From Central Park Historical Society Encyclopedia
Alma (Salo) amd Robert Knapp were an unlikely couple. She was a Finnish girl who, unhappy at home, boarded a ship and came to America to start a new life. Now, Robert was an Austrian who did not want to serve in the Austrian army and he looked to America as giving him the opportunity for a life with new hope. They boarded ships, Robert in October 1900 in Bremen, and Alma in October 1904 in Liverpool, and they both ended up in New York City. They both found work in a New York City kitchen each speaking only their native language, had the culture of their homeland, but in spite of the differences, they fell in love and married on December 1, 1906.
They lived in a brown stone in New York City where their daughters were born, Annalisa Ilma (Betty) born August 26, 1907, and Impi Ilma (Peggy) born April 25, 1909. Here they attended a Lutheran church where the services were held in the Finnish language.
In 1915 they purchased a home in Central Park in the area known as Swedetown, north Central Park, on Spruce and Floral Avenue. The country was their refuge from the hot city during the summer months. A place to garden, raise chickens, fields for children to play and explore with trees to climb, berries to pick, daisy chains to be made. The summer retreat in Central Park soon became their year round home. A son was born to the Knapp family on August 27, 1918, John Robert Knapp, and another daughter, Helen, born March 2, 1915, made the family complete.
The Knapp family also provided a home for two young boys who needed a home and love of a family, Eino Hariu and William (Bill) Makie. The Knapp children considered them brothers.
The Knapp children attended Powell Avenue School and St. Paul's Lutheran Church. Robert Knapp provided for his family, at first commuting to NYC via LIRR, and later found employment in a glass factory in Hicksville where he was able to walk to work.
When World War II broke out John went into the Army. He had been wounded in action and was awarded the Purple heart as he was a POW of the German Army.
The Knapp children - children of immigrants - in search of a better life for themselves and their future familes, are proud of their heritage and the family continues to grow. The Hariu, Makie, Rafenski, Albertson, Starke, Cruz, Hagstrom, Johnson, Reynolds, Hance, Verdi, Penge, and Smith, familes can be proud to acknowledge they are a part of the Knapp family tree. The grandchildren of Tom and Jeanne (Albertson) Hance, (Hance, Verdi, Penge, Smith) are the 5th generation of the Knapp family to grow-up in Bethpage.
The following, on the Knapp Family, was submitted by Karen (Sugar) Starke Cruz Knapp - Edited by Ann Albertson - Hard Copy on file Sugar's mom, Betty Knapp Starke, told of her mother and father coming to NYC and worked in a hotel- grandpa (Austrian) as a cook and bartender, grandma (Finish) as a chambermaid. Grandpa Knapp was determined to learn the English language and refused to speak his native language as this was now his home and where he gets his bread and butter. When they bought the homestead in Central Park there were fields to clear, berries to pick and dandelions for making wine. The homestead had no electricity, oil lamps, a well for water, an outhouse, coops for the chickens, lofts to sleep for guests. I have fond recollections of the house - the little kitchen, which welcomed all, the living room/dining room, the old wind up Victrola with the vintage records, all surrounded by the many treasures grandma accumulated (some things are the same!). There were the bustle dresses and high button shoes stored in the attic while outdoors the vines grew, flowers, and gardens surround the house - truly a very special place! A place where the families of now grown children would gather on Sundays, in ones Sunday's best dress, for cousins to play, moms to sew and talk.
I, Ann Albertson, became acquainted with the Knapp family/Swedetown in 1954. The homestead located on Floral and Spruce, where the "Welcome Mat" was always out greeting family, friends and neighbors. The home did not contain the things we consider important, but it had a special, loving charm where Grandma Knapp spent her last days surrounded and cared for by her loving family.