The KKK in Port Washington
Glen DeSalvo, Trustee
Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society
The 1920’s was a controversial decade in Port Washington’s history. A resurgence in popularity of the Ku Klux Klan across America infiltrated many small towns on Long Island including Port Washington.
The Port Washington Klan appeared to be more of a fraternal organization rather than the violent Klan that terrorized the Southern United States in the nineteenth century. They did little to conceal their identities. They even purchased the Phoebe Burtis homestead at the intersection of Port Washington Boulevard and Bogart Avenue as their headquarters.
Many residents opposed Klan ideology and neighbors became enemies. There were several attempts to burn down the Port Washington Klan headquarters. During one
such attempt in 1928, police officer John Warner confronted two arsonists and gun fire was exchanged. No one was injured and the arsonists escaped.
By the end of the 1920’s the popularity of the Klan quickly faded and by 1940 it was virtually extinct.
For three days in May of 1925, over 3,000 Klan members from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut congregated at the twenty-acre Cox field behind Pleasant Avenue for a Klan Konclave. It was an organized event hosted by the Port Washington Klan and no violence was reported.
Make no mistake: While this is a controversial topic it is still part of Port Washington's history. The KKK targeted blacks, Jews, Catholics and basically anyone who was not white and protestant. During the 1920's their main target was European immigrants.
Top Photo: The Port Washington chapter of the Ku Klux Klan pose for a group photo.[Private Collection]
Bottom Photo: "Ku Klux Klan Assembling for Meeting - 5/22/25 - Port Washington, L.I., New York: The Ku Klux Klan assembled again, but without disorder. A scene at the grounds where 3,000 Klansmen are meeting near Port Washington, L.I. in a three-day konclave." [Getty Images]
"Klan to Stage Rally. A Gathering of 25,000 is Expected at Port Washington" - New York Times; May 21, 1925
"Klan Clubhouse Fired at Port Washington" - New York Times; Oct 10, 1928