Polish Town is a small neighborhood in Riverhead settled by Polish immigrants at the turn of the century. They came to this country for several reasons, the most important of which was the religious persecution which developed after Poland was divided among Russia, Prussia and Austria. They also came seeking jobs that would enable them to save enough to bring their families to the new world. Since agriculture was their main line of work in Poland - a country whose very name means "the land of fields" - it was natural for them to come to the rich farmlands of eastern Long Island and work on the local farms.


It was a time when savings were difficult to come by. In the early 1900's, the wage of a Polish farm worker was $10.00 a month plus room and board. The dreams of these Polish immigrants was a burning desire to succeed in the new world. They worked hard to advance and to become American citizens, while still maintaining the knowledge of the culture they left behind.

The early Polish immigrants to Polish Town did more than work the farms. Twenty young men joined together and pledged themselves into a Polish fraternity. The name of this organization was "Towarzystwo Polskie Rzymsko - Katolickie Bratnies Pomocy pod Opieka Sw. Izydora, Patrona Rolnikow" - "The Polish Roman Catholic Society of Fraternal Assistance under the Patronage of St. Isidore, The Patron of Farmers". They built a church of wood with twin spires with their own hard-earned pennies. St. Isidore's Church, named after the patron saint of the farmer was built in 1906 and is the oldest Polish Roman Catholic Church on Long Island. The church became the focal point and spiritual heart of the little community known as Polish Town.

The modest homes in Polish Town were made of clapboard and the shops were one story buildings where Polish was spoken. You could shop for clothes, food and anything else you needed without speaking a word of English. The families met at St. Isidore's for their worship, weddings, christenings and funerals. Community functions were held at the Riverhead Polish Hall which was incorporated in 1907. The first building was burnt down and the present structure was built about 1925. Polish Town consists of an area of approximately 15 blocks which includes residential, commercial and industrial properties. Pulaski Street, formerly called Cemetery Street, is the main east-west thoroughfare. On October 9, 1929, the Riverhead Town Board, with the unanimous approval of the residents residing on Cemetery Street, passed a resolution sponsored by the Riverhead Polish Hall, to change Cemetery Street to Pulaski Street.

At the time, there was local and national observance of the 150th anniversary of the death of General Casimir Pulaski, who died in the service of our country during the Revolutionary War. Polish settlers in Riverhead's Polish Town area came from Russia, Prussia and Austria. What is now called Polish Town was virtually unsettled prior to Polish immigration. By 1905, the Polish Town community became established. Many of the descendants of these early immigrants are still in the area - many still on the land purchased by their forefathers. In less than two generations, the descendants of these Polish immigrants are Riverhead's land and homeowners, public officials, business people, doctors, lawyers, teachers, merchants, tradesmen and farmers.


 

PHOTO  "Courtesy of John Kneski " CLICK LINK FOR MORE HISTORY!

http://www.johnkneski.com/isidore/home.htm

 

RIVERHEAD POLISH HALL HISTORY CONTINUED                                                                                  

First organized on April 13,1903 and incorporated on October 21,1907;the Riverhead Polish Hall has been an asset to both the town of Riverhead and its surrounding communities.Our purpose is to promote and provide friendship,education,and interest in all Polish American arts and cultures.Born out of Saint Isidore's Society,the Riverhead Polish Independent Club was available to members only until February 1977 when we opened our doors to the general public.Serving family style Polish American food,a first class catering facility was born,Staffed almost entirely with Polish Amwerican emigrants,the Riverhead Polish Hall is considered the social capital of Polish Town.Directly across Pulaski Street from St. Isidore's Church,the Riverhead Polish Hall has been the place to have wedding reception,christening,baby showers,or 50th wedding anniversary.Host to many pancke breakfast for local churches and charitable organizations,Polish Hall is an irreplaceable landmark to the town of Riverhead.And although it has been registered to do business as "The Riverhead Polish Hall"it will always remain legally registered in Albany as the "Riverhead Polish Indedpendent Club".Often used for political debates,the Riverhead Polish Hall has served the community well.The Hall was host to Suffolk County's centennial celebration.Not only have we opened our doors to the local schools for fund raisers,the hall is also made available to school house chilkdren in the event of an emergency at the Pulaski Street School.With a state of the art bowling alley downstairs,the Riverhead Polish Hall lays claim to the first organized bowling alley in Suffolk County.Both men's and women's leagues bowl Monday through Friday,with bowling open to the public seven days a week from 11 am until midnight.The Golden Ballroom holds up to 330 people,the all new Garden Room holds up to 75.The next time you're in Polish Town,please feel free to stop in for a visit and see why Riverhead Polish Hall is truly a place where Polish American heritage still lives.We hope everyone will join us at the Riverhead Polish Hall center of it all.                             

The Riverhead Polish Hall

214 Marcy Ave.

631-727-9200 / 631-727-3733                     

FAX:631-727-3518

 


Picture taken sometime between 1934-36 in front of Riverhead Polish Hall