Historic Markers in Garden City
The area encompassed by the Village of Garden City contains many historically significant sites, some dating back prior to 1869 when the Village began its development. Historic Markers are being erected in various locations to commemorate a number of these sites. The following is intended to provide more detail than displayed on the markers themselves. Still more information can be obtained from the book “History of Garden City” by Mildred H. Smith (1963), available at the Garden City Public Library. The Garden City Public Library website at www.NYHeritage.org contains many more images of the described locations.
The Camp Black marker is located on the north side of Stewart Avenue, 1000 feet east of Clinton Road.
Camp Black was established on the Hempstead Plains at the east end of Garden City and beyond for use in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and was named for Frank S. Black, the Governor of New York State at the time. It was formed in March of that year, was opened on 29 April, and was closed on 28 September. Troops in this tent encampment and their visitors were served by the Long Island Rail Road on its Central Extension, with a station set up about one mile east of Garden City. During the brief existence of the camp the Rail Road transported over 14,000 men, requiring 476 coach cars and an additional 447 cars for freight and baggage.
Among many other military units, the 69th Volunteer New York Infantry (the “Fighting 69th“) was mustered into service at Camp Black.
The Camp Mills marker is located on the northeast corner of Clinton Road and Commercial Avenue.
Camp Mills, established as a WWI Army Camp in August 1917, was named in honor of Brigadier General Albert L. Mills, Chief of the Militia Bureau. It was located in the southeast part of Garden City, bounded on the west by Clinton Road, on the north by the Long Island Motor Parkway (north of Stewart Avenue), on the south by Hempstead Village, and on the east by a new airfield, later to become Mitchel Field.
The then undeveloped location was proposed by Ralph Peters, president of the Long Island Rail Road, due to its proximity to New York City and ease of transportation by rail via the Hempstead branch and Central Extension of the LIRR, which was quickly upgraded with double tracking.
The first camp, occupied in August 1917, was a tent encampment that received the 42nd (Rainbow) Division of 13,500 men. After the Rainbow Division and the following 41st (Sunset) divisions had deployed, the poor drainage of the area and the weather conditions of the arriving winter forced the closure of the camp.
In 1918 the camp was reactivated as a permanent facility with proper drainage. Over 800 buildings were erected, among them: 398 barracks, 36 Officers‘ Quarters, 105 Mess Buildings, 7 Post Exchanges, 2 Delousing Plants, and the first Library in the Village. A shuttle was provided for the soldiers and their visitors between the Country Life Press and Clinton Road stations.
A 2,500-bed Base Hospital facility was also constructed in the Transverse Road area that has its own historic marker.
The new Camp Mills had hardly been completed when the war ended in November 1918. It was then used as a demobilization facility. By September 1919 this work had been completed and the camp was permanently closed.
The role of Camp Mills in Garden City history is detailed in “History of Garden City”, pages 94-102.
Camp Mills Base Hospital
As part of the Camp Mills complex, a Base Hospital was constructed between Washington Avenue and Clinton Road and north of Osborne Road, to serve the needs of the soldiers at the base and also those just arriving and ill from the influenza epidemic at that time. The present Transverse Road was its main east-west roadway. It replaced the initial use of commandeered buildings at the Mineola Fair Grounds on the west side of Washington Avenue. Ten connected ward buildings contained a total of 2,500 beds, with ancillary buildings for staff. A railroad spur on the LIRR branch line from Mineola to Hempstead served the facility. A steam locomotive was positioned to provide heat to the buildings.
Camp Winfield Scott
The Camp Winfield Scott marker is located on the northwest corner of Eleventh Street and Washington Avenue.
Camp Winfield Scott was established in the summer of 1861 as a Camp of Instruction, one of several Union army-training camps on Long Island early in the Civil War. It was located on the Hempstead Plains south of Mineola before Garden City was designed by Alexander T. Stewart beginning in 1869.
The camp was one of a number named after General Winfield Scott, a more famous one being located near Yorktown, Virginia in 1862 as the headquarters of General McClellan. General Scott (1786-1866) was a major figure in United States military affairs of the early 1800s, having served on active duty as a general the longest in American history, and who retired in 1861.
A detailed biography of General Scott is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winfield_Scott
Long Island Motor Parkway Toll Lodge
The Toll Lodge marker is located near the relocated Toll Lodge on Seventh Street east of Franklin Avenue, now occupied by the Garden City Chamber of Commerce.
The Garden City Toll Lodge was one of some twenty structures built for the Long Island Motor Parkway to collect tolls. The Parkway was designed by William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. as a private automobile toll road with grade separations from public roads and railroads – the first limited-access highway in America. It ultimately extended from Queens, through eastern Garden City, to Lake Ronkonkoma and existed from 1908 until 1938.
This lodge was built in 1911, and was originally located near Clinton Road, at the entrance to the Parkway at the end of what is now called Vanderbilt Court. It and five others were designed in French Provincial style by John Russell Pope, subsequently famous for his designs of buildings such as the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives in Washington, DC.
The lodge had living accommodations for the toll collector and his family. The two-story building was of brick covered with stucco, with a cedar-shingled roof. On the first floor was an office, living room with fireplace, and kitchen. The second floor contained two bedrooms. A porte cochere sheltered the toll collector as he collected tolls (initially a round trip for $2.00, about $45 at today’s prices) or inspected annual toll plates mounted on the cars. The original porte cochere was extended at a later date to accommodate cars entering and exiting at the same time.
