A Twentieth Century History of Munsey Park (1920-1980)
An original work by Philip A. Atiyeh, July 1980
(1920 - 1930)
The modern history of Munsey Park dates to the early part of the twentieth century. The area was almost totally large estate farmland with rolling hills, natural and verdant wooded landscape abounding with small game, and only occasionally broken by developed homesites. In the case of the larger estates such as the 300 acres owned by Louis Sherry, the wealthy French confectioner, the chief residence was a prominent chateau modeled after the ‘Petit Trianon’ at Versailles . The total population in all of Manhasset at that time in the early 1920's was about 900 people.
The Sherry estate and his mansion were among the properties purchased by Frank A. Munsey in 1922 -- he remodeled and enlarged the home into its present elegant form we know as the Strathmore-Vanderbilt Country Club. Through additional purchases of small and medium sized tracts, Munsey finally amassed some 663 acres. The estate included all of the present Munsey Park, extending south across North Hempstead Turnpike (where trolley cars of the N.Y. & North Shore Traction Company had operated until My 1920) -- into the Strathmores, abutting the Nicholas Brady (Inisfada) Estates on the east and to the approximate location of Deepdale Drive on the west.
Munsey, a prominent and conservative newspaper publisher, was second, possibly, only to William R. Hearst, and through his successful papers accumulated a fortune estimated at over forty million dollars at his death in 1925. Munsey had no heirs, no family and his entire estate and assets were left to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York . The Museum, when it had recovered from the magnitude of this legacy, then sought the most effective means of converting the land into funds which could be used to enhance their superb art collections.
One portion of the Munsey lands - the Strathmore area and the magnificent chateau - was sold to Mrs. Graham Fair Vanderbilt. But the 320 acres north of the Turnpike, which Munsey had acquired only a few days before his death, were to be shaped into a model restricted community to reflect the generosity of Frank Munsey.
Almost all of the Munsey estates were vacant. One exception that provides a small historical footnote was an old barn (on the present Munsey Park School grounds) which was consumed by fire on August 13, 1927. It had been the training camp for the French heavyweight boxing contender, Georges Carpentier, the ‘Orchid Man’, for his memorable “Battle of the Century” with Jack Dempsey in 1921. And Dempsey was news since he would have his controversial “long count” rematch with Gene Tunney the following month.
The syndicate engaged by the Museum for the initial land development was the Hasset Realty Company, headed by Alexander M. Bing with such other notable associates as William S. Coffin, Douglas L. Elliman and Elliot Cross. Coordinating with the Museum’s directors, a first tract of 83 acres would be converted into a prime residential community named Munsey Park (originally Munsey Meadows) to commemorate its source; the streets would be named for illustrious American artists to signify the Museum’s role. The first Section “A” included the most westerly portion from Locust Place (renamed Munsey Place in 1933) as far east as Thayer Road .
To maximize the financial return high construction standards were established with strict architectural control embodying authentic Colonial American reproductions. Street layouts conformed to the topography to preserve and enhance the natural wooded settings. Rigid “Protective Deed Restrictions” were defined prescribing lot sizes of at least 6,000 square feet (raised to 8,000 square feet in later subdivisions), only 2 ½ story, no house to cost less than $6,000, and many others. The Deed Restrictions for property west of Manhasset Woods Road ran to 1968 and east of Manhasset Woods Road to 1970, and automatically renew for additional 20 year periods unless affirmative action is taken against them.
The first group of 25 homes was actually priced from $13,500 to $18,500. To avoid architectural monotony there never were, nor are there today anywhere in the village, any adjacent or nearby homes of identical design, a factor greatly contributing to the steadiness of property values.
The first model home at 258 Park Avenue was opened on February 19, 1928 after some 3,000 invitations had been sent out. Over 2,000 people visited that first day and inquiries were received steadily. Newspaper accounts identify the two first plot sales to Leslie A. Dittman at 4 Thayer Road , and to H.W. Carroll at 322 Nassau Avenue . Both of these pioneers were to remain community leaders, Dittman later becoming a Town Councilman of North Hempstead.
