2016-09-01 / Columnists

The life and times of Babylon’s Benjamin Field

Good Ole daze
by Stanis Beck

The Field home.The Field home.Part II

In May, the 1989 edition of National Geographic, in an article entitled, “U.S. History in a Box,” pointed out interest in an old tin box preserved for over 100 years in the family of Benjamin Field, that was sealed in 1889. All Babylon Village locals were eagerly hoping the contents would relate directly to George Washington’s inauguration, but it actually contained materials (like commemorative medals and news articles, etc.) in celebration of the “centennial” of Washington’s inauguration, in 1889. The historic box opening was broadcast on April 30, the 200th anniversary of Washington’s inauguration on TBS National Geographic Explorer, and facilitated an ongoing connection to Field and his beloved Babylon practically to this day!

As to gardening, another of Benjamin Field’s many artistic talents, “He has al- ways been greatly interested in horticultural pursuits and his vegetable gardens… were looked upon as among the best in the Village…Of later years Mr. Field devoted his leisure moments to the cultivation of flowers and his rose and flower gardens for several years was the Mecca of persons residing in Babylon, and other places, who loved and revered the beauty of flowers. Never allowing a moment for idleness, Mr. Field toiled with his characteristic ambition until he had converted his back door yard into one of the most charming panoramas that the eye could wish to imagine.” (His beloved fence was probably an important part of the artful floral scenes he created in his lush, spectacular yards, always adding to the beauty of his beloved Babylon.)

Lucky enough to have an opportunity, recently, to view the majestic and lovely interior of the Benjamin Prince Field house, at 60 George, St., Babylon, one is struck by the five-layer crown moldings bordering the 12-foot ceilings with detailed plaster center medallions, the original tin roofing in the hallway, the lovingly restored original oak plank flooring, along with many of the original wood paneled doors and even some of the original etched glass windows, still all a work of art – not surprisingly – in and of itself. With only two fireplaces in this historic three-story home, one being in the basement, one wonders if perhaps it was built as a 12-room summer cottage originally, as were so many others in the area. According to the current co-owner, Robert J. Adler, despite the fact that the house needed much work, he could see, apparently like Mr. Field, that it had “good bones” and once he heard the brass twist front door ringer, original and boldly melodic, he was sold! Now back to its former glory, Benjamin Prince Field, truly an artist for all seasons, would be very proud to see this lovely restored “cottage” still standing so majestically and “conducting” business at the corner of George and Cooper streets in his much loved Babylon Village, even absent his beloved old fence.

The Old Picket Fence

The old picket fence at the little front yard,

Is worm-eaten, moss-covered and gray;

They are most of them gone, and some of them loose,

And the bottom boards rotted away…

Nature has rimmed it with garlands of green,

And she washes them clean with her showers;

And the bees and humming birds often are seen,

Sipping honey from sweet little flowers…

When I see the old fence, sometimes little tears,

Will come like the summer sunshowers;

For, like the grave mounds, it has welcomed for years,

The return of the vines and sweet flowers

(Much of this material was provided by the Town of Babylon History Museum; Babylon Reminiscences; Beauties of Life and Other Poems; NY Genealogical and Biographical Record, volume 50; National Geographic, Vol. 175, No 5, May, 1989 and special thanks to Robert J. Adler for his generous time and graciousness in providing a complete walk-through of this beautiful, historic site.)

Stanis Beck, member, Babylon Village Heritage Conservancy, stanisbeck@optonline.net

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