Up in Coram
Mill Road in Coram one can spot a small Cape Cod house sitting on
the east side of the road. At a quick glance it appears no different
from thousands of other Post World War II Cape Cod homes. To the
casual passer by this house appears to be ordinary, but…if the
rafters could talk, they would have quite the story to tell.
The Manzoni rafters
could tell the story of how the house was built in the 1740’s by the
Reverend Noah Hammond who left Connecticut to serve as the Baptist
Minister at Coram. This home was used as the Church’s meeting place
until a church could be built. Hammond was an ardent Patriot, and
had two sons who served in the local militia during the American
Revolution. Colonel Talmadge, as ordered by General Washington,
passed by this house on his way to destroy 300 tons of hay collected
at Coram for use by the British cavalry. Eventually the home was
purchased by the Higbies. The photo used in this story shows Mr. and
Mrs. Higbie. Mrs. Higbie is wearing the dress she wore to the
funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. The house was bought in the
early 1900s by the Manzoni family and following is a story by Elsie
My Mother Isolina Bocchi Manzoni came to New
York City from Italy in 1923. My Father Louis Manzoni came to the
United States from Italy in 1922. They met in New York City and were
married in 1924.
Louis and Isolina purchased the house, barn
and 4 ½ acres of land in Coram in 1927 for $1,500 from Grace Higbie.
They had saved $500., borrowed $500 and the Higbie family held a
mortgage for $500. The Manzoni family owned the house and farm until
2002 (75 years). Louis and Isolina had two children Lino (Lee) and
The appearance of the house is very similar to
the picture below. The shape on the outside is the same, but we put
asbestos shingles on the outside, put a picture window in, and
inside we remodeled quite a bit, making rooms smaller, put in a full
modern kitchen, put in a bathroom, laundry room, made rooms
upstairs, changed doorways, put in closets , etc. As we were
dismantling one of the fire places we came across a hidden area that
we had not known was there. My brother Lee and I got all excited
thinking that there might be some papers in there from the past that
would give us more of an insight on what the people were like who
had lived there. Unfortunately the box inside was empty. We were
Hammond Higbie home circa
Manzoni house 2006
One of the things that was very interesting to
me were the walls inside the house that partitioned the rooms. The
inside walls were made of two rows (or wall) of wood boards. In
between the wood boards there were some wood logs (in place of 2 by
4's) but it was also filled with stone, sand, and anything else
they could find around the farm and mixed with water...then stuffed
in-between the two rows of wood boards that made the walls. That
was very interesting especially to my brother and I. That the
builders were so ingenious to use everything at hand to make
the house stronger, warmer and quieter. It was like having
insulation between the walls separating the rooms. There is still
one wall that I can think of, that is still there underneath the
more modern look of today. Every time I reminisce about being born
and growing up in that house, I feel like I was part of history.
And of course we put in running water and a
heating system with baseboard heat. At the time that we were living
in it we all wanted a more modern, efficient house, but now I am
sorry that we even touched it. It would have been great to have the
house in the original state today.
The structure has old logs that supported the
walls that still had stump parts where the branches used to be. We
put a basement under the house and now you can actually see the logs
better from underneath.
For many years we did not have electricity or
telephones. We got the telephone around 1939, although electricity
came a little bit earlier. In the early years we used lanterns with
white gas in them for lighting, and a large wood burning stove for
cooking. That stove made the best bread that I have ever tasted. We
did not have running water inside the house. Our heat came from 2
fireplaces and the wood burning stove.
The three trees out in front of the house near
the road we took down years ago, but the two Locust trees on the
east side of the house are still there.
Even though it was hard times during the
depression years that started in 1929, both my Father and Mother
thought of many ingenious ways to survive and feed their family.
They were not afraid of hard work and both did a lot of it. In the
early years My Father worked in New York City doing construction
work while my Mother stayed at the farm with the two children and
tended to the few animals (a cow and some chickens) and a large
garden, which helped to give them extra food. Soon co- workers asked
my Father to bring them some of the fresh eggs from his farm. This
eventually grew into a door to door 2 day egg route in New York
City. My Mother also had a
summer Boarding House for children from New York City. Because of
the depression, these mothers had to work and could not look after
the children during the summer months. It was also company for the
two Manzoni children as they were growing up.
Aerial view of the Manzoni farm.
Around 1932 when my brother Lee was about seven
we had a very heavy deep snow storm. Because my folks were adults,
their weight made them sink every time they tried to walk in the
snow. This made it almost impossible for them to even go to take
care of the animals, let alone walk any great distance. Because Mill
Road was impassable, we were concerned about our neighbors Andrew
and Palma Pinelli who also had two small children Gloria and Albert.
(remember neither of us had electric or telephones at that time).
Fortunately the top of the snow had frozen fairly hard and made a
light crust on top. My brother decided at seven that he was light
enough to walk on top of the snow to go to the Pinelli house. We
tied two pieces of board to his shoes and legs. My parents were very
worried about him going beyond where we could see him because if he
would have fallen in the snow, we would not have known it and it
would have been very difficult for my parents to get to him. When
the Pinelli family heard a knock on their door and saw this small
boy standing there, they had tears in their eyes that he would have
attempted this trip in such bad weather in order to check on their
safety. Luckily he made it to the Pinelli house and back safely with
the news that they were all fine.