From the strong initial response it was evident to Hasset Realty and the Museum that they should proceed with the second group of 15 houses planned for fall occupancy. Mr. Robert W. DeForest, president of the Metropolitan, had grasped a sound financial principle in the early development of the ‘Park’, that it should “...be an asset to the community as well as to the Museum.”
By May 1928 the model home had attracted over 10,000 visitors and when it was purchased by an architect, Robbins L. Conn, Munsey Meadows, Inc. was not tardy in pointing out this was confirmation of the high construction and design standards of these homes. In short order the cost prices rose to $16,000 to $25,000 and plot prices from $2,500 to $4,500.
Hasset Realty moved rapidly with the subdivision of Section “B” mapped May 21, 1928 . This land was directly east of the first section to Manhasset Woods Road . Including Ryder Road and Eakins Road as far south at Inness Place . The model home for Section “B” at 361 Park Avenue was heavily displayed in local advertising. Subdivision of Section “C” that November utilized the remaining lands west of Manhasset Woods Road south to North Hempstead Turnpike (today’s Route 25A), including Bellows Lane, Stuart Place and Hunt Lane as well as the southern extension of Eakins Road. The Section “C” model home was at 99 Manhasset Woods Road .
This third subdivision also outlined a district for business use -- now the Munsey Park Shopping Center at the foot of Manhasset Woods Road . This was not the first actually proposed, however for a November 1927 site plan indicated that the entire frontage on Locust Place (Munsey Place) would be for business, as well as all four corners at the intersection of Park Avenue with Manhasset Woods Road.The “Protective Restrictions” effectively rezoned these two areas into completely residential districts.
By January 1929 not only was a community growing, but a community spirit and character as well. Mr. H.W. Carroll, the gentleman who had bought one of the first plots, invited a meeting of residents to consider means of gathering together from time to time. Fifty four of his neighbors attended and soon coalesced into the Munsey Park Association with a concern for “the future of the section”. Mr. Carroll most appropriately became the first elected president of this group, which a full half century later continues with the same worthy dedication.
The ‘Park’ was at the same time a growing segment of the Town of North Hempstead as well as of Nassau County . And their plans for growth called for creation of sewer and other special districts. The Manhasset Sewer District was formed in April 1929 encompassing what is now Plandome Heights , Munsey Park , part of Flower Hill, as well as properties on both sides of North Hempstead Turnpike.
Both Munsey Park and Plandome Heights opposed sewering, and initiated proceedings leading to incorporation as villages with their own local government and home rule. John E. O’Shea who wrote a history of North Hempstead in 1968 stated, “The values of incorporation, in terms of local autonomy, are many but the most highly valued by the “Estate Villages” was the power to establish a local zoning ordinance. The County Charter of 1936 preserved this right for all existing incorporated villages but denied it to all that might come into existence after that date: accordingly, no incorporated villages have been created in North Hempstead since 1936.”
On January 27, 1930 out of 175 eligible voters 155 turned out and with only 3 negative votes legalized the incorporation of Munsey Park , to take effect 20 days later. When the results were announced Munsey Park had its first parading of cars with tooting horns and happy cries.
At the official village election held March 1, 1930 at the Park Avenue model home Herman Block of 60 Thayer Road became the first Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Munsey Park. Almost immediately thereafter Munsey Park exercised its option to withdraw from the Manhasset Sewer District and the Manhasset Parking District (no connection with the present Manhasset Park District). When Plandome joined with Munsey Park in its withdrawal the Manhasset Sewer District was to all effects stillborn and soon disappeared from the scene. Munsey Park elected to remain in the Fire and Water District, as well as the Police District of North Hempstead.
