A Twentieth Century
History of Munsey Park
(1945 - 1957)
Levitt, despite his great interest and many other activities in Manhasset, was never to build a single home in Munsey Park and ultimately resold his properties to others. One of the first parcels was purchased by the village in February 1945, increasing the Waldmann Park area by ½ acre. Much of the actual building on former Levitt property was done thereafter by Callan Brothers and Harnaby Homes.Callan homes in Subdivision “L” included many on Blackburn Lane , Bingham Circle , Kensett Road , LaFarge Lane andVanderlyn Drive , all at the northeast end of the village, on plots mapped out by LevittMay 26, 1947 . Levitt sold thirty acres opposite Altman’s in 1950 to Ascher Dann & Sons with the proposal to construct 80 custom-built homes for $35,000 to $40,000.
In March 1945 when Mayor Dow announced he would not be a candidate for a third term, C.C. Kohlheyer was pressed to accept the position as Mayor despite his concern at having enough time to do so. He was elected Munsey Park ’s sixth Mayor and although his occupational pressures as a consulting engineer would eventually require his withdrawal from office, he would serve three productive years.
On Tuesday, August 14, 1945 whistles, sirens, horns and the first village confetti snowstorm celebrated the return of peace, soon to be followed by long-absent servicemen.
A literal snowstorm, the worst in State history, buried Manhasset under 26" of snow on December 26, 1947 . Some fifty hardy commuters, several from Munsey Park , managed to return to town that Friday evening, but could get no further than the Manhasset Theater where they were welcomed, served coffee and donuts, and offered the comfort of hard movie seats or floors to spend the night. Some excitement was generated at noon the following day with the arrival at the station of the first steam locomotive seen in Manhasset in many years.
In February 1948 Mayor Kohlheyer’s tendered resignation had to be accepted due to his extended absence overseas. From among the Trustees, G. Schuyler Tarbell was elected to complete the unexpired term as Mayor until new election in March. A village slate of candidates was presented to the voters amid vague rumblings of an unknown opposition nominee from a “Divorced Committee”. In a surprising, and the only contested, mayoral election in village history, Coleman R. Sample, president of the Munsey Park Association was chosen as the village’s eighth mayor in a write-in vote.
Further progress in the form of new telephone numbers reached the village in July 1948. A numeral was added to each central office, thus Manhasset 7. The Sixth Precinct also put up a small Police Booth at the Park Avenue & Manhasset Woods Road triangle where it remained until destroyed by fire in 1962.
In October 1948 the village appointed a Building Advisory Committee to exercise the responsibilities and powers of architectural control for any future village construction. The Village Board also wrote Governor Thomas E. Dewey in March 1949 opposing a State Building Construction Code since it would be detrimental to many progressive villages such as Munsey Park , as well as in violation of its much-prized Home Rule.
The Lutheran Church followed the example of their Congregational neighbor and on Sunday, August 21, 1949 broke ground for a new church on Northern Boulevard opposite Altman’s. A cornerstone service was held that November - placed inside a sealed container were copies of the English Bible, The Augsberg Confession of 1530, the Lutheran Catechism, and historical data relating to church societies.Until the dedication services onMarch 26, 1950 their meetings were held at the Munsey Park meeting room. The Church of Our Saviour , Lutheran, erected on one of Manhasset’s highest pieces of ground, became the eighth church in Manhasset’s history.
Traffic in and around the village was becoming serious. A March 1950 survey revealed that “an average of 6 ½ cars per minute passed on Northern Boulevard at Lord & Taylor and the number is increasing”! With the increased traffic and a village population just in excess of 2,000 new Stop Signs were installed in the village in 1951.
In 1950 the village purchased several small lots at Sargent Place and Northern Boulevard from Dr. Harold A. Butman who had sought fruitlessly for several years to obtain a change in zoning that would permit the erection of a small medical center. In discussing this purchase before the Munsey Park Association Mayor Sample, with remarkable prescience, commented, “Flower Hill has a village hall and a salaried village clerk. I hope to see the same combination in Munsey Park .” This was not to become a reality for another quarter century.
The Munsey Park Association held an unusual “Gripe Night” at their meeting in October 1952 with village officials in attendance. Possibly as a result the Village Clerk, Eugene Petersen, published a roster of Village Officials and Committees the following April. The publication closely followed the election in March 1953 of Hayes G. Shimp, the ninth Mayor, almost exactly 25 years from the opening of the first village model home.
In July 1953 William Levitt sold his remaining property at the east end of the village to Harnaby Builders Corp., who promptly announced plans to erect 160 new homes, starting at $30,000. At a November 1954 meeting of the Munsey Park Association a panel composed of Mayor Shimp, a vice president of Harnaby Homes, and the president of the Greater Manhasset Civic Association discussed the future development. Homes built by Harnaby thereafter were erected in Subdivision “L” including Abbey Road, Bartlett Drive, Borglum Road, LaFarge Lane, the east end of Park Avenue, Trumbull Road and Vanderlyn Lane. During this period Park Avenue was again rerouted to its present location exiting at Port Washington Boulevard where Harnaby built and donated the entrance pillars in July 1955.
Mortimer J. Gleeson succeeded Shimp as new Mayor of Munsey Park in 1954 and served until 1958. During this period plans for the construction of Bonwit Teller were drawn and approved for the business district. This store was completed and opened to the public in 1956.
In June 1955 B. Altman proposed the acquisition of eight acres of village land from Harnaby, of which five would be deeded to the village for Recreational Park usage. The remaining three acres, however, would e used for additional store parking. Altman’s would require a rezoning from Residential A to Business B, and would also need an easement from the Village Board to cross the 10 foot buffer strip along Northern Boulevard. Neither the Board nor the Munsey Park Association favored the proposal, and the offer was declined.
The Board then contemplated a direct acquisition of the land at the option price of $82,000, to be used either as a Park or a land bank for the future. It was discussed before the Munsey Park Association in September 1955, and a village referendum scheduled for October. The proposal was supported by a majority of the Village Board, by the Civic Association, its officers, and by a number of its past presidents. According to John J. Gill, “This is our last chance to acquire a substantial acreage and to make sure that the fundamental character of our village will remain unchanged.” It was at about this period that the annual village expenditures first exceeded the $100,000 figure, and on October 26, 1955 a heavy turnout of tax conscious residents voted down the proposal, and the opportunity was lost.