About Nassau County

Reprinted from the Farmingdale, NY Chamber of Commerce site.

Nassau County, birthplace of American suburbia, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1999, but its colonial roots go back 355 years, to when almost half of it was acquired by two Englishmen in one of Long Island's most prodigious land deals.

The saga began inauspiciously in 1640 when a small band from Massachusetts landed on the North Shore, only to be driven off by the Dutch, who claimed territory as far east as Oyster Bay. The English went east to settle Southampton. But three years later, John Carman and Robert Fordham crossed Long Island Sound from Stamford, Conn.; they negotiated with the Indians for a deed to a 10-mile-wide swath from Long Island Sound to the Atlantic Ocean and founded the first English settlement on the Hempstead Plains. The colonists who followed negotiated a patent from the Dutch, who hoped more Englishmen would come to help control the Indians. The English obliged. By 1653 they were colonizing the present-day Oyster Bay, Westbury, Jericho and Hicksville. In 1664 they drove out the Dutch.

Nassau County History

The independent colonists were no more eager to pay taxes to the duke of York than they were to pay the Dutch. Their chafing brought about the colonial assembly of 1683, which created the counties of Suffolk and Queens. Queens included the Towns of Oyster Bay and Hempstead. North Hempstead seceded from Hempstead during the Revolution, when Patriots in the north broke from the Loyalists in the south. But in the next century they shared a growing desire to split off from Queens County.

The planting of the Queens County Courthouse on the Hempstead Plains in 1785 sowed the seeds of resentment, and secessionist talk increased after the Civil War, when western Queens became increasingly urbanized and Democratic, the eastern towns rural and Republican. Finally, in 1898, when Queens joined Greater New York City, the eastern towns found themselves still part of Queens but not of the city. Community leaders met in Allen's Hotel in Mineola and resolved that the Towns of Oyster Bay, Hempstead and North Hempstead form a new county.

Nassau County HistorySuggested names -- Matinecock, Norfolk, Bryant, Sagamore -- lost out to Nassau, once the legal name for all Long Island. It honored the late 17th-Century King William III, who came from the House of Nassau. Nassau County came into being on Jan. 1, 1899. On July 13, 1900, then-New York Gov. Theodore Roosevelt of Oyster Bay laid the cornerstone for the first Nassau County Courthouse on land purchased in 1869 by Alexander T. Stewart, founder of Garden City.

The 20th Century brought rapid change, accelerated by two world wars. In the early years the Hempstead Plains became the site of pioneer aviation feats, motorcar and horse racing. On the northern Gold Coast, rich New Yorkers played polo and chased the fox. South Shore communities became popular beach resorts. Robert Moses, New York's master builder, turned a barren shore into famed Jones Beach. After World War II, communities of subdivisions spread across Nassau at a dizzying pace, creating the tightly packed suburbia, populated by nearly 1.3 million people, that is Nassau County today. But the sprawl still left room for pockets of opulence: According to Worth magazine, 11 of the nation's 30 most expensive communities are in Nassau County, all but one (Hewlett) on the North Shore.