In addition to four elected Village Trustees and the Mayor, management of local government required as well such appointed officials as Clerk, Police Justice, Treasurer, Registrar of Vital Statistics; later officials have included a Health Officer, Superintendent of Public Works, Building Inspector, Village Counsel, Planning Board, Assessors, Dogwarden, and several others.
 The confections were French - Mr. Sherry was from Maine according to a memorial to Mr. Munsey published at his death.
(1930 - 1936)
Growth continued. Subdivision “D” extending eastward on Park Avenue to Remington Road, then south to Revere Road and west back to Manhasset Woods Road had been mapped in November 1929.The model home now at 16 Revere Road was illustrated for the opening of this section.
No provision had been made previously for recreational areas and allowance was now to be made for creation of a 7 acre park; or alternatively, 3 ½ acres for a park and another 3 ½ for the construction of a village community house.
The Manhasset School Board was becoming concerned with the “already crowded condition of the local schools” -- enrollment in 1930 was up to 834 -- and proposed the acquisition of approximately 10 acres of Munsey Park ground that had been set aside by the Museum for this purpose. This was the property just east of Manhasset Woods Road , 1,000 feet fronting on North Hempstead Turnpike, which had been offered for $55,000. This was an exceptional value since the Museum’s agents had been selling adjoining property at prices “up to $25,000 per acre”. On March 31, 1930 , 123 out of 196 voters approved the purchase.
In May 1930, the Village Board enacted a Code of General Ordinances which dealt with motor vehicles, village roads, signs, refuse and garbage, explosives, trees and shrubbery and even unnecessary noise. Assessed value had risen to $1,350,000 with 148 occupied homes and a total population of 470. Election District No. 1 in Manhasset was split in June 1930 to take in additional residents of Munsey Park and the Flower Hill sections. The brick pillars at village entrances on Park Avenue and Manhasset Woods Road were given over that October, on condition that henceforth the village would be responsible for maintenance and lighting costs.
Total sales of Munsey Park plots and houses for 1930 rose over $1,000,000, at a time when a new “Ford Convertible Cabriolet cost $625 FOB Detroit, bumpers and spare tire extra at low cost”! The entire tax receipts for the village for the 1930-31 year was only $2,500.19.
A business district for the convenience of local residents was of importance, and soon plans for the erection of a commercial building of harmonious styling at the Munsey Park Shopping Center were underway. Again it was emphasized that this was one of many signs pointing toward prosperity in Manhasset, with its excellent real estate values. The commercial building would not only have space for nine stores on North Hempstead Turnpike with off-street parking, but also a fine community meeting room to be furnished by W.& J. Sloane and with its own kitchen facilities. It was opened officially June 1, 1931 , shortly after the election in March of Marion Rodgers, the Village’s second Mayor.
An adjoining Subdivision “E” was mapped in July 1931. It took in the remaining property west of Remington Road a well as the area surrounding the present Village Hall on Sargent Place and the school grounds. Interestingly, both Sargent Place and Remington Road were to connect with North Hempstead Turnpike originally. Remington, south of Abbey Road , was deeded to the school in 1940. Sargent Place was terminated at its present turnaround in 1936. Hunt Lane was also relocated; heading east it turned south at the school on what is today’s Abbey Road . The present continuation of Hunt was called Valley Road until 1934, then renamed Sargent Road until 1935 when it was finally changed to Hunt Lane .
On the Fourth of July in 1931 a dazzling fireworks display witnessed by over 1,000 people was staged by the Munsey Park Association in what is now the center of the village, but were then empty lots on the east side of Manhasset Woods Road.
In October 1931 Subdivision “G” east of Manhasset Woods Road just north of Park Avenue to ‘pollywog pond’ was mapped for development. The Museum was to permit the free temporary use of lands adjoining the small pond in 1933, although it would be several more years before the area was deeded over as a park.
That Christmas recorded a first visit at the Abbey Road circle of Santa Claus, establishing a tradition that has continued to the present, excepting the war years.
