The Lynbrook Bottling Company

The Rockaway Indians One Millennium Ago

 Whittaker Chambers’ House in Lynbrook


Copyright Protected


By Art Mattson, Lynbrook Village Historian

Originally published April 14, 1995.

From 1922 until 1930, Lynbrook had its own bottling plant, the Lynbrook Bottling Company. It was located on Merrick Road, just East of Lynbrook Village Hall, and across from the Lynbrook Theater. There is a bank parking lot there today. The Lynbrook Bottling Company did not make their own bottles. They were manufactured by a firm in Poughkeepsie and shipped to Lynbrook. The bottles were filled with carbonated soda in Lynbrook and sold in towns along the south shore of Long Island. There are about a dozen known surviving bottles from the Lynbrook Bottling Company, one was found in Babylon, several were found in Lynbrook and now one in Valley Stream.

A Victim of "the depression".

The Lynbrook Bottling Company went bankrupt in 1930, only months after the Depression Era began. The company was the victim of a different sort of "depression" -- a hole in the ground. The information about "the depression" comes from Jack Bate, a former Lynbrook resident who now lives in Evansville Indiana. Jack's father owned the Lynbrook Bottling Company. Although Jack was only about eight years old when dad's bottling business went bust, he clearly remembers what happened.

Back in the 1920's bottling companies used deposit- return bottles made of glass. A big part of the bottling company's operation involved washing out the returned bottles for their re-use. This meant water, lot's of soapy water. Up until 1928 the sudsy waste water simply ran off the property to the south and west, ending in Doxey Creek, which runs along Peninsula Blvd. But in 1928-29, one of Long Island's first commuter parking lots was constructed, right across the path of the bottling company's waste water. The water turned the parking lot to ice in the winter and a soaking wet mess the rest of the year. Jack Bate's father had to do something. He took the questionable advice of a local contractor and at great expense dug a huge drainage pit. But it wasn't nearly big enough. The soapy water overflowed the drainage pit and flowed back into the parking lots. The Lynbrook Bottling company was forced to close, the victim of Lynbrook's "depression", the drainage pit that did not work.

A Strange Conclusion: The Lynbrook Bottling Company of New Haven.

This abrupt ending led to the firm's name being continued in an unlikely place. The bankrupt company's entire stock of bottles, all bearing the Lynbrook Bottling Company name, were sold to a Connecticut firm, the New Haven Bottling Company. Having just become the proud owners of thousands of "foreign label" bottles, this company took the eminently practical step of renaming themselves "The Lynbrook Bottling Company of New Haven". The business lasted, under that name, until the 1970's.

The Lynbrook Bottling Company


The Lynbrook Bottling Company which existed 1922 until 1930 (when it went out of business). It was located just west of the Five Corners, between Merrick Road and Langdon Place -- the location today of Fidelity Bank's parking lot. In my earlier article (the one preceding the article printed above) I speculated that the Lynbrook Bottling Company had been an early victim of the Depression. As things turned out, I should have said "depression", with a small "d". I got a call from Jack Bate, 70, a former Lynbrook resident who now lives in Evansville Indiana. Jack's father had been the owner of the Lynbrook Bottling Company. One of Jack's Lynbrook relatives sent him a copy of my article. Jack called me to set the facts straight. Although Jack was only about eight years old when his father's bottling business went bust, he clearly remembers what happened.

Back in the 1920's all bottling companies used deposit-return bottles. Naturally, a big part of the bottling company's operation involved washing out the returned bottles for their reuse. This meant water, lot's of water. Up until 1928, the soapy water simply ran off the property to the south and west, ending in Doxey Creek. But in 1928 or 1929, one of Long Island's first municipal parking lots was constructed, unfortunately just south and west of the bottling company. Since the soapy water could no longer run naturally off the property and because Lynbrook had no sewers, Jack Bate's father took the advice of a local contractor and at great expense built perhaps the biggest cesspool Lynbrook has ever seen. But it wasn't big enough, and there went the Lynbrook Bottling company, the victim of Lynbrook's biggest "depression".



The Rockaway Indians One Millennium Ago

 How the Indians of East Rockaway, Lynbrook and Lakeview Lived

By Art Mattson

Lynbrook Village Historian, President Lynbrook Historical & Preservation Society and Director of the Friends of the East Rockaway Gristmill.

Copywrite protected © by the author February, 2001 - Article also has appeared in Lynbrook USA

A more extensive version of this article appears in Mr. Mattson's new book, The History Of Lynbrook

Until recently Long Islanders were taught in school that there were 13 Indian tribes on Long Island in the 1600's when the Europeans arrived. One of these so-called tribes was said to be the Rockaway, who lived in our ELLM area. However anthropologists now believe that there were no actual tribes on LI at all. Instead it was the Europeans who arbitrarily categorized various extended-family groups into "tribes" in order to lend a flimsy legality to buying up large tracts of Indian land for mere pittances.