Living on a farm was a tremendous help in
raising our family. We had vegetables from our garden. Milk and
cheese from the cows, and eggs from the chickens. We also raised a
pig every year, which we bartered with a butcher friend, who came
and slaughtered the pig, and cut it up into roasts and chops,
salami, sausage, etc. that would last us over the winter. In
exchange we gave him half of the pig.
As the farm grew, we needed more property for
the cows to graze on. Therefore we purchased a large piece of land
that was connected to the original farm, just east of it. In latter
years we also purchased a large piece of property across the street
from the farm, which was owned by the Higbie family. We had two dogs
Spotty & Queeny who were mixed breeds with Australian Shepard in
them. They were great at rounding up all the 100 cows to make sure
they all came in for milking. We had to stop the cars on Mill Road
to let the cows come safely across the street. People did not mind
the wait in their cars as they enjoyed seeing the parade of cows
we had the dairy business, we had 5 trucks that delivered milk and
milk products "door-to-door" directly to your home. People could
also come to the farm and purchase the milk and milk products. This
was especially helpful when the Unionized Milk Delivery workers went
on strike. No milk was delivered to the stores by them. People
came from all over Long Island to our farm to buy milk for
their babies and young children.
brother Lee was a very smart man and as he got to be a teenager, was
very instrumental in enlarging the farm and building the Dairy
business. He also knew how to do carpentry, plumbing, heating and
some electrical work. This was a tremendous asset in remodeling the
house, enlarging the barn, etc. He also built most of his own home
which was located at one end of the farm.
Supermarkets came to our area, the door-to-door milk delivery
service was not needed any more. That is when my Father and Lee
sold the cows and Dairy Routes, and the barn was then rented to
someone who used it to house horses. My brother Lee then turned to
Real Estate and opened his own office in Middle Island. Later it
was moved to Mt. Sinai where his son Raymond owns and runs it to
have some fond memories of growing up on a farm, although it was a
lot of hard work. Even when we were older we were never able to go
on vacation because there were always animals that had to be taken
care of. In the early depression years we had very, very little,
but so did everyone else. Everyone was poor in those days but we
didn't realize it. We were happy. I think that we grew up in the
best times. We didn't have much, but we had love and each other.
And we were always there to help one another. It was a good life.
was a small schoolhouse on Mt Sinai Road (right behind the old Davis
(Judge Davis) homestead. I went there for one year. Then went
to another school house (Next to the Coram Firehouse that has been
preserved). I went there for 2 years. I was very
young when I went to the one room school house (1st, 2nd and 3rd
grade) but it was wonderful because everyone helped one another. The
older children would help the younger slower child with the school
work. And because there were no bathrooms inside the school
the older kids would help the younger ones (especially in the winter
months) get completely bundled up to go to the outside bathroom
called the "Outhouse". Many times an other boy (for the boys), or
as older girl (for the girls) would accompany the younger children
and help them with the heavy clothing and boots, etc. It was
almost like having an extended family in school. Everyone knew each
other and helped one another (adults and children alike) when
possible. It was wonderful. Many of us are still friends to this
day even though we have all gotten married, and many moved away from
all the surrounding towns went to Port Jefferson Elementary and High
School in Port Jefferson. That is where I went for the remainder of
my elementary years and my high school years, graduating in 1948.
life in Coram was very rural but fun. Everyone knew one another and
that made it extremely friendly. Everyone helped one another. We
did some bartering in the yearly years, if we could, because no one
had much money during the depression years. The children went to 4H
classes where the young girls learned about homemaking, and the boys
learned about farming.
Children did not have store bought toys. They improvised and made
their own toys. We used a Straight stick for a bat and if someone
was lucky enough to have a ball, we had a baseball game. We got one
of the old cans from our mothers cooking, and made a game out of it
called "kick the can". We borrowed, from whoever was fortunate
enough to have something (ice skates or roller skates, bicycles,
etc) whether they fit or not. We
played cards. But we were never
bored because we also all had chores to do at home. Everyone helped
no matter how old you were or what sex you were.
Elsie Manzoni with friend Mary Pinotti
loved to play card games but the boys didn't want to play unless
there was one of these "punishments" for the loser.
“punishment” was what we called "Knuckles". The loser would have to
make a fist with his hands and the winner would "slap " or "skin"
the knuckles with a full deck of cards. Depending on how badly you
lost, is how many times you got skinned. That hurt.
Another "punishment" was--- the loser had to bend their arm closed
as much as they could, and the winner would make a continuous circle
movement with the palm of his hand over the hair on your arm at the
elbow joint. This made your hair go into knots and it was then very
difficult for you to open your arm again. That also hurt very
much. The boys would sometimes love to play that trick on an
unexpectant adult male because their hair was longer and would
really get knotted.
also played "Cowboy and Indians in the woods across the street.
That was fun because we actually had some of the Indian or Soldier
trenches that they once used. We could hide in those trenches very
also played the game "Tag" One person was picked to be "It" and
that person had to run around after the rest of the kids and have to
"tag" someone. The person that was "tagged" would then be "It".
Sometimes this happened so fast that you were not sure who was "It"
and therefore not know who to stay away from. You would be "tagged"
because you would not know that person was "It" at that time.