The Munsey Park Women’s Club was formed on Tuesday, January 12, 1932 with Mrs. Howard Abel as its first president. Almost a half century later this village organization still continues its excellent social programs confirming the truth of a statement made at its 20th Anniversary Celebration in 1952 by Mrs. John Harlow, “The foundation is so strong all we need is to add a brick or so each year that is worthy of so good a foundation.”
A most significant event occurred May 29, 1932 with the formal opening of a new 18-hole, 6,600 yard, par 71 Munsey Park Golf Club with accommodations for 400 members. The course layout occupied the Museum’s property from Port Washington Boulevard (this was named Searingtown Road until December 1937) to Remington Road; and from North Hempstead Turnpike (also renamed in 1937, to Northern Boulevard) to the Flower Hill line, with the exception of development abutting Park Avenue.
A statement that “the fourteenth with its obligatory water carry of 175 yards is destined for fame and perhaps some notoriety”, was an apt description of the present Copley Pond area, with the tee on the present grounds of the Congregational Church. A year later the 14th was improved by the addition of a fairway around the (Copley Pond) water hazard. Regular golf dues for 1933 were $100 and house membership $40.
The Club House later became the popular “Antlers” meeting place for the Elks - although it was a popular meeting hall for every social affair. In 1943 it was used by the Congregational Church members, then became Patricia Murphy’s Candlelight Restaurant after 1949, and finally a steakhouse until it was demolished to make way for the new Benihana Restaurant at that site today.
A remarkable aerial view of this area on microfilm in the July 6, 1933 issue of the Manhasset Mail shows the golf course and as yet undeveloped east end of Munsey Park. Park Avenue led directly toNorthern Boulevard and was ‘temporarily’ closed in June 1932; it became necessary to drive in front of the golf club toPort Washington Boulevard .
Traffic in the village had become a problem; the Sixth Precinct agreed to place a motorcycle patrol on Park Avenue for the morning and evening rush hours, and to add a third patrolman to the two already supported by the village.
The tax rate for the 1932-33 year was reduced from 57¢ to 37¢ because of the new construction, higher assessed valuations and the Village Board’s awareness of the existing depression cycle.Nevertheless, a petition signed by 150 village property owners was filed with the North Hempstead Assessors protesting that the village had been assessed out of all proportion to the unincorporated areas.Putting this into proper context, consider that the L.I.R.R. announced at the same time it was reducing its weekend roundtrip fares to New Yorkfrom $1.25 to 69¢ to stimulate weekend travel!
In January 1933 the Munsey Park Association announced a membership of 187 out of the 216 families in the village, and two months later Harold B. Callis became the third Mayor of Munsey Park. In May an interesting letter to the Manhasset Mail was written by Ernest G. Blaich, the realtor, stating that while many homes were being offered at distress prices local homes seldom, if ever, were on the foreclosure lists. This spoke well for both the homes and the homeowners of Munsey Park . It was not revealed until 1951 that an “Emergency Committee of Munsey Park” had been formed in 1933 consisting of H.B. Callis, W.L. Longyear, Eric N. Plump, Marion Rodgers, C.E. Rollins and Fred W. Wulfing.
This ‘Committee’ had collected funds from village residents during that depression period for the sole purpose of lending aid unobtrusively to Munsey Parkers who were on the edge of mortgage foreclosures. In 1951 when some $268 remaining in this fund was turned over to the Civil Defense Committee the work of these men became known. According to a March 8, 1951 column of the Manhasset Mail, “It was one of the finest neighborly acts which has ever taken place in a North Shore Community.”
By January 1934 when a Munsey Park Association survey indicated there were 540 residents in the village - as well as 90 dogs - the Board of Education was considering possible sites for a high school, with the likely intention of using the Munsey Park grounds for a grade school. The school population had risen to 1155 in September 1933, and when put to the voters in October 1934 the community approved acquisition of the Thompson property near Thompson Shore Road for the new high school. The vote was 493 for vs 351 against, thought by some to have been caused by a strong turnout of MunseyPark voters who wanted to ensure no high school at their location.