Who then were the Rockaway Indians? Long before the Europeans gave their own names to places such as Hempstead, Brooklyn, South Hampton and Flushing, the Indians had named our area Rockaway. In the Algonquian language "Rockaway" apparently meant "Sandy Place", an apt description of an area including, in part, the sandy bay beaches and tidal flats of Hewlett Bay and East Rockaway, the Old Sand Hole Cemetery (now the Rockville Cemetery) at Lynbrook's eastern border, and the sandy berms and sandy-bottom streams (Pine Brook and Parsons Creek) running from Malverne and Lakeview into East Rockaway's Mill River. The term "Rockaway Indians" refers not to a tribe, but to the many individual families of Algonquian Indians who lived in our "Sandy Place".

The Rockaway name has stood the test of time. The English of the 1700s gave the name "Near" Rockaway to the ELLM area, referring its closeness to Hempstead, and "Far" Rockaway to the area further from Hempstead. Today we still have East Rockaway, Far Rockaway and Rockaway Blvd.


The first Paleo-Indians (paleo = early or primitive) arrived on Long Island about 12,500 BP (Before Present). Nothing is known about these people except for the few, beautiful, fluted "Clovis points" they left behind. The Rockaway Indians of 1,000 BP were Algonquians, a widely distributed North American people which populated all of Long Island. Unlike the Montaukett Algonquians out east who spoke a Mohegan-Pequot dialect from Connecticut, the Rockaway Algonquians spoke Delaware-Munsee, reflecting their connections to the Lanape Indians of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The Rockaway Indians probably lived in small, extended-family groups, organizing their lives around the "three legged stool" of hunting, gathering and fishing. Our island geography, with its diverse food sources, encouraged the Rockaways to roam throughout the ELLM area, from Hewlett Bay, up Mill River to the inland woods, fields, streams and ponds of today's Tanglewood Park, Hempstead Lake Park and Hall's Pond. Ocean Avenue, with its graceful, non-engineered curves, runs for miles along these ponds and stream banks. It is almost certainly an ancient Indian trail. Merrick Road (named for the Merrick Indians) is another Indian trail, one which linked the various family groups scattered along the south shore of Long Island. Indian families gathered together for trading, for rituals and mass hunts, though these gatherings were rare.


The favorite location for permanent living sites among the Algonquians was the banks of bays and tidal streams because of the easy availability of a year-round food supply. Blue claw crabs, eels, oysters, clams, scallops, flounder, stripers and blackfish were all found in abundance in local waters. Fishing was often done with fish traps set in tidal creeks and bays. This was a carefully planned activity. First, wooden stakes were stuck upright into the silty creek or bay bottom, at low tide. Brush was woven between the stakes to form a kind of net. The stakes were arranged in the form of a weir, a precise pattern of channels, funnels and baffles which allowed fish to move through the trap with the incoming tide, and be caught as the tide went out. The Indians, standing in the shallows, would beat the water's surface with sticks to drive fish further into the trap. Woven scoops, spears and weighted throw-nets were used to haul the fish out.


Unlike the Indians of Central and South America, there was no crop cultivation on Long Island 1,000 years ago. Instead the Indians of the ELLM area made liberal use of "Nature's Shopping Mall". The Rockaway Indians could find the fruits, nuts and vegetables they needed simply by walking to their favorite gathering sites, generally inland.

Strawberries and blueberries were favorite fruits. Vegetables included Jerusalem artichokes and scallions. Nuts were widely available. Hickory nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, and especially white oak acorns were ground into flour, mixed with blue berries and honey and baked into cakes. The high caloric content of these nut and berry cakes helped the Rockaways survive the cold winters.


The ELLM area was a hunters paradise. Water was the key. The Rockaway Indians used arrows, spears and snares to catch ducks and geese from the huge flocks which landed along the ELLM bays, ponds and streams. Animals too stayed close to water, so the inland streams and ponds, with their networks of animal trails leading to water, provided an ideal place for setting snares. Small animals such as raccoon, squirrel, possum and rabbit were caught this way.

Larger game such as deer were killed with bows and arrows, and before that with spears. Sometimes families would gather together for mass deer hunts. Circles or semicircles as wide as five miles in circumference were formed. Shouts, whistles, drumbeats, smoke and fire were all used to drive the game, usually toward deep water. Hunters would wait in boats for the easy kill.


Long Island does not have good flints for stone tools. But some quartzites stones can be fashioned into arrowheads and larger tools. About five years ago a Paleolithic (Paleo = primitive, lithic = stone) Indian tool was found just south of Lynbrook High School. Unfortunately the site was bulldozed for development in 1998, destroying the site. This tool was recently evaluated by Professor John Vetter of Adelphi University's Department of Archaeology. He declared it a genuine prehistoric tool, based on the way flakes were purposefully broken off to make the tool sharp. The shape of the tool, its wear-marks and the fact that it was found in a bed of discarded clam shells all suggest that the tool was used to open clam shells. A really close look at the tool indicates that its user (probably an Indian woman) was right handed.


Many aspects of their daily life 1,000 years ago demonstrated the Indians' creative use of their natural environment. Algonquian Indians typically lived in wigwams. These houses were built using a circular arrangement of bent saplings, covered with bark and sealed with pitch. These houses, when constructed properly, were waterproof. Several houses together would form a family compound. Odd as it may sound, pots made of pieces of bark glued together with pitch were used to boil water for cooking. This was done by heating stones red hot in a fire, then picking them up one by one with sticks and dropping them into the water-filled bark pot, thus boiling the water without burning the pot.

