Local Guide

About Valley Stream

In 1640, 14 years after the arrival of Dutch settlers in Manhattan, the area that is now Valley Stream was purchased by the Dutch West India Company from the Rockaway Indians. There was no development of the woodland area for the next two centuries. The census of 1840 lists about 20 families, most of whom owned large farms. At that time, the northwest section was called "Foster's Meadow." The business section on Rockaway Avenue was called "Rum Junction" because of its lively nightlife. The racy northern section was called "Cookie Hill," and the section of the northeast that housed the local fertilizer plant was "Skunk's Misery." "Hungry Harbor," a section that has retained its name, was home to a squatters' community.

In 1840, Robert Pagan's general store at the corner of Henry Street and Hendrickson Avenue was the center of the town. Mr. Pagan pushed for a post office for the region, residents had to trek to Hempstead to pick up mail. Postal authorities approved the new station, provided it had a name that did not duplicate other places. Mr. Pagan looked at the valleys of the north and streams in the south and coined the name that stands today. Valley Stream still is the only community in the United States with that name.

Mr. Pagan's wife, Ellen, also played a significant role in village history. Tired of traveling to Lynbrook for religious services, she began holding services in her home. A Methodist minister was hired for periodic stops in the Pagan home and the first congregation in Valley Stream was founded. She also prevailed upon her husband to change the family name to Payan, seen now in Payan Avenue.

In 1853, Hempstead Turnpike was the only route that connected Valley Stream to Jamaica and New York City. The main streets in Valley Stream which connected the community to the turnpike were Mill Road (which is Corona Avenue today), Sand Street (Central Avenue), and Dutch Broadway. That year Merrick Road, a planked, one-lane road came through Valley Stream, connecting the village to Merrick in the east and Jamaica in the west. With the new thoroughfare in the area, Valley Stream residents and industry began to move southward.

In 1869, the South Side Railroad began stopping in Valley Stream and a branch of the railroad was constructed that connected the main line with the Rockaways. The new branch is still in existence today as the Far Rockaway line of the Long Island Railroad, and, just like a century ago, the line still splits at Valley Stream. The new railroad, combined with the emergence of Merrick Road as a major artery, caused Valley Stream to grow into a substantial community by the turn of the century.

GIBSON

In 1922, developer William R. Gibson came to Valley Stream after building over 2,500 homes in Queens. He bought 500 acres of land on Roosevelt Avenue and built homes on Avondale, Berkeley, Cambridge, Derby and Elmwood Streets. Five years later he expanded to Cochran Place and Dartmouth Street, realizing that his development was perfectly designed for the new class of white collar commuters, he petitioned the Long Island Railroad for a stop. The LIRR agreed to stop in the area if Gibson would build the station himself. On May 29, 1929, the Gibson station was opened, designed to match the surrounding homes.

The popular Gibson community sold an average of one house a day. His cellarless Nantucket model won the award of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for "excellence in design and construction." Despite the Great Depression and World War II, Mr. Gibson single-handedly brought over 10,000 new residents to Valley Stream

 

About Lynbrook

Most residents of the village know that Lynbrook is an anagram for Brooklyn, with syllables transposed, but few know that the village was once named after one of Long Island's oldest and most distinguished families, the Pearsalls, and that it has an interesting history dating to before the American Revolution.

An historical marker in front of Lynbrook Village Hall proclaims: "LYNBROOK - ESTABLISHED 1785". The date comes from a 19th Century Methodist Prayer Book which indicates that by 1785 a small community of 40 houses had been established near Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue, close to where the Rockville, or Sand Hole Cemetery is today. In 1790 a 20 X 30 foot Methodist meeting house was built on land donated by Isaac Denton. Benjamin Abbott, the first preacher, rode a 300-mile circuit on horseback to reach his widely spread Long Island parishioners. The intersection became known as Parson's Corners.

