Mineola and Roslyn. The Chester Wolverton Map 1891 shows the East Williston and Albertson stations. It is uncertain when the station was built, but from a study of these maps it can be concluded that there was no station in l873, but there was one in 1891.
There are many stories and legends about the building of the East Williston Train Station, but documentary proof is missing. The LIRR has no historical records due to changes in management and the loss of documents by fire.
An 1880 timetable showed that as of February 1880 freight was accepted at East Williston, and a timetable of October 1880 lists East Williston as a “signal station”, indicating that most probably there was not station at that point in time.
The April 13, 1885 employee time table shows Willis’ Station and the October 2, 1887 public timetable reads East Williston Station.
Opinions by historical researchers on the actual date that station was built range from 1880 to 1888. In the opinion of Mr. Vincent F. Seyfried, an authority on the Long Island Rail Road, the station was built about 1887, or later, when other brick stations were built on the Oyster Bay Branch.
An historical account states that in 1909 there was frame freight house with a high platform to the south end of the station. The two story brick station also had a one story frame addition on south side of the main building.
The addition is still pictured in photos taken in 1960 and 1961. The platform canopy in those photos show considerable sagging.
By Christmas 1965 the addition had been removed, the canopy repaired and the station painted.
In the 1980’s the railroad platforms were raised from ground level.
December 9, 1996 saw the last day that the ticket office was in operation.
2003 – Station is closed and boarded up as a renovation and rehabilitation project began.
December 2, 2004 – The State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation approved the station’s demolition.
December 11, 2004 – the East Williston train is demolished.
Historical data taken from East Williston History 1663-2000 by Nicholas A. Meyer and Arrts-archives.com