Herbal mixtures were used as cures and for hunting rituals. One favorite on Long Island was a dried-out mixture of flowering sumac and flowering dogwood. The mixture was placed in a clay bowl. Then it was lit with the flame from a burning stick. The smoke was inhaled through a pipe, not one with a bowl as later Indians would use, but through a straight hollow tube. Tobacco had not yet reached Long Island 1,000 years ago.

There was as yet no wampum in 1,000 BP, but beautiful shells were searched out and worn as adornment. Colors to decorate animal skins and pottery were obtained from golden rod (yellow), blueberry (blue), bloodroot (red), and wild grape (purple). Animal skins were the chief source of clothing.


We are a full millennium removed from the Indians of the year 1000, yet it is worth taking time to contemplate how relatively comfortable a life style - for that time -- the Rockaway and other Indian settlers on Long Island lived. Life was certainly not as easy as we know it today, but compared to the Europeans cities of the Middle Ages, with their filthy open sewers, starvation, and bubonic plague, the Rockaways lived their lives in perfect balance with nature. Unlike today's Long Islanders the Rockaways kept their land as pristine as when they arrived. There is much we can learn from the people of "Y1K".



Strong, John. 1997. The Algonquian Peoples of Long Island. -- Interlaken, NY: Empire Books.

Newsday. 1998. "Long Island, Our Story" --

Tooker, William. 1962. Indian Place Names on Long Island, 1911. Reprint Port Washington: Ira Friedman.


Algonquian Recipe for Autumn Acorn Mush

(Note: This recipe was used by the author in the Boy Scouts 45 years ago. He is not responsible for any mistakes.)



Dried Blueberries


Fresh water

Two bark and pitch cooking baskets

Fire pit

Hot rocks (VERY hot rocks)

Tongs or deer antlers


-- Gather acorns in the fall. Dry them well, shell them and pick off the skins.

-- Find a nice flat acorn pounding rock or a heavy duty wooden bowl.

-- Using a stone pestle pound away till the acorn is a fairly fine powder.

-- After pounding the acorns, you must leach them to remove the tannin. Pile some sand into the form of a volcano, form a hollow bowl-shape at the top. Cover it with cheesecloth. Place a thin layer of pounded acorn over the cheesecloth and using pine needle branches as a water breaker, carefully pour cold water over the powdered acorn. The water will seep through fairly quickly. After a few leaches, taste a bit of the acorn and if the bitterness has gone away, then it is ok.

-- In the meantime, make a fire pit and heat the rocks up.

-- Get the cooking baskets. Put just water in the first one, the rock-cleaning basket. Put the pounded and leeched acorn powder along with the sun-dried blueberries in the second basket, the cooking basket. Add water, about 2 to 1.

-- Using two poles as tongs or using an antler, lift out a very hot rock and dip it quickly in the cleaning water to get the ash off, then place it in the acorn/water cooking basket. Repeat.

-- The acorn meal will be cooked in about 10 minutes. Remove rocks.

-- Stir in honey and eat the acorn mush while still hot, or let it cool and form into cakes.

Note: While heating, if you stir the basket contents with the rocks in, you'll wear the basket out. Just turn the rocks to mix. Knowledgeable adult supervision is required.



 Whittaker Chambers’ House in Lynbrook


Arthur S. Mattson

Historian of the Village of Lynbrook

Copyright Protected - August, 2001

(Sorry, the 42 footnotes dropped off the internet version.  They will be added later)


Whittaker Chambers was born in Philadelphia on April 1, 1901. When he was three years old Chambers and his family (father Jay, mother Laha and younger brother Richard) moved to Lynbrook, New York, on Long Island. Chambers grew to manhood in Lynbrook and would live there, off and on for 40 of his 60 years [see Appendix], in a house which still stands at 228 Earle Avenue. Chambers is one of the most recognizable and controversial figures of the 20th Century. In 1949-50 he was the chief witness in the perjury and spying case against Alger Hiss, in what has been called the "Trial of the Century". After Hiss' conviction, Chambers presented himself to the nation as a sinner and a savior -- a former Communist and betrayer of his friends now come to save the country from the Communist peril. He remains one of the most praised yet condemned persons of our times. Certainly he is among the most understood. This article will try to add to the understanding of Whittaker Chambers by looking at his life in Lynbrook. Throughout the incredible twists and turns of his life, Chambers saw the importance Lynbrook had on the various stages of his development. As Chambers said of Lynbrook, "No land ever again has such power over him as that in which a man was once a child."

Two years after the trial of Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers published his autobiography, Witness. Chambers had such intensely bittersweet memories of Lynbrook that he devoted a 100-page chapter, "The Story of a Middle-Class Family," to his formative years there. This chapter, despite its brevity, is among the finest and most frightening of American autobiographies ever written. He mentions his boyhood home at 228 Earle Avenue dozens of times, spending whole paragraphs even whole pages on each room, describing the pathos, the horror, and the occasional joy he experienced there. The best and worst memories of his life were of growing up in Lynbrook. Even as an adult he kept returning to the family home. From 1938 when he broke from the Communist Party, until 1950 when the Hiss trial concluded, he spent as much time in Lynbrook as at Pipe Creek, his Maryland farm.

