In the late 1860s, Alexander T. Stewart, a wealthy New York merchant, won a bidding war with another local businessman and purchased the plains of the future Garden City for $55 an acre, a whopping sum at the time. Stewart was one of the early pioneers of planned communities and he installed 28 miles of picket fences and even transplanted 6,500 sugar maples to his new development (Lisa Bruno, Big Houses Take Root on the Prairie, Newsday 1/27/2003)
The village was slow to grow. Perhaps it was because home owners could only lease space and not actually buy their land. The bad timing of the Panic of 1873 for Stewart might also have had something to do with the lots of Garden City languishing. Stewart tried all kinds of civic improvements to lure leaseholders, but he was only marginally successful and with his death in 1876, he did not live to see his dream fulfilled. The village began to grow when the leasehold system was abandoned after his widow’s death in 1886. Today, Stewart would be proud of his creation as Garden City has grown to about 22,000 residents and is still a very fashionable place to live with an excellent school system and beautiful homes. Garden City has a wide array of housing styles due to the century long build out.
The city is aesthetically centered on the spectacular Episcopalian Cathedral of the Incarnation (the seat of the Long Island Diocese) and the third incarnation of the Garden City Hotel. The hotel has 280 rooms and is a 4 star operation with large conference facilities. The formerly posh shopping venue of Franklin Avenue was unfortunately drained of some of it’s larger and tonier retailers with the opening of the Roosevelt Field Mall on the eastern border of Garden City on a former airfield. The mall has 2.2 million square feet of shopping and is the largest in the state of New York.
Geographically Garden City is an island of affluence. It is surrounded on all sides by residential areas that range from solid lower-middle class suburbia to the large, troubled, and densely populated village of Hempstead . There are 3,245 Higley 1000 households in Garden City spread over 4 neighborhoods. Garden City has no racial minorities of any significant size and is 96.9% Non-Hispanic White in the Higley 1000 neighborhoods. Approximately half of Garden City’s residents live in the four Higley 1000 neighborhoods.