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My History House #7- 44 Hilton Avenue

Seventh in a series about residents' homes built before 1930.

44 Hilton Avenue, currently owned by Mary and Hugh McCay. (Suzie Alvey)
44 Hilton Avenue, currently owned by Mary and Hugh McCay. (Suzie Alvey)
 Hugh and Mary Barbour McCay were curious about their house at 44 Hilton Avenue.

Hugh McCay said, "About 1998 or so, Mary and I decided we would love to live in an historic home here in Garden City. We looked and looked...Then I came home from work one day in early 2000 and Mary told me she had just looked at a perfect...Victorian on Hilton Avenue. She made me go over and look at it that same day."

"I loved moving to this part of town, it made me feel as if I went back in time, a very peaceful, kind happy time, where people stopped to greet you...We walk everywhere, to the train station, to the village for our shopping...to our church and to visit our neighbors," Mary McCay added.

The large 3,600 plus square foot Victorian "villa" at 44 Hilton is nestled in mature trees on a 125 by 200 foot property. It was showcased around 2001 in a Garden City Annual Report. According to Garden City, Long Island in Early Photographs 1869-1919 by M.H. Smith, the wood clapboard Victorian "villa" built by James H. L'Hommedieu is part of the A. T. Stewart era buildings that were listed with the National Register of Historic Places. It is rumored that Garden City legend George Hubbell lived in the house, but that has not been able to be substantiated. The circa 1870s to 1880s home has four fireplaces and ten foot ceilings topped with beautiful moldings.

The original house was about half its current size. It had three bedrooms on the second and two on the third floor. Two curving stairways led to the second floor and third floor.

The first family able to be confirmed was William Greeley Hoyt (b.1859) and Carrie Jane Lathrop Hoyt (1863-1952). The same year they were married, in 1897, Hoyt was made a director of the New Paltz and Wallkill Valley Railroad Company that operated a "street surface electric road." Their offices were located in Manhattan. At the time the Hoyts lived in Hempstead with their little son, William Lathrop Hoyt who was born in 1898. Over the years Mr. Hoyt fluctuated with jobs in railroads, lighting and the gas industries.

Sometime between 1910 and 1915 the Hoyts moved to 44 Hilton Avenue. They had one servant. Shortly afterward, in 1917, son William went into military service. He was a student at the School for Military Aeronautics in Ithaca, New York before being sent to Georgia. He worked his way to a second lieutenant but didn't serve overseas before being released in 1919. Young William became an import/export clerk afterward. After 31 to 36 years of living at the Hilton Avenue house, the Hoyts moved.

The second family, Janet C. Morris (b. 1899) and Howard Morris, Jr. (b. 1887) only lived in the house for four years. They were there from 1936 to 1940. However, in that short time they added a new living room with a fireplace onto the south side in 1939. The original 10 by 12 square foot living room was converted to a grand foyer, retaining its marble fireplace. A maid's room was added off the kitchen on the back of the home.

The Morris' then moved to 95 Fourth Street, the subject of "My History House #3." Howard was a banker and a bond salesman. Janet and Howard had two sons, Howard, Jr. and Louis. After a few years they moved out of the Fourth Street home as well.

George Andrew Carlin (b. 1890) and Mary Carr Carlin (1893-1967) were the next homeowners. George went to Brooklyn Polytech and became a reporter for the Evening Sun. He served in WWI in France, becoming a sergeant. In 1922 he married Mary. Within a few years Carlin was a newspaper editor. They were renting in Hempstead and had five children with a servant from Ireland.

The Carlins' first house in Garden City was 81 Brook Street in 1934, followed by 119 Stratford Avenue. During this time Carlin worked for United Feature Syndicate that owned such comics as "Tarzan," "Little Mary Mixup" and "Nancy." UFS has carried the more-familiar "Peanuts" and "Dilbert" in recent years.

