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Garden City, Long Island (1870-1882)
Publishing date: 27.02.2008

A very short anthology of just three articles from The New York Times: purchase, surveying, strategy and first results of a great plan for the grandmother of leafy contemporary suburbs

Hempstead Plains. Another purchase by A.T. Stewart. The lands and the improvements. The New-York and Long IslandBridge project,The New York Times, February 7, 1870

Since the original purchase of the Hempstead Plain lands by A. T. Stewart, comprising 7,000 acres, he has made an addition thereto of 1,000 acres of private lands adjoining, paying therefore from $250 to $400 per acre, and now owns in one compact and symmetrical tract 8,000 acres of level land, most of it available and easy of cultivation, and distant but twenty miles from this City. His main object in the subsequent purchases is to strengthen the boundary lines of the estate. For this purpose Oliver S. Denton & Son are constantly engaged in surveying and locating avenues and in establishing the grades, and in mapping out the embryo city. The chief sphere of their operations is now between Hempstead and Mineola, and to the west of the latter place for about four miles. This section of the plains is now being laid out in avenues eighty feet wide, running at right angles to each other. Those from east to west will be separated by spaces of five hundred feet in width. Those running from north to south will be distant from each other one hundred feet. Each lot will contain one and half acres, and on them houses will be built setting back seventy-five feet from the avenues. On such of the avenues as have been completed trees have been planted, and trees are now being planted on others.

The soil in many places being of a black loam, which in the Spring and Fall makes heavy travel, the roads are being gravelled as well as graded. It is expected that by about the 1st of April one hundred miles of roads ad avenues will be ready for grading. A double track to connect with the Long Island Railroad at Farmingdale will be built through the southern portion of the lands pointing towards Jamaica. The surveyors have taken a profile of the ground, making its altitudes and depressions for a distance of four miles, and where the valleys are too abrupt have provided for more easy slopes. One fine house, to cost $11,000, has already been raised, and it is thought probable that Mr Stewart will, when once fairly under way with his great enterprise of founding another “City on the Plains,” sell these houses to such a are desirous of purchasing, and if the project proves to be feasible will prosecute his improvements to the eastward. East Meadow brook, whose head lies directly south of Westbury, is a splendid stream of pure, clear, swift-running water, capable of easy conversion into a series of fine trout ponds. On its west bank the ground is elevated some fifteen feet above the bed of the brook, and affords many really picturesque views of the surrounding country.
Mr. Stewart recent connection with the proposed amendment to the New-York and Long IslandBridge bill, has led many to suppose that his railroad terminus will be near the bridge on the Long Island side. Surveyors Conklin and Shaw of Jamaica, have commenced the survey of the first of the three proposed routes, all of them to be surveyed and mapped by the 1st of April.

Our prospective gardens. The awakening of enterprise and consequent improvements on Long Island. The effect of a new railway line, and A.T. Stewart capital, The New York Times, March 20, 1870

Soon after the enterprise of the mercantile men of New York had determined its future as the national center of trade, Long Island, on account of its geographical position, and geological and climate peculiarities, was recognized as the prospective garden, and the same view is held today.
There are some hundreds of thousands of acres of land through the center of the island as undisturbed as the wildest land in the West. This primeval condition is now, however, undergoing a change. Within the last decade the strain of Holland blood which still pervades the more staid inhabitants has been seriously perturbed.
There has gone out to this wild region many City families, until now there are inhabitants all along the Central Railroad line, most of whom are doing well. Knowledge of those fact, after years of effort, reached New-York, and the desire for small farms on the more genial south side of the island grew rapidly. The only retarding condition was the absence of adequate means of transportation. The call for a South side Railroad was at length heeded, and the natives were really awakened to the probabilities of the former, though still deeming them improbabilities for a century or two to come. While yet troubled by the prospect of change in so short a time, there came the alarming offer of A.T. Stewart, the millionaire, to people Hempstead Plains. That proposition awoke – in fact, somehow, startled – the native mind. So thoroughly were the people of that region persuaded of the impossibility of improving the Plains, that they were regarded as common property, and were given over to the free sustenance of few vagrant cows. And yet here was a man, famous for success, seeking them as a desirable field for future effort and future private and public gain.

