“The Homestead”, which was named “The Maples”, was the family home of Fitz-Greene and Cassie (Ralston) Hallock. The home is located at 2869 Pond Road, Lake Ronkonkoma.
In 1995, the last surviving daughter, Katherine Hallock Kenneth, donated the homestead to the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society.To understand what this house and family mean to the Historical Society, we have to start this story in 1885.
Fitz-Greene and Cassie, when first married, were living in a house they were renting from the Hawkins family. It was located on Hawkins Ave. After their first daughter, Cora was born, it was time to buy a property and build their own home. Fitz-Greene heard of a 7-acre plot of land that was for sale in Lake Ronkonkoma. The small house that was once on the property had burned down and the owner did not want to rebuild.
Fitz-Greene purchased the property and had a three story house built on it that would be known as “The Maples”. When the house was ready, the family moved into it in 1888.
There was an octagon barn and as time went on some out-buildings such as a chicken coop, ice house, and butcher shop were added.
The Homestead was a self-sustaining farm, with livestock and garden.
As more time went on the family grew: Milly, Maude, William Merritt and Katherine were all born in the house.
Fitz-Greene did many things to be able to support his family. He learned to be a butcher from Cassie’s family and a furniture maker from his family. He sold insurance to many of the area farmers and worked with the lighting company to help with the placement of the electric lines in Lake Ronkonkoma.
In the early 1920s, Lake Ronkonkoma was becoming a very popular vacation spot and people from “the City” would travel by train to come to the Lake. Cassie and Fitz-Greene took advantage of this opportunity to make some money and started to take in boarders for the summer months.
Their children would move their bedrooms up to the third floor and they would help with the guests. This gave the family the funds to send all the children to “Normal school” in Manhattan*. The girls would all become teachers and William Merritt worked for Sherman Williams Paint.
Sadly, during World War One, William Merrit was killed in France.
Eventually Cora married and moved to Smithtown where she lived the rest of her life. Molly married a forest ranger and traveled to many areas settling in the Lake George area. Maude moved to Connecticut and became a teacher. Maude never married and when she retired, she moved back to the homestead until she passed away in 1975.
Katherine also married a local boy, moved to Setauket and became a teacher. Fitz-Greene passed away in 1935, Cassie in 1945. After the parents were gone, the girls sold the “back three acres”. Katherine maintained the homestead with Maude and in 1995 decided it was just too much for her as she was moving into a retirement home. She then donated the property, the house and all of its furnishings to the Historical Society.
For the Society to maintain the Homestead and share this gem with the community we host Victorian Teas, Fall Fairs and House tours. There are many more stories that we share with the community during the House tours.
Check our web site for dates, and visit the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum for more on the history of Lake Ronkonkoma!
*”Normal schools” were institutions created to train High School Graduates to be teachers.