The Hoyt’s Legacy to Commack.... If you wander along the nature trails of Hoyt
MR. AND MRS. HOYT, C. 1945
making things grow. As he expanded the commercial operation of his farm, he experimented with crops that would give him the best return on his time and money. Initially he planted potatoes, melons, corn, timothy, clover and other vegetables. He purchased cows and bred milk cows, purchased a sow and raised pigs, purchased chicks and raised egg-laying hens. But as time went by, Mr. Hoyt began to make a long range investment in fruit trees and he became more and more committed to making his farm into an orchard. About half of the 350 acre farm was woodland, and at the time the Hoyts purchased the farm, only 40 acres of the farm were under active cultivation. Mr. Hoyt immediately began to expand the acreage he had committed to orchard by planting peach trees and apple trees. Each year he added trees to his orchard so that by 1920 there were some five thousand apple trees and fifteen thousand peach trees producing fruit. The orchard supplied fruit to both local and New York City markets. Mr. Hoyt's patience, experimentation, determination, and persistence paid off handsomely and the Hoyts' gamble in 1910 proved to be a very worthwhile one for the Hoyt family. Although the farm and orchards reached the peak of production during the late 1920’s, the Hoyts continued to work their farm for almost forty years. During World War II, the Hoyts stepped up production of farm produce to meet the demands of the war effort, but following the war, Mr. Hoyt retired from professional farming. The Hoyts continued to live in Commack and made their beloved “Crooked Hill Farm” their retirement home. Mr. Hoyt lived out his life on the farm and died in October of 1954. He was eighty-one. Mrs. Hoyt continued to live at the farm in Commack after her husband's death. In 1965, Smithtown Supervisor John V.N. Klein approached Mrs. Hoyt to see if the Town of Smithtown might be able to purchase the Hoyt farm property. An agreement was reached, and in November of 1965, a proposition appeared on the general election ballot to authorize the purchase of the Hoyt property of 133 acres, with its farmhouse and associated outbuildings. All of this was to be purchased for $200,000, a fraction of the market value of the land at the time. The proposition was approved by Smithtown residents and, on June 15, 1966, the Town of Smithtown purchased Crooked Hill Farm from the Hoyts. Hoyt Farm Park is a unique survival of open land in the Commack area. It is a wildlife haven in the midst of a vastly altered suburban landscape. Today the park contains a nature center, a nature preserve and an active recreation area. Hoyt Farm remains Smithtown's largest, most intensively used park. It is truly an amazing resource for the people of Commack to have and enjoy for generations to come, and we have the Hoyt family to thank for it all.
Farm Park in the early spring and come upon the fallen trunk of a tree that has new green shoots springing to life from the dead trunk, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover a beautiful display of pink or white blossoms. Upon closer inspection, you will find that you are looking at the remains of an old apple tree or peach tree that is still struggling to survive and bear fruit. These remnants of trees that once were are a vivid reminder of the fact that Hoyt Farm Park was once the site of a large and productive apple and peach orchard. The 136 acre tract of land in Commack known as Hoyt Farm Park has a very interesting history. The acreage was part of the original land grant known as the Winnecomac Patent. In fact, the park is located on land that once was owned by the Wickes family and the Tredwell family, two of the earliest families to homestead in the Commack area. The Winnecomac Patent was first granted by the Royal Governor of the Province of New York in the year 1703 to a man named Charles Congreve. Congreve sold off his interest in the land to others and by 1740, this land came into the possession of Elnathan Wickes. The Wickes family then moved into the area and built the original Wickes homestead. The association of the Hoyt family name with the former Wicks homestead began in the year 1910. In that year, a young couple living in New York City jointly purchased the 300 acre Wicks family farm. The names of the couple were Edwin Chase Hoyt and Maria Louisa Moran Hoyt. With this transaction, the property which had been held by the Wicks family for almost 200 years, passed out of the family's ownership. The Hoyts purchased the Wicks farm as a vacation home in 1910. They were newlyweds living in New York City on East 53rd Street, where they were comfortably established in their own home. Edwin Chase Hoyt was a successful New York City lawyer. At first, the Hoyts divided their time between their home in the city and vacations on the farm in Commack. But in 1913, after two children had been born, Edwin Hoyt's dislike of the life of a city lawyer and his longing for the country, led him to give up his successful career and begin life anew as a gentleman farmer. The farmhouse that stood on the property proved to be too small for the growing Hoyt family and so they had it enlarged. In 19l2-1913, a second story was built and an east wing was added to the original building. In 1915-1916, a third floor with dormer windows was constructed and a west wing was added to the house. Slowly the house that stands on the property today began to take its present shape. When the Hoyts purchased the former Wicks farm, they gambled they could make the farm profitable. The soil on the farm was exhausted, the fruit trees were old and diseased, and the house, barn and outbuildings needed extensive repairs. All of these problems had to be addressed before the farm would become profitable. What made the venture even more risky was the fact that Edwin Hoyt knew very little about farming. In letters to others, Edwin Hoyt described himself as a "novice.'' The fact that he knew little about farming makes his change of career in mid-life even more surprising. But fortunately, Edwin Hoyt was an avid reader and a prolific letter writer. He read every farming journal, magazine, and bulletin that he could find. And when he encountered a problem, he consulted with farmers in the area and then wrote to farming experts all over the country to seek advice. Mr. Hoyt experimented with fertilizers, with seeds, with crops, with apple trees, with fruit trees, and animals He always sought to find a better way of doing things and
The Hoyt House as it looks today. The central core of this house was built in 1770. The Hoyt,s added the second and third stories to the original house built on east and west wings. Photos courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society.
Rows of peach trees planted by Mr. Hoyt.
The history of Commack School District on the 100th Anniversary: 1899-1999