When a coherent community grew up in the area by 1803, prominent local citizens sought to adopt a new name. An influential local lady, Mrs. Conklin, was used to living inland in what is now considered Dix Hills and was at unease with the home site that her grandchildren would be raised in. The bible-reading Mrs. Conklin compared the new hamlet to the biblical city of Babylon and proposed that name in apparent defiance of the area's rather bawdy reputation as a stop-over place for travelers on Long Island's south shore. Her son Nat was appalled by the use of an "unholy" name. The family legend states she replied: "But it will be a new Babylon." The name stuck, despite some effort to change it. The adjacent part of Islip town, an effective extension of Babylon, was originally considered as part of Babylon, or as East Babylon, but today is the hamlet of West Islip.
As now, the epitome of the luxury lifestyle was summering on the ocean. This led many affluent individuals and families to reside at Babylon's seaside resorts, both on the mainland and on barrier beach islands. Muncie Island, (was just north of Oak Beach, island was depleted for the construction of Ocean Parkway) was host to one of the most elite sanatoriums and nearby Saltaire was host to the Surf Hotel offering several hundred rooms to guests. Guests of the Surf would take the rail road to Babylon's trolley and then cross the bay by a ferry. Off Robins Avenue at Stone Dock was the South Shore Inn and Watson House on Fire Island Avenue was famed to be "L.I.'s most luxurious hotel" when it was built. Those of even greater wealth would have homes or compounds built on the shore or barrier beach islands for vacationing. Stage stop hotels include the La Grange Inn, now used as a catering hall and is actually in adjacent West Islip.
Some of Babylon's hotels:
The famous Argyle Hotel in Babylon was one of many built in the late 1800’s to accommodate wealthy summer visitors from New York City. It was constructed in 1882 by August Belmont, the LIRR and resort entrepreneur on the former estate of Brooklyn railroad magnate Electus B. Litchfield. Financing was provided by a syndicate headed by Long Island Rail Road President, Austin Corbin. The grounds, which included a large millpond, Blythebourne Lake became renamed Argyle Lake, for one of the hotel’s largest investors and town aristocrat, the heir to the Dukedom of Argyll. The renaming gave the Hotel & Park a more genteel English flavor yet the hotel proved a bad venture: it was near the end of the era of such projects, it was built much too large with 350 rooms, and so was rarely more than one-third filled. After about a decade of disuse, it was finally demolished in 1904, some of the structure being used to build homes west of the lake in the area now known as Argyle Park. In 1921, the land that is now Argyle Park was donated for passive recreation to the Village of Babylon,by J. Stanley Foster,Esq. This park is still popular, drawing substantial numbers of visitors from outside the community for fishing, strolling, the children's playground and especially for weddings, since the waterfalls make an attractive setting for picture-taking.
The park belonged to the estate of Effingham Sutton that later came into the ownership of Edwin Hawley, a U.S. railroad tycoon. Hawley demolished the Old Mill and parts of Sutton's Estate to erect an even more opulent estate including guest cottages, staff housing, and stables. Hawley turned the overflow from the Old Mill into a waterfall that matched and, some claim, exceeded the splendor of the still-existent Argyle Falls at Argyle Memorial Park. In addition to the falls, there were two bridges crossing the north side and mid-northeast side of the lake in many old postcards and photographs. The north side bridge was likely the bridge that carried George Street over the stream feeding Hawley's Pond, before New York Highway 231 was put through the area.
The Hawley Estate was gated off from the public with hedges and grand ornate estate fencing so that the public rarely saw its vast luxuries and amenities. In the late 1960s the site of Hawley's Pond was in a rundown state, being unkempt and dilapidated. When Route 231 was being built, Hawley's Lake Park lost all hope of being repaired and restored to its former glory: the routes northern and southern terminus were run directly through the estate. Some sources even claim that the lake was made considerably smaller and partially filled in during the expressway's construction. Today Hawley's Lake Park is an unused resource due mostly for its lack of parking and lack of Village concern. The aging grand falls were replaced with a more modern less ornate and less attractive setup. The Babylon Beautification Society tries from time to time to maintain the site, although no plan has proved considerably successful. Since there is no parking at the site, and access by families that might otherwise want to use it, is constrained by the necessity of crossing active highway lanes. The park is little used except by dog-walkers and fisherman by day and vagrants and youth intrusion at night, creating problems of alcohol consumption, sporadic vandalism and broken glass. Between the park and the Lake Drives in West Islip and the northern terminus of Route 231 is a small group of ponds also belonging to the former Effingham Park. This portion is no longer designated as park property and is accessible to the homes on Lake Drive South and Lake Drive North. The overflow pool from Hawley's Fall opens into two tunnels beneath Main Street that drain into Sumpwams River, known locally as East Creek, and eventually into Great South Bay.