As a young man Chambers rejected Lynbrook's religious and social middle class values largely because of his unhappy experiences growing up there. As one biographer put it, "Chambers's earliest commitment to Communism apparently represented an effort to extricate himself from Lynbrook and from a family melodrama that had become unbearable." The residents of Lynbrook have had an equally unfriendly relationship with Chambers. For almost 100 years they have at best ignored Chambers, and at worst rejected him -- that is until now, when his boyhood home at 228 Earle Avenue is being considered for listing on the both National and New York State Registers of Historical Places.


In 1984 Whittaker Chambers was posthumously given the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1988 his home in Maryland, Pipe Creek Farm, site of the famous "Pumpkin Papers" incident , was placed on the National Register of Historical Places. Despite this public recognition, despite two best selling biographies of Chambers' life, despite Chambers' influence on a generation of political conservatives from William F. Buckley, Jr. to Ronald Reagan , and despite a persistent, half-century-long national debate about his role in the Alger Hiss Trial, there are few people in Lynbrook today who know that there is any connection between Whittaker Chambers and this Long Island village.

Lynbrook has had other notable persons in its history. For 30 years, beginning in 1906, the internationally famous French chef, Henri Charpentier, creator of the crepe suzette, called the gourmet world's attention to his Lynbrook restaurant. "Texas" Guinan the dance-hall queen and "Diamond Jim" Brady were attractions in local night clubs early last century. Jack Douglas, the widely read author and humorist, was raised here. But the lives of none of these had the historical impact that Whittaker Chambers' life did. Nor did these others experience the incredible personal drama of Lynbrook's own "Spy Who Came In From The Cold."


On the southeast corner of Peninsula Boulevard and Earle Avenue, just across the street from the Lynbrook Baptist Church, sits a charming turn-of-the-century frame house, number 228. It has elegant columns and large front windows reaching low to the porch floor. The shutters are blue, as they were when Jay Vivian (Whittaker) Chambers lived there from the age of three in 1904 until his early 30's when he married and joined the Communist underground.

Chambers' autobiography, Witness, tells how his experiences in Lynbrook shaped the course of his life. The book also provides a snapshot of his Long Island village as it was at the turn of the last century. He wrote about the rough, working class people, the immigrants, the peddlers, and the rare sophisticates; about the horse-drawn wagons, the railroad and the trolley; about the wooden schoolhouse, the shacks of "Tigertown" and the speakeasies. He mourned the continuing loss of so many trees, fields, woods and streams to "progress". When Chambers lived there as a boy there was a meadow running for miles beyond his house. Soon it became a four-lane highway, Peninsula Boulevard.

Chambers loved the sights and sounds of the slow-paced country village with its unpaved sand roadways and overarching silver maples. He recalled the musical creak and groan of axles, the slow clop-clop of horses as they pulled heavy wagonloads down nearby Merrick Road, then Long Island's great southern highway. He loved the flanking double line of 40-year-old flowering cherry trees which he described as "domes of whiteness."

Chambers was a poet and a master of the English language. His descriptions of Lynbrook in the early 1900`s as recorded in Witness are lyrically beautiful yet frank:

Lynbrook was then a village of . . . chiefly workingmen, shopkeepers, farmers and "baymen" -- men who owned or worked oyster beds in the tidal creeks and salt marshes. The south shore of Long Island was a landscape of unselfconscious beauty. Everything was small -- little farms, little orchards, little unplanned villages, little white houses master-built in exquisite, functional proportions. Birch and swamp-maple woods followed the course of little streams that slid silently over glinting sand. It was all saved from paltriness by the tremendous presence at its edge of the ocean, with its separating miles of salt marsh and sweeps of sky across which fleets of clouds rode to and from the sea.


Into this idyllic scene stepped three-year-old Chambers and his family, altogether a poor fit in Lynbrook. His father an artist, his mother a former actress, the family became known around Lynbrook as "The French family". He was an intelligent, pudgy boy, called Vivian by his parents. He wore short pants in Lord Fauntleroy fashion long after his classmates had switched to long ones. He was often ridiculed at school. His family's desperate poverty forced him into the embarrassment of selling vegetables, chickens and eggs door to door. The Chambers' Lynbrook neighbors spread rumors (unfortunately all too true) that Whittaker's demented grandmother, who lived with them, roamed the halls at night with a knife in her hand. His parents` awful marital problems, including his father's probable bisexuality, brought lengthy separations. As Chambers put it:

Compared to us, the life around us was orderly and happy. We were not happy. We were not a family. Our home was not a home. My father was not a father. My mother was not a mother ... That left me absolutely alone.

Chambers went to grammar school in Lynbrook's wooden schoolhouse on Union Avenue. He said of his Lynbrook education, "I was given a grounding that served me well throughout my life." Still, he was never happy at Lynbrook's schools, finally transferring to nearby Rockville Centre High School, where he found academic successes in English and Language. His social problems continued, however, with his classmates calling him "Girlie" and "Stinky". Chambers got his revenge when he delivered the Class Prophecy at graduation in 1919. He foretold, among other things, a career in prostitution for one of his least favorite classmates.

