Housed in a former courthouse, the Hicksville Gregory Museum features collections that highlight earth science, natural history and the history of the area. Among these are unique specimens of glittering minerals, a collection of fossils that show the outlines of birds, fish and more. In addition, there are exhibits of butterflies from around the world, a bit about the local history of this area of Long Island, and even a jail cell that once was used to incarcerate criminals.
The building itself is significant to Long Island's history. Once the Heitz Place Courthouse, it was built in 1895 on land that was originally deeded to the Town of Oyster Bay by Arnold G. Heitz for a meeting hall, known to locals as the Village Hall. In the early 1900s, the courthouse's original two-cell jail was expanded into three cells. One still remains and can be viewed by visitors to the museum. During the World War I era, the courthouse became the headquarters of the Selective Service for Eastern Nassau County. The building was later renovated and has been the home of the Hicksville Gregory Museum in 1973. One year later, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Teachers and scout leaders, take note: the museum offers a variety of educational program s and hands-on activities for groups of all age levels. There is no charge for Hicksville public or private school students. However, there may be a class fee for the cost of materials. There are also tours of the museum and programs for senior citizen and other groups.
Geode at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
Among the many beautiful rocks on view at the Hicksville Gregory Museum is this glittering geode. Sometimes formed over millions of years, a geode is a mineral deposit that fills in hollow areas of soil like animal burrows, clay pockets that have washed out of sedimentary rocks or holes that remain when tree roots have rotted away. Geodes can also be formed within the gaseous bubbles of volcanic rocks like basalt. The name derives from a Greek word that means "earthlike," and refers to the generally round shape of these rocks.
When minerals slowly seep into these holes in the ground, they deposit tiny crystals along the edges. An outer form hardens, and as time passes, layer upon layer of crystals grow toward the center and eventually fill most of the inside of the hole.
Sometimes geodes contain large crystals of quartz or amethyst.
Pyrite at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
A large specimen of pyrite or "fool's gold" sparkles in all its geometric glory at the Hicksville Gregory Museum in Nassau County, Long Island, NY.
The mineral was named for an ancient Greek word for fire because pyrite creates sparks when it is hit with other rocks. Although its shining appearance and yellow-toned color resemble a more precious mineral, all that glitters is not gold, as the proverb says. Pyrite is actually much lighter than real gold, but if you try to scratch it with your nail, it won't leave a mark, as it might with gold.
Phosphorescent Rocks at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
One of the most fascinating exhibits at the Hicksville Gregory Museum features a broad variety of rocks that glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet light. These are known as phosphorescent minerals. When a museum docent turns off the regular lights and flips a switch to the ultraviolet light in the exhibit, bright shades of neon green, blue, purple and other hues will glow from the rocks in the collection.
Amber With Centipede and Termites
When resin oozed down ancient trees, the sticky substance often trapped insects, leaves and more. After a million years or more, this resin hardened and transformed into a transparent, golden-hued fossil called amber.
In this amazing insect fossil specimen from Colombia, South America, on view at the Hicksville Gregory Museum, no less than one hundred termites, one centipede and several gnats can be seen, preserved for over one million years in the amber since the Pleistocene epoch.
Trilobite Fossil at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
Trilobites are extinct marine animals that most likely were bottom dwellers deep on the ocean floor over 500 million years ago. Their bodies were divided into three parts, and hence the name "tri" (three)-lobite (lobe). The outside of their bodies was a hard skeleton, much like those of today's crabs and lobsters.
The Hicksville Gregory Museum's fossil collection includes this fine example of a trilobite.
Bird Fossil at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
This fossil exhibited at the Hicksville Gregory Museum was found in China. This excellent specimen clearly shows a type of bird that became extinct 65 million years ago. The fossil dates from the late Jurassic period, 199 to 145 million years ago, a 54 million year time span during the Mesozoic Era.
Petrified Wood at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
At the Hicksville Gregory Museum, petrified wood and coral fossils are on exhibit next to dinosaur bone fragments and other exhibits from past geological ages. Other fossils on view include a sycamore leaf from 46 million years ago, a fish from the Upper Cretaceous period (98 to 65 million years ago) and other excellent specimens.
Jail Cell at the Hicksville Gregory Museum
As you wend your way through the Hicksville Gregory Museum on Long Island, NY, you'll notice a jail cell. Don't worry. They're not incarcerating people who haven't paid the admission fee. This is just the only surviving remnant of the three original cells in the building, which is a former courthouse.
Built in 1915 by the Pauly Jail Company of St. Louis, Missouri, only one of the original cells is still in the building. Because this one had a steel plate door that separated it from the others, it was often used for women prisoners to afford them greater privacy, and also for solitary confinement for male or female prisoners.
In the early 20th century, Hicksville was known as a resort community for German-American immigrants who lived in New York City. Since the prisoners' meals were provided by residents in the area who were later reimbursed by the court, some weekend visitors would try to get arrested for a minor infraction so they would have a good meal and a free place to sleep!
Ulysses Swallowtail Butterfly - Hicksville Gregory Museum
The Hicksville Gregory Museum features a collection of colorful butterflies in all sizes and shapes from around the world. Here, the Ulysses swallowtail butterfly shines with a vibrant blue-and-black color scheme.
The Hicksville Gregory Museum - Long Island Earth Science Center is located in the Old Hicksville Courthouse, Heitz Place, Hicksville, NY (near Bay Avenue and Woodbury Road. If you are a Hicksville resident, museum admission is free (with proof of residence.) Admission is also free for museum members. The museum is wheelchair accessible.
The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays.