GARDEN CITY

THE BOROUGHS OF BROOKLYN AND QUEENS
COUNTIES OF NASSAU AND SUFFOLK, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK
1609-1924 by HENRY ISHAM HAZELTON

Garden City, as a community, goes back only a little farther than 1870. In 1667 the Dutch grant of the original township of Hempstead was held in common by sixty-six owners. They divided the land among themselves in that year; but for more than one hundred years pasture and almost marsh land continued to be held in common, this old form of Teutonic tenure being best. The site of Garden City figured in the town pasture. Sheep browsed there, and in the fall the owners sorted out their own, and there was a wholesale wool cutting in the spring. The cloth made from this wool was praised highly by the Governor, Lord Cornbury.

Flint in his history does not mention any school in Hempstead Town before 1721. George Sheresby in his school on Cow Neck, in 1748, and Nichols Berrington in the Flower Hill school, taught writing, arithmetic and grammar. The plains were a great pleasure ground for the British officers and also for the Dutch inhabitants of New York. Near New Hyde Park and Stewart Manor, now parts of Garden City village, was the famous Salisbury Race Course.

Near Catherdral Avenue and First Street there was an old race course, which drew the country folk every year at huckleberry time. It was called the Huckleberry Frolic.

In 1808 Samuel Denton and six associates filed a bill in the Court of Cancellery as heirs of the original patentees to establish their right in "the enjoyment of the undivided plains, marshes and beach to the exclusion of all others." This was an assertion that the heirs of the patentees, and not the Town of Hempstead, as a corporation, had rights to the common lands of which the site of Garden City formed a part. The action was dismissed in 1818. In 1821 North Hempstead instituted legal proceedings to obtain a part of the common lands of Hempstead on the ground that the division of the territory into two towns did not affect the rights of the heirs of the original patentees in North Hempstead to their quota of the common lands of South Hempstead. Chancellor Sanford decided that the lands in dispute were the property of the town of Hempstead as a corporation.

In 1859 the land had become a waste and the people decided that it should be sold. What was to be done with the proceeds they did not know. In town meeting resolutions were offered that the plains be surveyed to learn the number of acres in the commons. They were to be laid out in lost to correspond with each other in value, the whole number to agree with the whole number of voters in the town. The voters were to draw the lots by lottery. Each person entitled to a lot was to pay $5 toward the expenses of the survey and carrying out the scheme. Another idea was to map out the land and invest the proceeds for the benefit of the schools and the town poor. A local struggle followed.

In April, 1862, the State authorized the appointment of commissioners to sell the lands. Little was done, and in 1867 the Legislature authorized the freeholders and electors of the Town of Hempstead to sell their common lands, or any portion thereof. Charles T. Harvey offered $42 an acre for these commons in 1869. A special town meeting was called for July 17 for the purpose of voting on the sale of the lands to Harvey. The "Hempstead Sentinel" issued an extra on Monday, July 5, containing the offer of Alexander T. Stewart to buy the lands at the fantastic price of $55 an acre. A discussion followed with incidental misunderstandings among the commissioners, but Mr. Stewart's offer was accepted. Mr. Harvey fought against the award and sought to prevent the issuance of the deed by legal action. Judge Hilton, counsel for Mr. Stewart, applied for a writ of mandamus commanding the Supervisors and Town Clerk to deliver to Mr. Stewart a conveyance of the property. Justice Barnard declared that this was their duty. The deed was recorded on September 13, 1869, in the office of the County Clerk, Jamaica.

Early in 1870 plans for the development of Mr. Stewart's Garden City were well advanced. The land had been laid out in parks and streets. It was proposed to erect a large hotel in one of the finest parks near the railroad station. Dwelling houses of different styles of architecture were to be erected under the personal supervision of Joseph Kellum and cost from $5,000 to $15,000. Picket fences were to be built around all blocks so far laid out and trees planted. Many trees were brought from the famous Prince Nurseries at Flushing and they have given Garden City a rare collection of trees. The first dwelling house completed was on Rockaway Avenue at First Street. It cost $12,000 with its carriage house and was used as a temporary office by Mr. Kellum.

Mr. Stewart also bought twenty acres of land south of Hempstead village and gave it to the village as a cemetery. Resolutions were adopted in town meeting, April, 1870, accepting the gift--it was Greenfield Cemetery. Mr. Stewart offered to pay for removing the bodies from the old cemetery and for erecting new fences as good as the old.

In November, 1878, the body of A. T. Stewart was stolen from the family vault in the Cathedral Chapel at Garden City and a reward of $25,000 was offered for its recovery. The cover of the vault was of solid construction, and the robbers forced the cover of the adjacent vault, the family vault of J. H. Pickney of Second Street. They removed the body through the Pickney entrance. In time the reward of $25,000 was paid for the recovery of Mr. Stewart's body by Judge Hilton; whether the body placed in the Stewart vault as his was really that of Mr. Stewart remains one of Long Island's unsolvable mysteries to this day.

The first Garden City Hotel on the site still occupied was a square brick building. About ten rooms were for guests. Mrs. Stewart retained the exclusive use of the rest of the structure.