When the Parkway closed in April 1938, the Garden City Lodge was sold to gatekeeper Christian Ernst, who continued living there until 1977.
In 1987, when the next property owner wanted to rebuild, the Garden City Chamber of Commerce raised funds to have the building moved to its present location on Seventh St. and renovated for use as its offices. The move occurred in March 1989.
A complete photo history of the Long Island Motor Parkway itself can be obtained from the book “The Long Island Motor Parkway” by Howard Kroplick and Al Velocci (2008) or from the website maintained by Kroplick www.VanderbiltCupRaces.com.
Washington Avenue Airfield
The Washington Avenue Airfield marker is located on the east side of Washington Ave. south of Old Country Rd.
This airfield, commonly called the Mineola Field due to its proximity to that village which is the County Seat, extended south from Old Country Rd. to as far as Osborne Rd. and from Washington Ave. east to as far as the Long Island Motor Parkway, which was being built at the time just east of present Russell Rd. The field had hangars along the north side and a grandstand on the west side. It existed from 1909 until 1912, when operations were moved to the Hempstead Plains airfield east of Clinton Rd.
On the recommendation of aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, the area was leased from the Garden City Company and used by members of the New York Aeronautical Society, which had its headquarters at McLaughlin’s Hotel, located on the northeast corner of Old Country Rd. and Willis Ave., a block away. The “Golden Flyer” airplane (also called the “Gold Bug”, which gave the hotel its new name), built by Curtiss, flew around the airfield on 17 July 1909 to win the $10,000 Scientific American prize for a sustained flight of 25 Km. (16 miles).
On 20 August 1910 Clifford Harmon, flying his Farman biplane, won the Country Life in America trophy for flying from Washington Ave. Airfield across Long Island Sound to Greenwich, CT. Blanche Scott was the first women in America to solo a heavier-than-air flying machine. She is shown here at Washington Ave. Airfield on 27 July 1911 with field hangars in the background.
Curtiss Engineering Corporation
The Curtiss Engineering Corporation marker is located on the east side of Clinton Road between the railroad and Stewart Avenue.
Glenn Curtiss, among other pursuits a pioneer aircraft manufacturer, established the Curtiss Engineering Corporation on Clinton Road at Stewart Avenue in 1917 for Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to further his aircraft development newer an airport, in this case Hazelhurst Airfield just to the north, now Roosevelt Field mall. The complex included a ten-foot-diameter wind tunnel, at the time the largest in the country. In addition to the facility name on its front facade, the Curtiss name also appears in the brickwork of the chimney at the rear.
An early project for the company at this facility was the design and fabrication of an aircraft for the Navy, capable of crossing the Atlantic. One of these, the Navy-Curtiss NC-4 with four engines, was first to successfully reach Europe via the Azores in 1919. The Curtiss JN-4, the famous "Jenny" biplane trainer in World War I, was also designed here. Curtiss ended operations at the locations in 1931.
In 1920 Curtiss and his brother-in-law G. Carl Adams designed and initially produced the "Adams Motor Bungalo" here, a full featured camping trailer to be towed by a standard car.
In the 1930s the plant was vacant; when WWII came, Sperry Gyroscope Corporation occupied it. In 1949 it was purchased by Oxford Filing Supply Company, later Esselte Pendaflex, which produced office supplies there until the early 1990s.
Occupants of the buildings today include the BOCES headquarters in front and a FedEx facility in the original manufacturing area. The Chase Bank occupies one of the original buildings at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Clinton Road.
Further information on Glenn Curtiss can be obtained from many online articles and books, such as "Glenn Curtiss, Pioneer of Flight" by C.R. Roseberry.
Country Life Press Gardens
The Cedar of Lebanon tree marker is located in front of the Doubleday Court Condominium at 301 Franklin Avenue.
The Country Life Press Gardens were started when Doubleday, Page & Company constructed their printing facility in Garden City in 1910. The original building, which still exists in renovated form at 501 Franklin Avenue, was modeled after Hampton Court Palace in London, UK. The grounds were lushly landscaped, and extended south from the building to beyond where this Cedar of Lebanon tree was planted (near the sundial just south of the Rose Garden on the map).
The forecourt of the building was divided by a broad walk and each half of the court had a central pool of thirty foot diameter supporting an elevated basin and fountain. In front of the North Wing was a reflecting pool, with a long walkway to the south leading to an elaborate elliptical sundial which illustrated the history of the Art of Printing. In that area existed a picking garden, and a rose garden among others. The grounds were planted with many carefully selected species of trees and shrubs.
The dream of a permanent botanical garden setting was shattered in the 1930s and 40s with the expansion of the company, which required more building area and parking spaces for the new automobile mode of transportation. The cedar tree is the vestige of the dream.
A crowd cheering Clifford Harmon
The main entrance on Clinton Rd. at Locust St. facing east
The wind tunnel at the facility
The building with additions to the north and east. In addition a map of the Gardens.
The tent encampment facing southeast
Gatekeeper Ernst's wife, Elizabeth, at Toll Lodge about 1935
The Curtiss NC-4 wingspan 126 feet
Ward buildings facing southwest
Garden City Department of Recreation and Parks
Gatekeeper Christian Ernst with daughter, Emma
Rendering of the camp
Blanche Scott flying a Curtiss biplane
The 14th Regiment boarding a Long Island RR train