Babylon’s colorful history can now come to life in just a few sittings through Arcadia Publishing’s new “Babylon Village,” which is part of the Postcards of America series.
The book is filled with scenes of the bayside village from the 1800s to the mid-1950s, says its author and Babylon Town historian, Mary Cascone. It became available in February.
“[It] isn’t a complete history, but rather more of a souvenir,” said Cascone.
To be included in the Postcards of America series, “Babylon Village” needed to feature 75 percent postcards. Cascone was able to accomplish that feat with the help of the town’s and village’s historical offices.
There were two key steps in putting everything together, she said.
First, Cascone had to sift through the thousands of postcards she was able to access. However, not all key village locations had been depicted in postcards, such as the police station, so Cascone used photos instead.
The more involved step, according to Cascone, was to write the captions. She wanted to capture the personalities of the people and places during each time period depicted, so in writing the captions, she would read through old newspapers.
For example, “If there was a picture of the Dowden Brother’s store, then I would go back to the newspaper articles and find an advertisement,” said Cascone.
What were they selling? What was the sale? What was the language or slang used?— were some of the questions she would ask herself while researching.
Babylon’s first newspaper, the South Side Signal, she noted, provided for rich anecdotes that helped defined the era. One particular story that’s included in the book centers around a Colonial-era hotel called the American House Hotel.
The hotel burned down in the 1870s and the newspapers reported that the fire was started from mouses chewing on match heads.
“It’s a strange thing and creates a weird image in your mind,” she said. “So I added it because I don’t think anyone has read that [story] in the last 140 years.”
“Babylon Village” is is available at Barnes and Noble, as well as on Amazon. It’s also available at the Historical Museum on Main Street, the Village Clerk’s office, and old Town Hall, all in Babylon Village.
Top: Mary Cascone in her Babylon office, along with her new book, Babylon Village, which she describes as a souvenir, rather than a complete history. (Credit: Nicholas Esposito).