In 1973, growing interest in local history led to the organization of the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Association. A permanent charter from the State of New York was received in October 1976. The GCHA is a non-profit membership organization with a mission to research, collect, record and preserve the history of the communities of Greenlawn and Centerport, Long Island, New York.
Today the two communities are formally bound together by the Harborfields Central School District--but this pairing has historical precedence. For many years the grain raised on the plains of Oldfields (Greenlawn) was brought to the gristmill on Little Cow Harbor (Centerport). Later, vacationers visiting the resort village of Centerport would take the stage from the railroad station in Greenlawn. Thus, in the mid-1950’s, when the two school districts were centralized, and in the early 1970’s, when the Harborfields Public Library and our Historical Association were founded, the pairing was a natural alliance.
In 1976 when the Harborfields Public Library moved into the former Broadway School building, space was allotted to the GCHA for its headquarters. Today the Association’s Russell B. Brush Research Center includes hundreds of photographs, documents, written histories and genealogical information relating to Greenlawn and Centerport. The Center is open to the public during office hours or by appointment.
In 1989, the Association purchased the Suydam Homestead, located at the corner of Route 25A and Centerport Road. This c1730 house was occupied by members of the Suydam family from the late 18th century until 1957. Over the last 15 years the Historical Association has stabilized the house, repaired the West Wing and converted it into a gallery that now displays the many historical artifacts discovered on the site. Another feature added to the property is a non-historic barn built in 1991 to house and display the Association's vast collection of furniture, farm tools, wagons, clothing and household objects, most donated by local Greenlawn and Centerport families.
In 2002, the Association received the John Gardiner Farm, located at the corner of Park Ave.and Little Plains Road. This c1750 house was occupied by the last generation to live in the house, Alice (1896-1985), Zella (1898-1905), and the twins Harold (1902-1982) and Herbert (1902-2002). Herbert and Harold were born in the farmhouse. They lived here their entire lives with their sister Alice and never married, and never lived anywhere else. Herbert Gardiner, the last family member to live here, bequeathed the property to the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Association. It was his wish to name it in memory of his father John. The farm, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is being maintained as a museum complex with a working farm to highlight early farm life in the community.
Workshops, guest speakers, demonstrations and educational programs for school and community groups are presented throughout the year.