The land to the west of Parson's Corners, near what is today the center of Lynbrook, was called Bloomfield. Much of the land was owned by one family, the Pearsalls. The Pearsalls had been among the first European settlers to come to Long Island. They arrived in 1639, only 30 years after Henry Hudson explored the Hudson River. The Pearsalls were Englishmen who had sailed up from their Virginia tobacco farms and took a liking to the free economic climate offered by the Dutch on "Lange Eylandt". They were among the founders of Hempstead, Flushing and other settlements. By the time the village got its start in 1785, the Pearsalls had already been on Long Island for almost 150 years. But unlike families such as the Baldwins and the Hewletts they had not had a place named after them. They had tried, naming the Hell Gate area (in Queens County) Pearsalls, but the name did not stick. About 1830 Wright Pearsall purchased some land at Hempstead Avenue and Merrick Road, at the intersection we today call The Five Corners. An historical marker marks the spot where Pearsall opened a general country store. Wright Pearsall's store became so widely known that the corners and the surrounding community soon became known as Pearsall's Corners. The name Pearsall's Corners stuck for about 40 years until just after the Civil War. At that time a post office and railroad station were built and the simpler name Pearsalls came into use on postmarks and train schedules. Pearsalls had long been a hub for road transportation, linking the East Rockaway and Far Rockaway ports to the Hempstead and Jamaica population centers. When the Southern Railroad extended its line through Pearsalls in 1866, the stage was set for a growth spurt. Pearsalls' own newspaper, "THE ONCE A WEEK", had this to say about the growing village in 1876: "Probably there is no South Side village which offers more inducements to people to locate than does Pearsalls. This picturesque, lively and enterprising little settlement, located upon a level tract of land does indeed make an attractive appearance. Everything to make a place desirable can be found here.

THE ARRIVAL OF THE COMMUTER

Hundreds of people vacationing from overcrowded Brooklyn and New York City liked what they saw in Pearsalls and decided to stay. Many of the new arrivals kept their jobs in the city and became commuters on the Southern RR., and some of them had a keen businessman's eye for real estate values. These men wrote numerous, mostly anonymous letters to the editor of the SOUTH SIDE OBSERVER, the Newsday of the day, putting forth their view that the name Pearsalls did not have enough marketing pizzazz.

 

About Malverne

In the late 18th and 19th centuries, settlers began arriving on what was once the tribal territory of the Rockaway Indians, attracted to nearby fishing industries and the farming possibilities that the area's fertile land and easy access to water provided.

In 1911 the Amsterdam Development and Sales Company opened a small tract of land surrounding the railroad station, under the direction of Alfred H. Wagg. This land was the foundation for the present village of Malverne. The first land developed by the company was the Lindner farm and the first street was named Norwood Avenue which ran perpendicular to Hempstead Avenue. Malverne's first house was built on the corner of these two avenues, and was owned by Alfred H. Wagg.

The young community found itself facing many tasks before it could become an independent economic and social entity. Although there was a fire department, established in 1909 by Theodore Martine, Sr., Townsend Ackley, and Isaac Cornwall, and the beginnings of a police force existed, the problems of organizing churches, street paving, water supply, and street lighting, confronted the townspeople.

One would expect that the native farmers might resent the rapid changes proposed by the newcomers. However, it is said that the cooperation shown by the two groups was nothing less than remarkable.

In 1910, the "Dinky" replaced the steam train as the main mode of transportation for Malvernites. The "Dinky" was a single car run by an electric storage battery and it looked like an ordinary trolley car. Many people referred to it as the "Toonerville Trolley." John Hughes was the famous conductor of the "Dinky,", which was extremely temperamental and would often not operate in cold temperatures.

The First World War put a damper on Malverne's further development. The flu epidemic, the coal shortage and the general anxiety of the winter of 1918 made this a hard period for all.

After the war, the development of Malverne accelerated. It seemed that the community's biggest problem was whether or not to incorporate. Valid arguments both for and against the move were advanced at a meeting held at the Fire House on October 29, 1920. In the end, the proponents for incorporation were victorious. On December 1, an election was held, and Edward J. Christopher was elected the first village president. Also elected were trustees Charles Weber, Isaac Cornwall, John Wicks, and Eugene Dressner. The official day of incorporation was April 4, 1921. Malverne, with a population of 700, became the newest and smallest incorporated village in New York State.