Chambers, unable to form any real friendships during his boyhood, often wandered alone along the streams and meadows near his home. These peregrinations became for him a near religious experience. Chambers relates in his autobiography how, despite the absence of any religion in his home, upon encountering a breathtaking meadow of flowers and birds he exclaimed aloud, "God" (W. 117). He called this incident one of his life's "highest moments."

Joining the Lynbrook National Bank right after graduation, Chambers once again found he could not cope. A boring routine and continual quarrels with his co-workers led him to resign. He entered Columbia University, commuting daily from 228 Earle Avenue to the Manhattan campus by Long Island Railroad and subway. Chambers had tried to fit into Lynbrook's middleclass mold, but he would soon break away from it.

THE 1920's

As Chambers put it, "When I entered [Columbia], I was a conservative in my view of life and politics, and I was undergoing a religious experience. By the time I left, I was no longer a conservative and I had no religion." He took a job at the New York Public Library and began to explore Socialism and Communism.

One of his Lynbrook neighbors was a highly cultured woman who had introduced young Chambers to the literature, art, music and social ideas of Germany and France. In his early twenties he visited Europe, and saw the devastation left by World War I. His distress at seeing the virtual destruction of European civilization led to his joining a group of idealistic Columbia University students in becoming members of the Communist Party in 1925.

Still living in Lynbrook, Chambers became acutely aware also of the slow destruction of the country village he had grown up in:

When I returned from Europe in 1923 . . . I was living at home. I set about a definite poetic project. Its purpose was twofold. I wished to preserve through the medium of poetry the beautiful Long Island of my boyhood before it was destroyed forever by the advancing City. I wished to dramatize the continual defeat of the human spirit in our time, by itself and by the environment in which it finds itself. With my deep attachment to the earth I grew up on, the spread of the tentacular towns across it, felling little woods, piping the shallow brooks through culverts, burying little farms under rows of suburban houses, struck me as an almost physical blow. Those sprawling developments, without character or form, destroying the beauty that had been for an ugliness that had no purpose but function and profit, seemed to epitomize all that I dreaded in the life around me. By defacing the one part of itself that had been intimately mine, it cut my roots and left me more than an alien, a man without soil, and, therefore, without nation.

Social life in Lynbrook had a limited appeal to young Whittaker. His description of the Prohibition Era and a 1922 Long Island speakeasy captures the scene while revealing Chambers to be more a keen observer than a participant:

I was still working at the New York Public Library. I took to going home directly after work. My brother would meet me at the Lynbrook station. . . Prohibition was in force, but clandestine bars were everywhere, and I sometimes stood beside the most substantial citizens. . . [E]venings began at a little store with the lower half of the show windows painted. Behind the store was a backroom. Here a mousey Greek served home-brewed wine. It was red, watery, sour, rasping and very heady. The backroom was dense with tobacco smoke, warm and cozy on cold nights.

His intellectual turmoil and the prevailing gloom at 228 Earle Avenue enveloped him. Like the downward spiral of a Greek tragedy, Chambers' life followed a dreadful course. One night, his brother Richard did not meet him at the Lynbrook railroad station. Chambers found him dead, a suicide. Chambers came to believe that the same societal evils of "vulgarity, stupidity, complacency, inhumanity, power and materialism-a death of the spirit" which caused millions to die in World War I also existed in the Long Island villages around him. He believed that this suffocating "death of the spirit" had killed his brother. One snowy night at his brothers grave, only a stone's throw from the house at 228 Earle Avenue, Chamber's composed these lines :

Help me God (if there were God),

Before I die,

In my good time or under the hands of the police,

To make of myself one tiny cell, a bacterium,

To serve the organization of love as hate,

The union of the weak to kill the evil in power,

The outrage and the hope of the world.

This was a decisive moment in his life. He wrote, "I now first became a Communist. I became irreconcilable." .


In the early years of the Depression, Chambers' writing talent and sensitivity to the growing masses of poor - he had been poor enough as a boy in Lynbrook to know - led him to an editorship of the leading American Communist periodical, "The New Masses". He was soon absorbed into the Party's anonymous secrecy where each member knew only a single contact outside his cell, and then only by a code name.

After years of loyal service to the Party, his idealism turned to horror when he learned of the Soviet labor camps and the mass murders under Stalin in the late 1930's. He also discovered that the Communist Party had penetrated to the highest levels of government in the U.S. and that Soviet intelligence agents were using him as a conduit of government and military secrets. He realized that his loyalty was being corrupted into treason by the Soviet spy system. As Chambers agonized over breaking with the Party and exposing his old friends., he looked back to Lynbrook.


In his book Cold Friday, Chambers mentions two people from the Lynbrook area - an unnamed Methodist minister and a neighbor, Dorothea Mund Ellen - who had influenced his life profoundly in his youth. Ten years later, as he contemplated breaking with Communism, the recollection of these two people would ease his passage:

I made friends with the son of the Methodist minister in a village not far from my home in Lynbrook, Long Island. In my second year at Columbia I roomed with this boy. I was often at their house and sometimes attended services with them. In the simple sense of goodness, few men could have been better than that Methodist preacher. Nor was his goodness weak; it had a hard human core. . .

