Northport is a small town on the north shore of Long Island about 45 miles east of New York. Settled in colonial times, it was a community of farmers, fishermen, brick makers and sand miners. Not far from the multicultural and diverse city of New York, it’s no surprise that this city has its own immigrant history.
The Northport Historical Society, with a museum on Main Street, currently has an ongoing exhibit: IMMIGRANTS OF NORTHPORT AND NORTHPORT EAST. Many of the city’s more than 50 immigrant groups are featured in the current exhibit, including Croats. The exhibition runs until April 2022.
April 3 will be “Croatian Sunday” dedicated to “Croatia and its immigrants”.
Before modern highways were built to summer vacation spots in the Hamptons and eastern Long Island, Northport served as a nearby destination for summer vacationers from New York City.
Sunken Meadow State Beach on Long Island Sound near Fort Salonga is what first brought Croats to the area. Croatian immigrants living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan and Astoria, Queens in the 1940s were looking for summer getaways out of town and the beaches and guesthouses of Sunken Meadow were the answer.
From the 1940s, as Croatian immigrants began to rise social and economic scales, they found the Northport area to be a more attractive and affordable place to live. Most of these immigrants came from the Kvarner islands: Krk, Lošinj, Ilovik and Unije, as well as from Istria and Dalmatia, all coastal regions. Newcomers have found Northport’s attractive waterfront, harbor and beaches very appealing.
By the 1970s many Croats had settled in the area, one family bringing another family, and so on, in a chain migration pattern. Many of these individuals have established businesses in the area including: The Holiday Lodge Hotel, Brajdic Auto Body Shop, Three Star Auto Sales, Mike’s Service Station, Halesite Real Estate, Marjanovic Clams and Lobster Seafood, Kraljevic’s Poultry Farm, Budinich’s Northport Glass, Lazar’s Restaurant, Mohawk Homes (Mustapick), Ceko’s Auto Collision, Excalibur Sword Factory, Kolombatovich’s Fencing Academy and Ship To Shore Travel Agency, among others.
This small Croatian community has the Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge #1981 Kvarner & Istria – Long Island, The Croatian New Yorker Club, The St. Peter’s Society (Ilovik) and the Adriatic Club of Southold based here.
One of the focused showcases in the exhibition tells the story of Mate Angelich, an immigrant from Sinj, Dalmatia. He came to New York when he was young as an apprentice baker. He became an ironworker and worked on the construction of the George Washington Bridge spanning the Hudson River. After settling in Northport, he became a new imported car dealership and gas station owner, and later in retirement had an azalea nursery. His wife Keti, of Croatian origin from Unijan, set up her own commercial real estate agency.
“Join us April 3, 2022 from 2-4 p.m. at the Northport Historical Society. Our guest speaker, Anton Angelich, will take us through a presentation of Croatia and the immigrants, like his father, who helped the Northport – East Northport area become what it is today. Celebrate Croatian culture with accordion music, treats and drinks in our museum gallery,” organizers said.
The event is free, but the Museum requires prior registration.
THE NORTHPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM
215 Main Street
Northport, NY 11768
Call for more information and register at 631-757-9859.
There is free parking (to Woodside Ave) behind the Museum and behind the American Legion.