In 1935 Fred W. Wulfing was elected as Munsey Park ’s fourth Mayor. His was to be a most productive administration and many of this Board’s far-sighted decisions have effects still felt today. Among these was the proposal to deadend all through streets, excepting Park Avenue for east-west traffic, andManhasset Woods Road for north-south.
Dead-ended streets eventually included Thayer and Ryder Roads south, and Hunt Lane west all of which abutted William Levitt’s “Strathmore in Manhasset”; and also Eakins Road and Nassau Avenue north on the Flower Hill line. All, with the exception of Hunt Lane , eventually had stone walls erected across as traffic barriers. Neighboring sections were requesting outlets through village roads but with no compulsion to contribute toward their maintainance. The action of the Village Board was upheld in a test case by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in 1936, although some forty years later the Hunt Lane closing was reversed because no permanent physical barrier had been constructed.
A second important decision by Wulfing’s board, initiated in 1938, was to acquire a 10' perimeter guard strip along Northern Boulevard . A later village board similarly obtained a 1 foot strip along part of the Port Washington Boulevard perimeter; and again in 1979 a 10 foot buffer separating the residential and business districts near Bonwit Teller. The importance of these village properties is that by prohibiting direct access from outside they effectively inhibit any commercial incursion.
In January 1936 Subdivision “F” was sited for homes along Park Avenue from Remington Road eastward to Martin Place . The Park Avenue south houses were resubdivided into a portion of Section “K” withAbbey Road resurveyed to loop back into Park Avenue, east .
In May 1936 the Munsey Park Garden Club of the Munsey Park Women’s Club held its first Flower Show, with winners for twelve classes of flowers.
By the end of 1936 the Metropolitan Museum , the village’s largest taxpayer, was still operating the Munsey Park Golf Club at a continuing deficit. In fairness, they offered a one-year renewal of club operations which, seeing the handwriting on the wall, the club members declined, and “a pleasant page in Manhasset’s history nears its end.”
(1937 - 1944)
On March 1, 1937 the Munsey Park Golf Club closed forever and Mayor Wulfing announced at a Munsey Park Association meeting that the second nine holes - the portion south of Park Avenue - would be developed that spring (as another portion of Section “K”). He also stated that the property along Northern Boulevard would be given over entirely to homes and not to any additional business district; and that the only business portion in the tract would be at the Club House which was already zoned for commercial use.
At that same March meeting Wulfing released the happy news that three acres had now been set aside for park and playground by the Museum, near the ‘notorious’ 14th hole. It was not actually developed until 1940 when W.P.A. workers did groundwork and a water main to the pond, with valves and a meter, was installed, all at a cost of $3,850. Concrete benches which had been in use at the 1939 World’s Fair at the House of Jewels exhibit were donated to the park by a resident, Mr. K.I. Van Cott. Copley Park remains today as one of the loveliest and most peaceful, natural areas in the Village.
In August 1937 David T. Wile was appointed manager for Munsey Park, Inc., agent for the Museum. He embarked on a successful major campaign promoting the new Munsey Park homes, all of either American Colonial, Norman or English architecture, and costing from $14,000 to $23,000. Publicity for the first 60 acres of golf club land appeared frequently in the Herald Tribune, New York Times, Brooklyn Eagle, and the Sun among several others.
By 1938 the long-proposed grade school construction could no longer be deferred, and was approved by a 2-1 vote in August 1938. The project almost came to a screeching halt when the Manhasset School Board not only refused to acknowledge any authority of the Village of Munsey Park, but also any applicability of its stringent building code, filing for permits, or payment of fees, and made a strong worded written protest. This must have placed the school board president who signed the letter in an unusual position - President Ralph L. Juretie was a long-standing resident of Munsey Park , a former president of the Munsey Park Association, and a supporter of village home rule. The matter was settled with a common sense avoidance of litigation and an adjustment of the fees.