Under the influence of this man and his son I tried to pray. When a decade later, in the turmoil of my break with Communism, I once more sought to pray, it seemed as if I were resuming an experience I had broken off rather than abandoned.

Ms. Ellen, a highly cultured Lynbrook neighbor, taught Chambers informally in her home. She taught him to read and speak Greek, Latin and German and she instilled in him an appreciation for art, music and the Bible. As Chambers put it, "This influence I was never able to dispel even as a Communist . . . In this sense, she never ceased to draw me from the evils of Communism even during the years when it separated us completely."

He made the break, never to return. Fearful that his wife - he had married Esther Shemitz, a fellow Communist, in 1931 - and his two small children would be murdered by the Party, he moved them to a farm in Maryland, later the site of the famous "Pumpkin Papers" incident. He was not able to find peace and solitude there. On September 2, 1939 World War II erupted in Europe, only days after the Soviets signed a treacherous non-aggression pact with the Nazis. Europe was again in flames, this time thanks to the complicit Soviets. Chambers decided to tell U.S. government officials all he knew about the U.S. Soviet Communist organization. He chose to tell his story to Adolph Berle, Assistant Secretary of State. Berle listened to Chambers' story: the vast network of operatives, the role of the Hiss brothers, the stolen bombsight plans, and more. But all Hell was literally breaking loose in Europe that very night as columns of German tanks rolled into Poland. Berle and the U.S. Government now had bigger issues to deal with, and uncovering Soviet spies instead of Nazi saboteurs was not one of them. Chambers' story was filed away.

For the next nine years (1940-1948) Chambers' life found quiet stability in his family and his work. Using his considerable writing skills to advantage, he rose to Senior Editor at TIME magazine at the enviable salary of $30,000 a year. During this period he lived four days a week at his mother's house in Lynbrook (his father had died years before) and commuted to his Maryland farm. He had done his duty as he saw it, and if the U.S. government chose to ignore what he had told them, so be it. He would divide his life between 228 Earle and his farm, write for Time, and be a small footnote in history for his translation of the book Bambi from the German. But this was not to be, for the past would not die.


In 1948 profound world and national political forces were being set into motion. In June of that year, the Soviet Union attempted to control all of Berlin by cutting surface traffic to and from the city of West Berlin. The Soviet's method of gaining control was to starve the population and cut off business with anyone not under Soviet control. From now on the Soviet Union would be viewed publicly by the U.S. as a threat, and no longer a wartime ally.

Under pressure from Rep. Richard Nixon and the House Un-American Activities Committee, the FBI began a review of its wartime files. Chambers' interviews with the State Department were uncovered. He was called on to testify publicly against his old Communist Party contacts, including his once close friend, Alger Hiss. Hiss had been a trusted aide to President Roosevelt and had even been under consideration to become the first Secretary General of the United Nations.

Chambers was reluctant to testify for many reasons. He feared that his testimony would make him the target of the Communist Party and Hiss' highly placed friends. Once again he feared for his family's safety, having years before witnessed the literally murderous inclinations of the Party. He also risked losing his prestigious editorship at TIME Magazine.

But Chambers believed it was his destiny to testify. Peter Jennings describes the situation in his book, The Century:

Whittaker Chambers was a rarity - a man who had dug in at the foxholes of both sides, a true "witness," as he described himself, to the "two great faiths of our time." Once a dedicated Communist, during the idealism of the 1930's, and an admitted spy, Chambers had since renounced his party affiliations and, in a drama that transfixed the nation through the fall of 1948, sat before the house Committee on Un-American Activities to name the names of his partners in espionage.

Chambers' testimony against Hiss cost Chambers his job. He also faced a windstorm of personal attacks - charges of mental illness, larceny and slanderous conduct - that might have destroyed him. The pressure was so great that one night in his room at his mother's Lynbrook home, where he had been staying during the Hiss trial, Chambers tried but failed to commit suicide by releasing cyanide gas. But Chambers did not waver on the witness stand. His testimony was firm and clear. Hiss was convicted of perjury and sent to prison.

After the trial, Chambers had initial success as a writer, particularly with his best-seller autobiography WITNESS and its moving chapter on his life at 228 Earle Avenue. But the market for his work shriveled, and he soon fell into a long period of virtual poverty. His poverty was relieved at last only when he inherited 228 Earle Avenue upon the death of his mother in 1958. Chambers returned to Lynbrook to supervise his mother's funeral and settle her estate. Pressed for cash, he sold the house on April 22, 1959. Two years later, on July 9, 1961, Whittaker Chambers died of a heart attack at his farm.


Whittaker Chambers' life was filled with contradictions. He was born into a family that lived at the edge of insanity, yet he had a warm and satisfying family life of his own as a husband and father. His life experiences consisted of a series of dramatic twists ranging from impoverished door-to-door egg salesman to well-paid senior editor at TIME, from Communist propagandist to translator of Bambi, from spy to public figure. As a youth in Lynbrook he was (as he described himself) both conservative and religious, but then rejected both capitalism and religion and turned to Communism. Finally, he reversed himself once more when he rejected the Communist Party and turned to God.