Meanwhile, Malverne was expanding. Streets were paved, drainage systems installed and the village's population grew. The 1940 census showed that Malverne had achieved first class village status, with a population of 5,203. This new status brought added responsibilities for the village's administration. The house census stood at 1,444 occupied homes, 30 unoccupied and 46 under construction. The 1940 budget rose in proportion and amounted to $117,230 with the tax rate at $.87. Monthly reports on new building showed a regular increase, the new firehouse was built in 1939 and a high school was built. In recent decades, Malverne has continued to grow and prosper, keeping its identity of a shady, parklike suburb neighboring New York City.

 

About East Rockaway

The roots of the community of East Rockaway go back to the 17th Century when the little settlement of Near Rockaway grew up around the grist mill built by Joseph Haviland in 1688. In addition to its grist mill, Near Rockaway boasted a flourishing sea port, whose business increased when the building of the New York City Customs House left this Village and Freeport as the only free ports of entry in the vicinity.

The first schoolhouse in East Rockaway was constructed in pre-revolutionary days on the site of the present Memorial Park; and the early days of the republic witnessed a continued increase in the community's prosperity. Oyster and clam fisheries and a thriving lumber business operated by the Davison family contributed in no little measure to this period of growth. Soon a new two-room school building, the present Village Hall, was built; and East Rockaway was well on its way to becoming the Metropolis of the South Shore.

As community spirit grew, far-seeing men like Carmen, Simons and Henry Floyd Johnson, who operated a stage line along the plank Merrick Road to Jamaica and Fulton Ferry, sought new ways to improve community life. In 1894, Johnson and Oliver Hewlett succeeded in organizing a volunteer fire department which was named Vigilant Engine Company. A $650.00 Gleason and Baillie hand pumper was purchased, and the Fire Department Headquarters was built on Main Street to house the apparatus.

In 1898 under the leadership of Walter E. Johnson, son of Henry Floyd Johnson, the Woods Avenue School was built with Johnson elected first President of the East Rockaway School Board on which he served for 25 years.

The formation of the Fire Department and the construction of the new School paved the way for further community action; and in 1900 occurred the incorporation of the Village. Soon after the incorporation, the library was established and in 1909 was housed in the Baisley House, and run by volunteer librarians.

The East Rockaway Civic Association was instrumental in gaining street lights, mail delivery, and equalization of taxes for the community. As the community grew, other denominations formed congregations and built churches. In 1909 St. Raymond's Catholic Church was built and since that time has played a large part in the life of the community. The founding of St. Raymond's School and the development of its extensive Youth Program have contributed greatly to the young people of East Rockaway. In 1913 the Boulah Mission of Oceanside met to form a Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene; and the following year the church building on Ocean Avenue was completed.

While school affairs were advancing so favorably the Village continued to prosper under Mayors Ossian Weig, Alanson Abrams, and since 1937, Edward Talfor. Under Mayor Talfor the Village has grown to its present prosperity and he and the Board of Trustees have seen to it that civic improvements have kept pace with the community advancement. From 969 inhabitants at the time of its incorporation, the population of East Rockaway has grown to about 8,000 and the assessed valuation of the property within the Village is now in excess of $15,000,000.00. Three well-equipped schools have replaced the old frame building on Woods Avenue. The old hand pumper of the Fire Department has been supplanted by the most modern fire-fighting equipment. The Baideloy Free Library has become the East Rockaway Free Library located in a fine colonial brick building donated by Miss Irene Davison. To this expansion and growth many Village organizations have contributed, among them, the East Rockaway Board of Trade, the League of Women Voters, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, among others.

East Rockaway has grown since Joseph Haviland built his Grist Mill on the bank of Mill River; and the very street names in the Village serve as reminders of the families which contributed to much of this growth, the Rhamos, the Carmans, the Davisons, the Dentons, the Hewletts, the Smiths, the Phipps and many others.