History of Hempstead Village

Hempstead was settled in 1643 by a band of Puritans who sailed across the Long Island Sound from Stamford, Connecticut in search of a place where they could more freely express their particular brand of Protestantism. They were led by the Rev. Robert Fordham and John Carman, both disciples of the Rev. Richard Denton, the leader of their sect. They landed on Long Island at what is now called Roslyn village and trekked southward across a great prairie where they stopped between two fresh water streams and several small ponds. They bargained for the land with the leaders of the local native tribes and made an agreement that allowed them to establish a "town spot" at what is now the Village of Hempstead as well as establishing property rights to what are now known as the Towns of Hempstead and North Hempstead. The natives were representatives of three of the areas major tribes, the Marsapeague(Massapequa), Mericock(Merrick) and Rekowake(Rockaway). Tackapousha who was the sachem(chief) of the Marsapeague was the spokesman for the other tribes. Subsequent trips across the Sound brought more settlers who prepared a fort for their mutual protection.
These were the beginnings of the oldest English settlement in what is now Nassau County. They established a Presbyterian church here. Today that Church is the oldest continually active Presbyterian congregation in the nation.
The name Hempstead is thought to have derived from a town in Hertfortshire, England known as Hemel-Hempstead, perhaps the birthplace of the Rev. Richard Denton. A number of the original settlers came from that area. Hempstead's proximity to New York City (25 miles from Herald Square) an area controlled by the Dutch in 1643 raises the prospect of considerable Dutch influence over the early development of the Hempstead settlement. Several of the original fifty patentees had Dutch surnames and it is also possible, although not likely because of the Englishmen's intense dislike for the Dutch traders and their governor, that the town of Heemsteede in Zeeland, Holland had an influence on the naming of the community.
In any case, Hempstead has developed over the past three hundred and fifty years into the largest Incorporated Village in the State of New York, with a population in excess of fifty thousand people. It is also the oldest Incorporated Village in New York State, having incorporated in 1853, as well as the seat of government for the Town of Hempstead, the largest township in the nation with over seven hundred thousand people.
Hempstead has been the home to many famous people over the years, and has been visited by some of the most famous, including President George Washington, Father of our Country, who paused at the 1683 inn of Nehemiah Sammis during his presidential tour of Long Island in 1790. Charles A. Lindbergh, the world's most famous aviator, spent quite a bit of time in Hempstead both before and after his epoch solo flight from nearby Roosevelt Field to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France on May 20,1927. Some famous residents of yesterday are Peter Cooper, inventor and politician, who married a local girl and settled here during the mid eighteen hundreds. Cooper invented the steam locomotive and ran for President on the "Greenback" ticket. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent her summers here during her teen years. Her family had a summer estate in Hempstead.
Hempstead has historically been the center of commercial activity for the easternmost counties of Long Island. In Nassau, all major county roads emanate from this village. It is indeed the "Hub" of Nassau County. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries all stage coaches en route to eastern Long Island from Brooklyn passed through Hempstead. Today, twenty six bus
routes and three interstate buses leave from the village every day. In addition, the Hempstead Branch of the Long Island Railroad has its' terminal here. At one time, there were three railroad companies with terminals within the village. Early Long Islanders made their living in agriculture or from the sea. Hempstead, with its' central location, became the marketplace for the outlying rural farming communities. It was a natural progression, as the surrounding areas developed from small farms into today's suburbia, that Hempstead Village would remain as the marketplace. Chain department stores such as Arnold Constable and Abraham & Straus called Hempstead home for many years. A&S, Hempstead, was the largest grossing suburban department store in the country during the late 1960's. Hempstead was Nassau's retail center during the 40's through the 60's. The advent of regional shopping malls such as the one at nearby Roosevelt Field and the demise of nearby Mitchel Air Force Base in 1961 put the retail trade in the village on a downward spiral that it was unable to recover from during the recessions of the 70's and 80's. Recent years have seen the redevelopment of the village as a government as well as business center. There are more government employees from all levels of government in the village than are in the county seat in Mineola. The population rises during the day to almost 200,000 from a normal census of 50,000. Retailers are once again showing interest in the village, and two large tracts of potential retail property are currently undergoing redevelopment. A considerable infusion of state and federal funding as well as private investment have enabled the replacement of blighted storefronts, complete commercial building rehabilitations and the development of affordable housing for the local population. The former 8.8 acre Times Squares Stores property on Peninsula Blvd. and Franklin St. is being redeveloped as Hempstead Village Commons, a 100,000 square foot retail center including Pep Boy's, Staples, Hollywood Video and Rite-Aid Drugs. Construction is underway. The replacement of the 1913 Hempstead
LIRR terminal with a modern facility is scheduled to commence in early 1999, and a four story 112 unit building for senior housing, with retail on the ground level was completed at Main and West Columbia Streets in January 1998. Thirty two units of affordable townhouses known as Patterson Mews at Henry St. and Baldwin Rd. was completed and fully occupied last summer. The former Abraham & Straus department store on 17 acres is currently undergoing demolition, to be replaced by a large retail development.
Hempstead is proud to have elected the first African-American village mayor in the state. It is proud of its' cultural diversity and the resourcefulness and accomplishments of its' residents, both past and present. We are happy to be called home by Hofstra University, one of Long Islands finest educational institutions and enjoy having the New York Jets football team conduct their practice sessions at Hofstra.
The Village of Hempstead is truly undergoing a renaissance that it is hoped will restore it to its' former prominence and prepare it for its' passage into the twenty first century.

May 30, 1997
rev. July 7,1998

James B. York(his email address is Bruhah@aol.com)
Municipal Historian
Inc. Village of Hempstead

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