The Munsey Park School cornerstone was placed on April 30, 1937 when the building was 57% completed, and opened that September to accept some 200 children from Munsey Park , Flower Hill,South Strathmore and Strathmore-Vanderbilt.
In December 1939 a school census showed that Munsey Park had 345 families, 419 children, 809 adults, 195 servants and 3 roomers for a total of 1426 - the rest of Manhasset had another 8400.
Callan Brothers had acquired property and prepared to build north of Park Avenue , along Trumbull and Kensett Roads as far east as Barnard Place , all being part of the first nine holes of the golf course. The Callan homes were at first plotted for 15,000 square feet minimum lot sizes, but were set on at least 8,000 square feet lots, to be priced for no less than $13,500. The designs were by registered architects and according to individual specifications. The homes met with immediate market acceptance in what was recorded as the greatest home building boom in Long Island ’s history. One small, unique feature was the means whereby they complied with the village’s ordinance controlling corner-plantings, occasionally using rock gardens some with small pools of water.
In March 1941 Mayor Wulfing, unique in serving three terms as Mayor, was succeeded by H. Earle Dow. The village took time out to observe, not without concern, William Levitt’s plans for a “ FifthAvenueShopping Center ” on Northern Boulevard which ultimately ushered in the “Miracle Mile” concept for commercial districts.
The building pace in both commercial and residential area quickened as developers foresaw price increases due to defense program needs. At a time when the A & P was advertising prime ribs of beef at 29¢ per pound the assessed valuation of Munsey Park had risen to $4,138,000 (from $1,372,000 in 1932) and village expenditures to $17,700 (from $10,785 in 1932). The village tax rate, however, had been reduced to 24¢ (from 57¢ in 1932) because of the greater tax rolls.
The dollar still had considerable value in those days prior to the outbreak of war. The Munsey Park Association’s “Fall Frolic” at the North Hills Country Club on November 29, 1941 was advertised at a cost of $3.50 per couple! It was probably the last great bargain.
One week later the country, and Munsey Park , were at war; and the following week the village was divided into air raid defense sectors. In the initial rush to become involved the Village Board shortly thereafter approved the purchase of fire hose for $650 (subsequently resold to the Fire Department), steel helmets for the defense wardens for $380, sundry armbands, defense gauze, warden’s whistles, first aid boxes, and so forth. (The contents of the Civil Defense First Aid Station were eventually donated to the Munsey Park School in 1945).
A greatly more significant and visible reaction was the immediate response to the colors by the young men of the village; and it would not be too long before a heavy price was paid by some of them.
In the first week of the war a small item appeared in the news to the effect that a gift of 3 ½ acres for a second park had been deeded by the Museum, gratefully accepted by Mayor Dow. This was the same land around ‘pollywog pond’ offered for free ‘temporary’ use back in 1933. In 1943 the Village Board by solemn resolution renamed this parcel to honor the first man from Munsey Park to lose his life in the service of his country, Lt. George Raymond Waldmann. On Memorial Day in 1946 a touching commemoration was conducted by the American Legion at Waldmann Park to honor all the men of Manhasset, and our country, who would not return.
The Munsey Park Honor Roll includes the names of Warren Harvey, Kent Fay, Emmett Corrigan, Jr., William D. Simmons, Jr., Thomas B. Dowd and John Keepnews, in addition to George R. Waldmann.
During the war construction choked off for want of materials and labor. A tentative move was made to construct a second movie theater in 1942 at the rear of the Munsey Park Shopping Center , but it never got off the ground.
The Congregational Church did buy some 2 ½ acres of land bounded by Copley, Allston and Abbey Roads in May 1942, almost exactly one year after their church incorporation. They had rented the golf clubhouse in February 1943 for their meetings and purchased it in 1944 until their new church could be erected. The groundbreaking was on May 12, 1948 with a cornerstone ceremony that October. The completed Congregational Church was formally dedicated on June 12, 1949 .