The team went on to become the "world colored champions" of 1887 and 1888, and spawned imitators.
Babylon Village today has three baseball fields for the high school, little league and adult play, and the high school team is named the Babylon Panthers. The Babylon Panthers varsity baseball team won Long Island chapionships in 2005-2006, and the New York State championship in 2007. The village also has one of Long Island's older continuous African-American communities, of which the employees of the Argyle are said to have formed the core. This community still maintains two of the village's 12 churches, the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, both on Cooper Street.
Another prominent African-American, the film actress Thelma (Butterfly) McQueen, moved with her family from her birthplace of Tampa, Florida to live on Cottage Row in Babylon, where she went on to graduate from Babylon High School and then pursued her acting career before later attending several universities and attaining a degree in political science. Cottage Row still exists but no longer has any housing on it, falling prey to parking space for business district stores...
Today the village is best known for its restaurants and shops, and hosts shopping events during the fall as well as a popular crafts fair.
A statue of Robert Moses was erected in front of the Village Hall on Main Street (Montauk Highway) in 2003.
Areas of large old homes and less formal mansions exist in a number of areas, including on Fire Island Avenue, Crescent Avenue and Thompson Avenue on Sumpawam's Neck, the area in between West Creek (Carll's River) and East Creek (Sumpawams River), the main body of the village between Main Street and the Bay.
Because of this history, and the general unavailability of large tracts of building land, Babylon Village has very few tract houses or developments. Some of the few area developed after World War II reflected the conversion of remaining farms and remains of large estates and mansions. There areas generally contain 1950s-style ranch houses, but there are some characteristic Long Island split level homes and high ranches.
Areas of large new homes are on formerly undeveloped or reclaimed former wetlands developed during the late 1940s through 1970s, including on Lucinda and Peninsula Drives, with estate-like homes such as that of Bret Saberhagen until 2001. Most of the affluent homes built in these new areas were large ranch houses, popular in the time of building, but much less favored today. In the last decade and continuing to the present, many of these houses have been expanded by adding a story and changing their style to more colonial appearance.
Babylon Village has also experienced the modern phenomenon in which small sound houses on desirable lots have been purchased and torn down by affluent recent purchasers and replaced with as large houses as zoning will permit, meaning that the new home builder has paid the price of a home just to obtain the lot.
The Long Island Rail Road's south shore electrified line begins at Babylon insuring riders a seat and a short ride to mid town Manhattan.
Most of the residents of the Village of Babylon are served by the Babylon Union Free School District (UFSD). Since the school district lines are not coextensive with the village boundaries, as is common on Long Island, some residents of Babylon Village are in the West Babylon UFSD and, conversely, some residents of North Babylon go to the village schools, as well as residents of Oak Island, Oak Beach, Gilgo, West Gilgo, and Captree Island across the Great South Bay.
Babylon Village children who live in the West Babylon School District (all of Babylon Village west of Route 109 and all of Little East Neck south of Cambridge Drive) are served by these schools:
The poet Walt Whitman, forced to find work after fires in New York City in 1835 devastated the printing and publishing industry, took work at a number of Long Island "country schools." Among them was West Babylon's school, located midway between Little East Neck and Great East Neck Roads, just west of the current village boundary, and now occupied by a supermarket, where he taught in the winter of 1836-37.
There were 4,554 households out of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.6% were married couples living together, 9.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.0% were non-families. 21.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.20.
In the village the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 23.3% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.
According to a 2006 estimate, the median income for a household in the village was $70,879, and the median income for a family was $82,164. Males had a median income of $58,059 versus $38,770 for females. The per capita income for the village was $30,846. About 2.1% of families and 4.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.9% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.