Although Chambers always felt socially apart in Lynbrook, throughout the changing drama of his life he strongly sensed and often wrote about the powerful influences of the village he grew up in, and of the house he returned to so often throughout his life. As Chambers' most recent biographer, Sam Tanenhaus, puts it in the concluding paragraph of his biography, Whittaker Chambers: "Since early childhood, when he awoke to the doom of Earle Avenue and resolved in his mind to escape it, Chambers knew he would never really be free. The instrument of history was also its captive."

But escape from Lynbrook is just part of the story. As we have seen, Chambers also retained an idyllic, albeit selective memory of some of the best things about his life in Lynbrook, memories which served him at key decision points in his life. For example, he wrote this about leaving Lynbrook on his life's journey, and about his return there during the Hiss Trial:

"I was about to set out from these quiet woods (to which I would return at the decisive moment of the Hiss Case) on a lifelong quest for that lost way, first in personal, then in revolutionary, then in religious terms."

And he wrote this about how he coped with the distress of his days-old break with Communism:

"…it was as if that spirit from my boyhood and youth took my hand and knelt and prayed beside me …"

Chambers truly believed that "no land ever again has such power over one as that in which a man was once a child". Now Lynbrook may soon recognize tragic and yet heroic Whitaker Chambers as an important historical figure, and recognize his boyhood home as worthy of a listing on the National and State Register of Historical Places.




Did Whittaker Chambers' testimony truly change history? Recent documentary evidence released from U.S. and Soviet files shows that the U.S. government was well aware of extensive Communist penetration, long before Chambers' testimony against Alger Hiss. Chambers' charges merely confirmed what others had already told federal investigators. Moreover, Alger Hiss had already been quietly pushed out of government, due to suspicions about his loyalty. It took Richard Nixon, then an obscure freshman member of the House of Representatives, to see that a Hiss prosecution could become a show trial. If a conviction could be obtained it would provide a springboard for his own political career and a foundation for attacks on the Democratic Party then in power. Chambers' testimony, which Nixon realized was the essential element in obtaining Hiss' conviction, enhanced Richard Nixon's career in a spectacular way, leading him from obscurity in 1948 to the Vice Presidency only four years later. One thing is certain: Chambers' testimony destroyed forever the life of his former good friend, Alger Hiss.

The pro-Hiss view sees Whittaker Chambers as a psychopathic liar and Twentieth Century Ancient Mariner, with an albatross --- the trial and conviction of the falsely accused Alger Hiss --- hanging around his neck. They believe the principal result of Chambers' lies was the anti-communist hysteria of McCarthyism and the shameful execution of the Rosenbergs, who were spies for the Soviets, when they were U.S. allies, and who were the parents of two young children.

Many Chambers advocates believe that Chambers' most powerful influence came after the trial, particularly with the publication and best seller status of WITNESS, an autobiography of undeniable literary and historical value. One overenthusiastic Chambers supporter writes: "But his [Chambers'] testimony was not yet complete. His great heart animated the conservative anti-communist movement that culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan and, a quarter-century after Chamber's death, the toppling of the Soviet empire." This may be true in part, but it also is hyperbole. The truth is somewhere between the two extremes.


For almost 50 years the question of the truth of Chambers' testimony and the validity of Hiss' conviction was hotly debated. Chambers' detractors continue to this day to call him a "pathological personality." Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, much information has been released in the U.S. and abroad documenting both the guilt of Alger Hiss and the existence of a dangerous Soviet spy network in the U.S. in the 1930's and 40's. In 1993 the Hungarian Communist-era archives were opened. A 1954 debriefing memorandum was found concerning a U.S. spy who had recently defected to the Communist side. The memo details the defector's intimate knowledge of Hiss' spying activities. In 1993 the U.S. State Department declassified documents from 1946 showing that Hiss had procured unauthorized top-secret reports on atomic energy and military intelligence. Within two weeks Hiss had been encouraged to resign from the State Department . In 1995 the National Security Agency authorized the release of secret Soviet cables that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence during World War II. The decoding operation was so secret that even President Truman was unaware of it. Hundreds of cables refer to the Soviet spy network and its hundreds of U.S. members. One cable dated March 30, 1945 makes reference to Alger Hiss and his ten years of valuable service as the "leading" Soviet spy in the U.S.


"The Alger Hiss Story - Search for the Truth." The Alger Hiss Research and Publication Project of the Nation Institute. [This site is financially supported by the Hiss Family]

Bath, Oliver. "Warm Friday." National Review, May, 1984.

Chambers, Whittaker. Witness. Random House, New York, 1952.

________________. Cold Friday. Random House, New York, 1964.

"Chambers, Whittaker." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online,,5716,22669+1,00.html

"Chambers Is Dead; Hiss Case Witness." New York Times - Obituary. William Fitzgibbon, July 12, 1961.

Douglas, Ann. "Review of Whittaker Chambers: A Biography By Sam Tanenhaus,"

"Fred Astaire Meets the Sad-sack Dostoyevskian Pudge" NATION Nov. 25, 1996 VOL. 148 NO. 24

Haynes, John Earl and Klehr, Harvey. Venona - Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999.

"Hiss, Alger. " Encyclopaedia Britannica Online,,5716,41464+1,00.html.

Jennings, Peter and Brewster, Todd. The Century (Doubleday, NY; 1998), 312

Judis, John B. "The Two Faces of Whittaker Chambers." The New Republic, Apr., 1984.