In 1944 the village still presented a fairly rural scene, despite its considerable pre-war construction. The minutes of the Village Board in April 1944 record the Board’s adjudication of a complaint from a gentleman at 5 Sargent Place who strenuously took exception to the noises made by his neighbor’s rooster in the early hours. The Board, possibly with tongue in cheek, solemnly recorded its unanimous opinion that “harboring a rooster on the premises could be construed as a nuisance.”
The devastating hurricane of September 14, 1944 left a serious mark on the village with 30 trees, mainly on Manhasset Woods Road , blown down and 140 others that had to be straightened. It took a year before the recovery was completed. The village would not suffer again as greatly until the shattering ice-storm of December 17, 1973 . Power lines, and trees - 80% of all those in the village - were damaged under the weight of accumulated ice, with the Whistler Road elms in particular looking like a battlefield area. This restoration program took some eight months at a costs of $32,000.
In 1944 Levitt & Sons purchased nearly all the remaining open land in the village, some 60 undeveloped acres and 77 plots, for an estimated cost of $150,000. The lands generally comprised the remainder of the first nine holes north and east of Park Avenue , as well as some of the second nine holes, south of Park Avenue . Levitt announced that he would develop all this sometime after the war when materials and labor were again available, and would conform to “plans and plottage”. Mr. Levitt’s forte was in the sound construction of smaller homes, some not compatible with Munsey Park ’s exceptional architectural standards, whereupon the Civic Association researched “The Scope and Enforceability of Restrictions”, preparing to oppose construction of any smaller homes.
(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.
(1958 - 1980)
Russell D. Higgins became the eleventh Mayor in March 1958 and was succeeded by William Dailey in 1960. Two years later when Harold E. Johnson took office his term would coincide with one of the last heavy development periods in the village.
The Official Minutes of August 12, 1964 indicate a proposal similar to the earlier Altman offer, in which certain lots would be deeded to the village as a park if it could be rezoned, and increase the number of lots from 22 to 28 - thereby decreasing the lot sizes. Again the Village Board rejected the officer whereupon the tract was purchased by Munsey Park Estates, Inc. and scheduled to be developed in accordance with the earlier Levitt map of 1947. Twenty one homes were built on Blakelock Road , Peale Road and Sully Drive just east of the Lutheran Church property, and were completed in 1965.
In March 1966, J. Roy Price took office and served as Mayor until 1971 when John C. Heim was elected a Munsey Park ’s fifteenth Mayor. The Village Board was still meeting in a small rented room in theMunsey Park Office Building . All the official records - including files, correspondence, financial details, maps, lot surveys, building permits, etc., - had increased tremendously. They were stored in various dispersed locations, sometimes in the homes of village officers. Efficiency was greatly impaired by the lack of a central office requiring extra time in researching reference files. The need for a single facility was not only logical, it was essential.
Accordingly, in May 1972 the Board authorized preliminary drawings for a Village Hall that might be erected on the Sargent Place property purchased in 1950 from Dr. Butman.
A Citizens’ Advisory Committee was appointed to consider possible details of size, construction, architecture and cost. All agreed it must conform to the existing building code that applied to all new homes.
In August 1973 the Village Board accepted the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to proceed with the knowledge that the major portion of its $60,000 cost would be offset by Federal Revenue Sharing Funds, and would not require any increase in taxes. Excavation was started in May 1974 and the building ready for occupancy six months later. An open house dedication was held on December 8, 1974 . Since that date the Munsey Park Village Government has been centralized at 1777 Northern Boulevard . (The street number was selected as the closest to “1776" which, unfortunately was reserved for the south side of the Boulevard.) The Munsey Park Association donated prints of the noted American Artists for whom the village streets are named and these are displayed throughout the Village Hall.
