The Floral Park Historical Society Unveils a Handcrafted, Three-Dimensional Diorama
History was brought to life at the Floral Park Pool Building on Sunday, May 22. After months of hard work, the Floral Park Historical Society (FPHS) unveiled a diorama titled, “Floral Park Circa 1900: The Home of Flowers.” Keynoted by FPHS president Ann V. Corbett, the event drew a standing room only crowd.
“The history of Floral Park, much like other communities across the country, has had a time for jubilation and a time for melancholy over the years,” Corbett said. “In the past few years and just days ago, we mourned the loss of several wonderful young people. We, as a close and caring community of people, have stored memories of them in our hearts and in our minds and continue to share the unimaginable grief felt by their loved ones,” she added, before engaging the audience in a moment of silence. Corbett likened the grief Floral Park endures today to the grief of Floral Park founder John Lewis Childs when his grandson, a military pilot, died in a plane crash in Germany during World War II.
Conversely, the diorama depicts a jubilant time in Floral Park’s history, “when Childs’ [seed] business was flourishing and the community was blossoming,” Corbett said. “It was a time when passengers on the train would be privileged to see fields of beautiful flowers that stretched for over a mile.”
The underpinnings of this endeavor stem from a $10,000 historical society/museum grant Floral Park received from Nassau County last year. Nassau County Legislators Richard J. Nicolello and Vincent T. Muscarella, both of whom were present at the diorama unveiling, worked with the FPHS to help secure the grant, which was derived from Nassau County motel and hotel taxes.
While the grant helped subsidize the diorama, “The cost of a professionally made diorama was found to be prohibitive, so the society embarked on a different plan and decided to have the members make the diorama,” Corbett said. “Walter Gosden, a founding member of the society, volunteered to lead the project.”
Gosden worked with fellow volunteers Dot Carson, Sally Corbett, Mary Gosden, Bernice Hayes, Claire Mansfield, Russ O’Brien and Jeanne Petta to bring a slice of Floral Park’s history to life. Set atop a 4- by 4-foot piece of plywood, more than 20 handmade scaled-down structures take viewers back in time. Buildings include the Floral Park School, the Methodist Church, the Park Hotel, the original post office, a train station and several homes, all of which are set adjacent to early roadways accented by fields of shrubs, flowers and gardens.
Six fourth-grade students had the honor of unveiling the diorama: Jillian Rachlin and Eliza Bayer from Floral Park-Bellerose School, Caitlin Fitzgerald and Kaitlin Walsh from Our Lady of Victory School, and Matthew Fonseca and Shane Palma from John Lewis Childs School. The diorama will take up permanent residence at the Floral Park Museum, which is housed in Floral Park Centennial Hall.
Following the unveiling, audience members were treated to a “diorama story” video produced by New Hyde Park Memorial senior Rocco Vaglica, who is enrolled in the Sewanhaka Graphic Arts Program.
The diorama is just one of many ongoing projects spearheaded by the Floral Park Historical Society, which was chartered by New York State in 1999. The society’s mission is to collect and preserve historical memorabilia, photos and artifacts related to Floral Park and nearby surrounding areas, and to help educate adults and children about the community’s history.
Indeed, “The society brings our past to life, and we need that opportunity to pair ourselves with our ancestors,” said Mayor Thomas J. Tweedy. “This diorama unveiling is more than just a tribute to our past. It might be a stimulant for some young [residents] to join the society and to study history and to draw from history predictions for our future,” he said.
Membership is open to Floral Park residents and nonresidents alike. Types of annual membership include student, $5 dues; individual, $10 dues; family, $15 dues; and business, $25 dues. For information, visit the society’s website at www.floralparkhistorical.org, or contact Ann Corbett at (516) 775-6849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.