Kramer, Hilton. "Whittaker Chambers: the judgment of history." The New Criterion.

Mackintosh, Barry, National Registration of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form "Whittaker Chambers Farm" (National Park Service, Washington, DC; 1988).

"Reagan Honors Spy Who Recanted." NEWSDAY, 27 Mar., 1984.

"Telegram from Senator Joseph McCarthy to President Harry S. Truman"

Tanenhaus, Sam. Whittaker Chambers. Random House, New York, 1997.

"Venona - Soviet Espionage and the American Response - 1939-1957." From the CIA webpage,

"Vice Presidents of the United States - Richard Milhous Nixon (1953-1961)"

Weinstein, Allen. Perjury. Alfred Knopf, New York, 1972.

"Whittaker Chambers` Medal." National Review, Apr., 1984.



Whittaker Chambers' Timeline

By Arthur S. Mattson 8/11/2001

Source Key: P = Perjury T = Tanenhaus W = Witness



1901 0 Philadelpia Born April 1, 1901 W:91

1902 1 ?????????

1903 2 Brooklyn Apartment on Prospect Avenue T:3

1904 3 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Date purchased??? T:3

1905 4 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook W:89-188

1906 5 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1907 6 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1908 7 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1909 8 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1910 9 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1911 10 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1912 11 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1913 12 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1914 13 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1915 14 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1916 15 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1917 16 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Attends Lynbrook School W

1918 17 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook Transfers to Rockville Centre H.S. W

1919 18 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Graduates from RVC H.S. -- Travels to DC & New Orleans P:89

1920 19 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Columbia Univ - commutes fr. Lynbrook W:164

1921 20 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Columbia Univ - commutes fr. Lynbrook P:89

1922 21 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Columbia Univ - commutes fr. Lynbrook P:89

1923 22 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Left Columbia in Jr Yr -- To Europe for Summer -- On return temporarily moved out of Earle Ave to Manhattan W:164 T:38

1924 23 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Takes eve. job at NYC Public Libr (to 1927) -- To Atlantic Beach for summer -- Back to Columbia -- Leaves Columbia in Dec -- Back to 228 Earle P:92, W:38, 40

1925 24 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Becomes Communist -- Employed by Daily Worker 1925-9 T:56 W:195-6 T:49, P:71,101

1926 25 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Brother dies, suicide T:54, P:71

1927 26 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook & Whitestone Queens -- To Whitestone Queens in June 1927 T:61

1928 27 Whitestone Queens -- Translates "Bambi" into English P:71

1929 28 Manhatan East Rockaway 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- To Greenwich Vill summer -- East Rockawy fall, -- 228 Earle winter T:63

1930 29 Manhatan East Rockaway 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Manhattan -- East Rockaway "above a store opposite the RR sta" -- Manhattan T:65

1931 30 NYC, NJ & Lynbrook -- Marries Esther T:66

1932 31 NYC, NJ & Lynbrook -- Joins Communist underground T:86, P:71

1933 32 NYC, NJ & Lynbrook -- The spy years, 21 different addresses T:86, 154

1934 33 DC & MD -- The spy years, 21 different addresses T:96-98, W:336

1935 34 DC & MD -- The spy years, 21 different addresses

1936 35 DC & MD -- The spy years, 21 different addresses

1937 36 DC & MD -- The spy years, 21 different addresses T:112

1938 37 NY, MD, NJ PA -- Defects from the Party -- Hides out in FL, MD T:136-138

1939 38 MD & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Joins Time Magazine in NYC -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm W:518, T:156, T:170

1940 39 MD & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1941 40 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1942 41 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1943 42 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1944 43 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1945 44 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1946 45 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1947 46 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- Lives 5 days a wk in Lynbrook -- Commutes weekends to MD farm

1948 47 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- HUAC Hearings begin -- Leaves Time Magazine -- WC attempts suicide at 228 Earle W:765, 774

1949 48 MD Pipe Creek Farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook -- First Perjury Trial (hung jury, 8-4 to convict) -- 2nd Trial begins W:765 T:412

1950 49 MD farm & 228 Earle Ave, Lynbrook (in January only) -- Hiss convicted 1/21/50 -- Returns to writing, in MD W:765

1951 50 Pipe Creek Farm, MD -- Writer/farmer

1952 51 Pipe Creek Farm, MD -- Writer/farmer, autobiography "Witness" published T:461

1953 52 Pipe Creek Farm, MD -- Writer/farmer

1954 53 Pipe Creek Farm, MD -- Writer/farmer

1955 54 Creek Farm, MD -- Writer T:496

1956 55 Creek Farm, MD -- Writer

1957 56 Creek Farm, MD -- Writer

1958 57 Creek Farm, MD -- Writer -- Mother dies 06/05/1958 -- Inherits 228 Earle T:502 - Deed @ Lynbrook Building Dept Files

1959 58 Creek Farm, MD -- Sells 128 Earle 04/22/1959 -- Writer -- Travels to Europe Deed T:507

1960 59 Creek Farm, MD -- Writer in MD

1961 60 Creek Farm, MD -- Dies July 9, 1961 T:513