And now came the awakening of native enterprise. First, however, and by way of making all possible provision against increase of cost on their improved lands, they resolved to lay a tax upon all the wild land that had not been taxed before. This later movement ha had an effect upon the holders of these lands which added to the impulse awakened by Mr. Stewart purchase of the Hempstead Plains, and by the Long Island Railroad and the construction and successful operation of the South Side Railroad, has given a backbone of enterprise to the inhabitants along the extent of both the roads.
On this improved feeling, the most striking evidence at present is found on the southern side. The South Side Railroad is now running several trains daily between Brooklyn and Patchogue, and every two or three miles of the road are marked by neat station-houses, at which the train stops. The effect of this is the rapid clearing of the wild land along the line and the building of neat farm-houses and barns. In the older settlements, where, for years before, the erection of a house was so rare that it formed an episode in the history of the surrounding country, there are now new and comfortable residences, completed or in progress, ranging all along from the city limits to a line beyond Blue Point. Babylon, where Messrs. Belmont and Phelps have erected splendid country seats upon ample grounds, has nearly doubled its population within the past five years. The people of Blue Point have so high an appreciation of the advantage of the additional means of reaching their neighbors and the City that they have erected a station at their own expense, the Company having agreed to stop there for freight and passengers, notwithstanding the fact that both the Bayport and Patchogue stations are within less than a mile of the site selected.

In fact, the number of stations, and, in many cases, their nearness to each other, are peculiar features of the South Side Road. Running, as it does, along the shore line of the Great South Bay, almost every mile of which is dotted with a village, every village filled with fishermen and market gardeners, and, during the “heated term,” overflowing with New-Yorkers seeking restoration of health and strength from the live-giving air of the Bay, an unusual number of stations are needed to accommodate travel, and also to prevent outbursts of indignation, sometimes exhibited and always threatened on the least display of favour to one village which is not extended to all. There is now in the great oyster district of Blue Point a strong exhibition of feeling, because instead of placing a station at Blue Point, the Company thought to accommodate both the Point and Bayport by placing one between them. This arrangement deprived Blue Point of a depot, while a large proportion of the Bayport people found the Sayville Station more convenient to them than the one bearing the name of their own village. But even this did not complete the sum of the Blue Point humiliation. The Blue Point Postmaster and principal store-keeper becoming station-master, hitched some animals to his establishment and carried all but the cellar to the Bayport Station, leaving Blue Point minus its largest store, its Post-office, Postmaster and expected railway depot.

Notwithstanding these causes of unpleasantness, progress is made, and there are now under contract for construction several large hotels at the most desirable points on the shore line, designed to accommodate the anticipated increase of Summer residents, now that the railroad offers to that large number who cannot leave their business entirely during the Summer heath, the means of travel to and from the Bay shore and business, without serious loss of time. In fact, under the impulse given by the construction of the additional railroad and the grand enterprise of Mr. A. T. Stewart, there is already an increase in value in South Side property of nearly $1,000,000, and this is looked upon by the more enterprising inhabitants as but “the beginning of the end.”
The taxation of the wild lands has awakened their lethargic owners to the necessity for sale or improvement; the experience of intelligent and persevering pioneers has shown that the most barren of the barrens may, in three years, at most, be rendered as profitably productive of choice vegetables and fruits for the New-York markets as any lands in the United States; and that, by a judicious use of fertilizers, they may be so continued as long as their owners desire. The prices of these wild lands now range at from $5 to £25 or $30 per acre. The large unbroken tracts are being rapidly cut up into village plots and cleared and otherwise improved, either by their old time owners, recent purchasers, or lessees; and the feeling is growing daily, that the time long looked for is near at hand, when Long Island shall be covered with paying green, and New-York and Brooklyn find their longed-for garden here.

Garden City: the inhabited park on the great Queens County plateau, The New York Times, April 2, 1882

The traveller on the Long Island Railroad, after leaving Queens, in his journey east, is whirled through one of the most remarkable stretches of country to be found anywhere in the Eastern States. From a gentle, undulating landscape he passes into a moorland, reminding one of the Scottish heaths or the Illinois prairies. For miles to the east the land stretches as level as the ocean. Eighteen miles from the City of New York, and only half that distance beyond historic Jamaica, his attention, if his journey be taken in Summer, is riveted by the luxuriance of the crops on both sides of the road extending as far as the eye can reach in advance of him, and broken only by the low range of hills at the far north and the forest belt at the south, without fence or wall to break the magnificent sight.
While his wonder still grows at the apparently endless stretch of the waving fields of grain, or the velvety green of the grass lands, he finds himself, as though by magic, in the middle of a magnificent park, and the express train slows up to allow passengers for the ancient village of Hempstead to change cars.