The Rev. R. Heber Newton in 1880 occupied the house at Rockaway Avenue and Second Street. The Sea View House was finished in 1882. St. Paul's School was nearing completion. Services were held in the chapel of the school, the only church in the village. The post office occupied the corner of a grocery, with Mr. Cunliffe in charge and Mrs. Doughty his assistant. Mrs. Doughty became postmaster and held the office for twenty-five years.

Dr. Scott's drug store was occupied afterwards by Thomas Rushmore. The public school occupied a room upstairs. Mr. Tracy, of the Cathedral, at times held evening services in the same room.

Of those who lived in Garden City in those days few remained in 1924. Among them were Thompson Hollister and the Misses Hollister, the Woods family and Albert Ross Parsons. The family of Mrs. Lee Robinson, the McKellars and Boardmans came a little later, as did Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Harris.

Mrs. Coles was widely known to the fiction lovers of the day. Colonel Gardiner, E. N. Townsend, Fr., the Rev. George R. Vandewater, Colonel Sawyer, Dean Cocks, Mrs. Wetheral, Richard Hunt, the Rev. Edward Jewett, famous architect, and Morris Ferris were conspicuous residents. Later Thomas W. Ball, Paul E. Stevens, Singelton Van Scheck, Judge Fuller, Mrs. McDonald K. Bryan, Colonel William J. Youngs, C. E. Gardiner and many other, classed with the old timers, either moved away or died.

Walter Hines Page, one of the most interesting and best loved residents lived for several years at 32 Cathedral Avenue. While a member of Doubleday, Page & Co., he was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1914. He filled the arduous post throughout the World War and returned home in 1919 just before his death. His "Letters" reveal a man of exceptional gifts.

The heirs of A. T. Stewart formed the Garden City Company soon after his death. It was managed by George L. Hubbell until the incorporation of the village, when he became first Village President.

The Garden City Company carried through to completion the project of A. T. Stewart to create a model residential centre near New York for persons of moderate means. Like Forest Hills, those attracted were of a refined and intellectual class, altogether well to do.

It is known as "the Cathedral Town of Long Island" and is the See of the Episcopal Diocese. Close about the cathedral, whose tall Gothic spire rises above the tree tops, is located St. Paul's School for boys and St. Mary's School for girls, which have a national reputation; also the famous Garden City Hotel in a beautiful park of thirty acres, ranking as one of the most superbly appointed hostelries in the East.

Garden City has the largest continuous tract of restricted territory in the vicinity of New York City. The climate is delightful, and the drinking water is of exceptional purity. The town has wide streets, well shaded by trees of mature growth, and beautiful parks kept in order by experience gardeners. The telephone and electric light wires are underground, and water works, electric light plant and sewage disposal plant are operated by the Garden City Company. It also has good police and fire protection.

With the exception of certain portions which have been reserved for trade purposes, all the property is restricted against nuisances and trade occupation. The greatest of care has been exercised in the selling of its property and the residents typify the highest standard of American citizenry. There exists no stronger reason for a home in Garden City than-its residents.

The Garden City Golf Club and the Cherry Valley Club are known the world over, many national matches having been contested over the former course. The excellent Salisbury Links, east of the village, are operated by the Garden City Hotel for the convenience of its guests, who are privileged to play thereon without charge. Because of its unequaled facilities for the sport, Garden City has the distinction of being called "The Golf Centre of the East."

To the east of Garden City is an extensive development with numerous houses, reached by trolley connection from Garden City station or from Country Life Press station.

A short distance from Garden City is Country Life Press station and standing in the center of a virtual flower garden is the plant of Doubleday, Page Company, publishers of "Country Life in America," "World's Work" and "The Garden Magazine." This company has constructed, nearby, numerous cottages in which those employed at the plant make their homes. The general layout of the plant, with its vine-covered arbors, flower gardens and shrubbery, tennis courts and swimming pool, is an example of how a manufacturing plant in the country can be made an object of beauty and a show place as well as adding to the health and happiness of its employees.

Garden City is 20.4 miles from New York and has a population of 2,600. Number of trains: Week days, 52; Sundays, 34; additional Saturday, 3. Latest train from New York, 1:30 a.m. Running time: Local, 48 minutes; express, 38 minutes.

George L. Hubbell, the President, was mainly responsible for the organization of the Garden City Bank. He interested the foremost business men of the place and the bank was a reality. The directors are; James Addison, B. L. Atwater, Warren Cruikshank, W. H. Duval, George L. Hubbell, George L. Hubbell, Jr., E. A. St. John, John F. Klipp, H. Louis Naisawald, Ernest B. Osborne, H. L. Smith, E. N. Townsend, C. P. Turner, Arthur E. Whitney, Wilfred L. Wright.

STEWART MANOR, in Nassau County, is the most westerly portion of the Hempstead Plains section and is contiguous to New Hyde Park, which adjoins the property on the north. About a score of dwelling houses have been erected on the property, all adjoining one another, making up a snug community.
It is on the Hempstead Branch, has electric light, and the stores, churches, and schools of New Hyde Park serve the people. It is 18.3 miles from New York.


~Links~

Garden City Library

Garden City- Website.

L.I.G.A.- History of the Long Island Golf Association-
75TH ANNIVERSARY- 1922-1997

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Edited by Linda Pearsall Harvey