Founded in the 1600s, the Town of Hempstead, the oldest English settlement in Nassau County, has evolved into the largest township in the United States, larger than six states. In 1643, John Carman and the Reverend Robert Fordham struck a deal with Tackapausha, one of the most influential of the local Native American Sachems or Chiefs, to buy 64,000 acres of property for the sum of $100. In 1644, the English settlers petitioned Dutch Governor Kieft for the right to farm the rich land obtained through this historic agreement. Farmers and fishermen thus began to make use of the abundant resources available in what is today the Town of Hempstead.
Land use remained largely agrarian in nature until the end of World War II. At that time, foresighted developers began to buy up large tracts of land, correctly anticipating the tremendous demand for affordable housing engendered by returning veterans. William Levitt, the most enterprising of the developers, bought up entire farming communities and, in what is today known as Levittown, mass-produced the largest housing development created to date.
Within a brief 30-year period, Hempstead Town had been converted from an agricultural community to a suburban metropolis. Historians and preservation-minded citizens began petitioning the government to take action to maintain their unique historical heritage for the benefit of future generations.
In response, the Supervisor and Town Board adopted Chapter 76 of the Town Code, establishing a Town Landmarks Ordinance and a Town of Hempstead Landmarks Preservation Commission, which consists of an architect, an engineer, three historians, and an attorney. The Towns Building Commissioner serves as the Commission's Executive Secretary.
Designation of a Landmark
Any person, with or without the written consent of the owner, may request the designation of a landmark or landmark site by submitting an application to the Commission on its form. In addition, the Commission may, on its own motion, with or without the written consent of the owner, initiate proceedings for the designation of a landmark or landmark site. In reaching a decision, the Commission shall consider the special character, ambiance, historical significance, aesthetic value, and uniqueness of the architectural design of the proposed landmark or landmark site wherever applicable.
The Landmarks Commission wishes to impress upon interested residents of incorporated villages and their historical societies that they should seek the support of their local village officials prior to making an application to the Town of Hempstead. Initial approval is required from the particular village government before making an application for landmark status to the Town. In short, structures and sites throughout the entire Town of Hempstead will be afforded the protection they deserve, through this concept of creating cooperative agreements between the Town of Hempstead and its incorporated villages for the designation of landmarks. This will result also in limiting the cost to the taxpayers; duplication of effort will be avoided on the part of the respective municipalities.