Donald H. Miller became Village Mayor in March 1975 at a time when the United States was focusing on its forthcoming National Bi-Centennial. By early 1976 the spectacular Op Sail Project had revived a spirit of patriotism, especially in the northeast portion of our country. The Munsey Park Association prepared its own salute with a community picnic at Copley Park on July 4, 1976 . In addition to the many events one singularly impressive and successful effort was in the renaissance of Manhasset’s own drum corps. In 1938 Arthur H. Wright had organized the “Sons of the Legion Drum Corps” - in 1976 at a cannon signal, under the leadership of Bob Riley who was one of the original Legion Drums Corps members, the “Cow Bay Drum Corps” proudly accompanied the National Colors onto Copley Park to the steady beat of authentic Revolutionary Era fife and drum music. Two sons of Arthur Wright marched in the contingent, bearing drums from 1938 which had been refurbished for 1976.
In September 1977 the Village Officers received an overseas inquiry from Conrad Kohlheyer, son of former Mayor Kohlheyer, asking if they would consider some sort of commemorative celebration for the 50th Anniversary of Munsey Park. Again officials of the village and of the Munsey Park Civic Association cooperated and cosponsored an anniversary event with another successful village picnic in Copley Park on June 17, 1978 .
In March 1979 a precedent, long overdue, was established with the election of Munsey Park ’s seventeenth Mayor, the first woman so elected. Louise V. Reebel, the village’s first distaff Trustee in 1974, now serves as Mayor in this fiftieth anniversary year of the Incorporation of Munsey Park.
In May 1979 the last multi-dwelling area of the village was slated for development. Bonwit Teller had owned the residential lands adjacent to their business site but was unable to obtain commercial rezoning from any Village Board. The property was sold to Munsey Park Estates, a developer, who is now in the process of construction ten new homes on Hunt Lane circle, Park Avenue and Sully Drive ; three have been completed by July 1980 including the model home at 872 Park Avenue .
The prices of these newest homes are in excess of $250,000, compared with the earliest ones at $13,500. In the fifty years since 1930 the assessed valuation of Munsey Park has risen from $1,371,950 to $11,689,720, with approximately 10% of the village lands of the tax rolls (the two churches, the school and the Water District). The first village budget in 1930 was for some $2,500 - the refuse collection item alone in the 1981 budget will cost $144,000!
There remain today only a dozen or so lots, off the 10.2 miles of village roads, on which any houses in addition to the 823 homes completed can be put up. The Official National Census of 1980, when published, will reveal whether the village population officially has risen over the 3,000 mark from the previously recorded 2,985. If it has Munsey Park will, in legal terms, become a “ Second Class Village ” instead of its present “Third Class” designation. The distinction lies mainly in the number of signatures required on nominating petitions of candidates seeking election to office.
Munsey Park since its founding has been governed by dedicated citizens of wisdom and foresight, not one of whom has ever received one cent in salary compensation for their assumption of responsibility and administration. In character, if not by official designation, Munsey Park has always been a First Class Village.
Official Minutes of the Incorporated Village of Munsey Park, 1930-1980 (Munsey Park Village Hall)
Official Map Case Drawers, Village of Munsey Park (Munsey Park Village Hall)
Manhasset Mail, 1927-1971, Microfilm (Manhasset Public Library)
Manhasset Press, 1975-1980, Microfilm (Manhasset Public Library)
Real Estate Map of Nassau County , 1923 (Manhasset Public Library)
Atlas of Long Island , 1873 (Manhasset Public Library)
Munsey Park Subdivisions (of David T. Wile), (Courtesy of Carmel A. Barry Realty, Inc.)
Scrap Book, 1937-38 (of David T. Wile) (Courtesy of Carmel A. Barry Realty, Inc.)
I have not provided detailed references or footnotes in my research, exept for certain direct attributions. Nevertheless, I have not reported or implied any facts which can not be supported by a published account in orne form or another. The total accuracy of these accounts, of course, can be best determined only by those who were a part of the period.