In 1940 the Carlins moved into the Hilton Avenue home. At that point Carlin was a general manager of the United Features Syndicate while Mary Carlin enjoyed her time at the Community Club. Over the years son Michael moved to 127 Brook Street and son George P. Carlin became a reporter. Around 1950 Mr. Carlin passed away.

In 1951 before she moved, Mary Carlin put in two doors at 44 Hilton that could open and then fold back into the dining room. They were added to the back of the house, leading onto an open porch that was put in. After 13 years of living on Hilton Mrs. Carlin moved to 26 Franklin Court West.

The fourth family to move in was headed by Julius "Jule" Robert von Sternberg (b. 1910) and Dorothy Von Sternberg. Both lived in Brooklyn and had gone to graduate school. They married some time before 1943. Jule became a publicist for an architectural company and also became an author, reporter and editor.

The von Sternbergs had a daughter, Julie, who went to the Hewitt School and graduated from Briarcliff College. At the time of her marriage in 1971 to Henry Lafayette Collins III of Pennsylvania, the von Sternbergs also owned a house in Palm Beach, Florida. The multi-talented Jule had become an architect and was now vice president of Arkansas Company, a chemical manufacturer founded by Dorothy's father. They moved from the Hilton home after 22 years.

Donald T. MacLeod (b. 1930) and his wife bought 44 Hilton from the von Sternbergs in 1975. They were the fifth family. They had previously lived in Garden City at 137 Willow Street from about 1962 to 1966 and at 7 Hamilton Place from 1969 to 1975. After living at 44 for about 22 years, the MacLeods moved to 10 Westbury Road.

A quick succession of the Falk and Mulholland families led to the eighth family, the McCays buying 44 Hilton Avenue in 2000.

Beforehand, Hugh and Mary McCay lived in Huntington. They moved to Garden City in 1986. Hugh stated, "Garden City's school reputation was a major reason we moved here. Our second daughter was born shortly after we arrived at 51 Transverse Road. We have just the two daughters and both have...graduated from the Garden City High School."

Almost 50 years after the last major renovation at the Hilton house, the McCays have done a masterful job converting it to a seven bedroom home. On the first floor the living room now has built-in shelving on either side of the fireplace. There is a sun-filled, expanded family room, measuring 13 by 24 with a wall of windows. It replaced the 1951 porch that became an unheated sunroom. The small smoking room/sitting room off the dining room was turned into a large pantry between the family room and kitchen. An office with a wheelchair-accessible bath was added.

The second floor now has five bedrooms and one is the master suite with a new bath and sitting room. The original master bedroom with a fireplace is nicknamed the "Chambre DesAmis," which means the "friend's room" or guest room. The third floor contains two bedrooms, a walk-in closet and a bath.

Down the steps from the family room is a 14 by 23 foot theater room with nine-foot ceilings and eight comfortable seats to show all the latest movies on an eight-foot wide screen. There is also a large recreation room and an exercise room. The restoration was completed with an expansive, wrap-around, rocking chair front porch.

Hugh McCay was in banking for 38 years at a trust company in New York City, finishing up as a managing director and operations head. Mary McCay was an ESL teacher in Queens. They are now retired and currently have the house on the market.

Do you have a home that was built before 1930? Are you curious as to its history? Residents are encouraged to contact village historian Suzie Alvey about their own homes by e-mailing her at suziealvey@gmail.com or historian@gardencityny.net or calling 326-1720.

If anyone has any old books, photos or papers relating to anything in Garden City, please contact Suzie at 326-1720 or e-mail her. She can scan or photograph the items, while you keep the original, or you can donate it. This will be extremely helpful to the archives at the Garden City Public Library and the Garden City Historical Society.

Help us help history!

Mary B. McCay October 30, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Love the stories of the historic homes of Garden City. Thanks Suzy for your writing and hard work you put into the research, especially the beautiful photographs you take. 44 Hilton is my favorite!!!
Suzie Alvey October 31, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Mary, Thanks for helping me write the story! Your house is beautiful! The next "My History House" will feature a home on Nassau Boulevard.