Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead

From The Curator

Hello, and welcome to the new website of The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society and Museum. Since this is a new site, there may be glitches. If you experience any problems, please let us know.

As always, you are invited to visit the Museum on Saturdays between 10-2, and for our monthly meetings and free programs which are held on the first Wednesday of every month. Please also, be sure to check our calendar for the dates and times of programs and events to be held at The Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead and off site.

From time to time, we will be adding our newsletters and snippets of history here, so be sure to check back often.


Joyce D. Sorrese

William P. Kirk: A Colorful Scalawag

In searching the shelves in the Museum’s back room, I discovered a beautiful civil war era ceremonial sword; the scabbard made of Brass with what looks like a whalebone handle. Both the sword and the scabbard bear intricate and beautifully etched designs. On it was etched the words: “Presented to Captain Wm. P. Kirk by the Members of the Frontier Guard 1857”.
William P. Kirk was the son of John and Mary Kirk of Ireland. They emigrated to America and started a family. One of their children was William P. Kirk born in 1833. William, as you will see, went on to become quite a “colorful” character. He was an Alderman in the second district of New York City and a part of the political machine known as the “Tammany Hall Democrats”. He was a “mechanic by zeal and industry” according to a highly romanticized article (dating to 1875) extolling the virtues of the Tammany Politicians. The reality is that he was in “the liquor business” and was a saloonkeeper in the lower east side of Manhattan. Saloons were known to be a locus of operations for the corrupt Tammany political machine and saloonkeepers were “patronage positions”. Kirk had lots of power, and became the President of the New York City Aldermen. At one point, he declared himself to be the Mayor of New York…an appointment that lasted for 12 hours…but enough time for him to appoint his political cronies to powerful government positions.
Through it all, he became a very wealthy man, at one time owning close to 600 acres of land in Ronkonkoma with first a home known as “The Castle”; later, a second home known as the “Kirk Estate”; and then near the time of his death on May 8, 1914, a third home where his wife Annie lived out the remainder of her life.
“The Frontier Guard” was a group of about 120 men who mostly hailed from Kansas. It was formed by President Lincoln in 1861 to protect The White House; in essence it was the forerunner of what we now know as “The Secret Service”. Kirk’s name does not appear among the 51 known members. The only known “Captain” was Captain James Henry Lane. So, how did “Captain” William P. Kirk come to be presented with a ceremonial sword in 1857 when the Frontier Guard was not formed until 1861? Could the scalawag have had it made for himself to have a crony present it to him? Could our William P. Kirk be guilty of a little (more) “self-aggrandizement”? That is one of history’s mysteries and a grand one at that! 
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