History of Roslyn
By Harrison Marder
Roslyn was among the 1st places settled
The history of Roslyn dates back to 1643, when Robert Fordham and John Carmen sailed across the Long Island Sound from Connecticut and landed in Hempstead Harbor. A year later, more settlers from Connecticut arrived and decided to stay in the Hempstead Harbor area. Much has changed since Fordham and Carmen’s voyage all those years ago. Here is a brief history of how Roslyn came to be.
Roslyn’s oldest remaining building, the Van-Nostrand Starkins house, was built in 1680. It was purchased by blacksmith Joseph Starkins in 1795. The one-and-a-half story clapboard structure currently serves as a museum.
Hendrick Onderdonk built and opened a mill dam and paper mill in Hempstead Harbor in 1773. Onderdonk’s paper mill was the first paper mill on Long Island. Prior to opening the paper mill, Onderdonk was in charge of Hempstead Harbor’s first gristmill in the 1750s. President George Washington visited Hempstead Harbor during his five-day tour of Long Island in 1790. During his visit, Washington had breakfast with Onderdonk. Washington even mentioned Onderdonk’s gristmill and paper mill in a diary entry about his visit to Hempstead Harbor. Onderdonk died in 1809. His former home is still standing and has evolved into the George Washington Manor Restaurant. The original gristmill sits to the east of the restaurant. Onderdonk’s original paper mill was torn down in 1915, but a replica building was built in its place on Paper Mill Road that same year. The replica building served as the headquarters for the Red Cross and the American Legion.
- The first post office in Hempstead Harbor was established in 1838. Hempstead Harbor was renamed Roslyn on Sept. 7, 1844. The area was renamed due to postal confusion regarding several other “Hempstead’s” that were spread across Long Island.
- Roslyn’s first fire company was founded in 1852
- Roslyn Cemetery was founded in 1861.
- Roslyn’s first school was built on Old Northern Boulevard in 1863.
- The Long Island Railroad first reached Roslyn in 1864.
- Roslyn Savings Bank, the first savings bank in Nassau County, was opened in 1876.
- William Cullen Bryant, long-time editor of the New York Evening Post and Roslyn resident, died in 1878. He was buried in Roslyn Cemetery.
Two years prior to his death, Bryant was involved in the building of the “Reading Room,” a place for Roslyn residents to gather in the evenings. The “Reading Room” was renamed Bryant Library in 1878.
- One of Roslyn’s most prominent landmarks, the Ellen E. Ward Memorial Clocktower, was erected in 1895.
The clocktower, which is located at the intersection of Main Street and Old Northern Boulevard, is built of random ashlar granite and limestone trim.
- Street lights were first installed in Roslyn in 1901.
- Roslyn Boy Scout Troop #1 was established in 1911, the first Boy Scout Troop in Nassau County.
- In 1912, ROSLYN Visiting Nurse Association was formed.
This was the first organization of its kind on Long Island located east of Flushing.
- Roslyn High School was built on Roslyn Road in 1925. The land for the school was given by C.H. Mackay, the owner of the “Harbor Hill” estate. Mackay, who inherited a vast silver fortune when his father passed away, died in 1938.
- The Villages of East Hills, Roslyn Estates and Roslyn Harbor were incorporated in 1931.
- The Village of Roslyn was incorporated the following year, 1932.
- The congregation at Temple Sinai formed in 1947. It was the first Jewish congregation in Roslyn.
- Temple Beth Sholom was built in 1951.
- Roslyn Junior High School was opened in 1957.
- The Harbor Hill School opened in 1961.
- Christopher Morley died in 1957.
Morley was well-known for his building his writing studio in Roslyn, which was known as “The Knothole.”
In 1961, the Christopher Morley Knothole Association was formed to save Morley’s writing studio. A new Nassau County Park was named after Morley in 1963. Morley was buried in Roslyn Cemetery.
- The villages of Roslyn celebrated their 50th anniversary of incorporation in 1982. Four years later, in 1986, ROSLYN Community Center was opened.
- A new Village Hall was built by Roslyn Village in 1994 and was opened in 1995.
- Cedarmere, the former home of Bryant, opened as a museum in 1995.
- Janet Galante was elected the first female mayor of Roslyn Village in 1995.
- In 2004, the same year that ROSLYN School District celebrated the 100th anniversary of Roslyn High School, the Nassau County District Attorney began an investigation into missing funds from the district.
- Ground was broken for The Park at East Hills in 2004. The park held its opening day in 2006.
- A historic marker was placed at Cedarmere in 2013.
This marker came four years after Cedarmere was closed to the public by Nassau County in 2009.
Despite being a small village of less than 3,000 residents, Roslyn has certainly seen its fair share of historical moments.