Impelled by curiosity and fascinated with the lovely scenes spread before him, he alights at the station, and learns that it is Garden City – the daydream of the departed millionaire, Alexander T. Stewart. Crossing the park between fountains sparkling in the sunlight, he reaches the hotel. Words fail to express his delight at the charming scene spread before him. The hotel stands in the midst of a park of 30 acres in extent, laid out with generous drives and walks, and surrounded with shade trees and flowering shrubs. Fresh cross the plains that stretch in an unbroken level to the ocean, six miles distant, come the grateful, cooling breezes, lending to the atmosphere a delightful freshness and vigor, and keeping grass and foliage green and healthful when elsewhere they are dry and shrivelled with the Summer’s sun. Across the park in the distance the slender spire of the Memorial Cathedral points upward, its delicate lines and elaborate ornamentation distinctly defined in the clean air. The curious visitor is courteously received by the attendant and conduced through the massive and beautiful structure erected by Mrs. Stewart in memory of her husband, and now nearly completed. He is told that the organ, built by Roosevelt, is his largest instrument – as it is the largest in the world, with more stops than that in the Albert Hall, in London. Here, before him, is the main instrument; opposite, across the width of the transept, is the choir organ; at the far end of the cathedral is the tower organ; above him, far up in the arches where nave and transept meet, is the echo organ, and from the distant chapel come the soft notes of the instrument there – all harmonious parts of a perfect whole.
The chime of the bells in the tower above – cast by McShane for the Centennial Exhibition, and unequalled in sweetness of tone by any in the country – is rung by the organist in concert with the organs. He is told that the delicate stone tracery of the windows is to be filled with the richest stained glass from the famous studios of Clayton and Bell, and Heaton, Butler and Bayne, of London, masters of their art, and unequalled by any other artists of Europe. His eye rests upon the massive oak doors, replete with elaborate carving, Pottier’s best work, and is told that the Bishop’s throne, choir seats, and organ case are in the hands of Roosevelt, and are a marvel of beauty and elegance, the soft, rich tone of the mahogany harmonizing with the costly marbles and carved stone-work of the interior.

Across the Cathedral Park, at the end of the “Bishop’s Walk,” his attendant points out to him a massive brick and stone structure in the Elizabethan style, approaching completion, and designed as a See House or residence for the Bishop of the Diocese.
In the distance to the north rise into view, in a park of its own, the gables and towers of the great cathedral school, to which skilled artisans are giving the finishing touches, large enough to accommodate 500 pupils, and forming when completed one of the most remarkable structures of its kind in the country.
Slowly our traveller wends his way back to the hotel, every step revealing new evidences of the care and skill bestowed upon the village. Neat and commodious dwellings, fitted with every convenience, and (if desired) furnished for occupancy, cluster around the parks, or stretch away on either side of the broad and shaded avenues. In his short walk he may count 70 varieties of the maple alone.
The song sparrow and the thrush sing to him from every bush, and from far above him come to his ears the silvery tones of the meadow lark, midway between earth and sky.
Again at the hotel, and seated in the delightful dining-room, his dainty meal made more enjoyable by the fresh breeze coming to him over the broad piazzas, mine host tells him that his house is, in Spring and fall, the head-quarters for the various hunting clubs, whose many horses are cared for at the hotel stables, while in Summer come to him the tired men of business, seeking and finding here the grateful rest and health they need. Here the famous old soldier of the late war, the “fighting General,” Joe Hooker, ended in peace his days, charming every one who approached him with his gentle humor and delicate sympathy. Here the famous divine, the Bishop of the diocese, whose eloquence only lately held fast attention of his English audiences, loves to sit and draw new aspirations for his diocesan labours.

Mine host with just pride shows his beautifully furnished, airy, and scrupulously neat apartments, and dwells upon the purity and abundance of the water, drawn from the inexhaustible springs oad supplied without stint for every possible use in the village that may be required of it. He points to the steam radiators over his house, and explains that the source of heat for this as well as for the cathedral, schools, and private houses, is drawn from a special establishment of the Holly construction, located a mile distant, and is available the year round for heating and cooking purposes.
His visit over, he takes his leave, feeling, as he rolls back in the express train to the crowded, dusty City, only 40 minutes distant, that he has for once in his life verily seen the “loveliest village of the plain.” Long will its visions of beauty and quiet haunt him. Long may he search far and wide for anything to rival it as a healthy, peaceful, and attractive abode.


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