The History of Hempstead Village

The founding of Hempstead Village

Historical Facts

Hempstead Village, established in 1643, is the oldest English settlement in Long Island’s Nassau County and the county’s first political core. Diverse from its inception, the village’s historic scenery includes stately Hempstead Town Hall, elegant St. George’s Episcopal Church, and the white spires of the United Methodist Church of Hempstead and Christ’s First Presbyterian Church.


Hempstead’s network of founding families established an enduring community from which other communities were spawned. Its central location made it the go-to destination for early travelers; its renowned Sammis Tavern hosted President George Washington during his 1790 trip across Long Island. In the late 1800s, Hempstead’s transport accessibility and lovely scenery lured the fabulously rich to build estates and summer homes within and surrounding its borders.


By 1910, Hempstead had become a retail and banking center, and by 1920, it was known as “The Hub.” Today, Hempstead embraces a population that reflects the growth and change occurring throughout our nation.

Hempstead Plains


A 1960 photo of grass on the Hempstead Plains may seem unworthy of placement in a historical archive. However, this waist-high blue-green grass, stretching for thousands of square acres in mid-Long Island, beckoned the English folk who founded Hempstead Village. These English Protestants (mostly Presbyterians) did not come for commercial purposes, but to establish a good society, with farms where livestock could graze and be watered. 

Hempstead Village 3rd grade students and teachers March 1903


Hempstead Public School: This 1903 picture of Hempstead third-graders would have been taken in the proud 1889 Hempstead Public School building, which had 25 classrooms and a large gym. However, the village population in 1889 stood at perhaps 2,500. By 1903, the population had swelled to 5,000, and as this classroom shows, the need for other schools arose. The middle section of Prospect School was erected in 1906 and was initially called Public School No. 2.

Hempstead 3rd Grade Students and Teachers March 1903

Photo Courtesy of Hempstead Library Archives

1923, James Butler Store


The James Butler Inc. Licensed Stores (groceries and liquors) had become a household word in multiple cities by 1901. This image is by Alex Krakatowski, who photographed many Village of Hempstead scenes during the 1920s. The advertisements for the movies being shown at the Hempstead Theatre (which opened in 1922) include Buster Keaton in Our Hospitality, a 1923 release. The photo probably pictures a location on Front Street, given the presence of trolley tracks, which ran only down Main Street and east-west on Front Street. Also, the advertisement on the building at the far right for Magee Bros. Plumbing & Heating at 77 Main Street reveals that this location is likely on Front Street, because the section of Main Street that included number 77 was already crowded with proud business buildings -- some wood frame, but more and more made of stone after about 1890.

James Butler Store in Hempstead, 1923

Photo Courtesy of Hempstead Library Archives

Hempstead Village Plains, Circa 1960

Photo Courtesy of Nassau County Photo Archives Center

(Click the images for a magnified view of the details within each photo)

Hempstead Public Library has an archive department that has amazing historical pictures and information!  You're encourage to explore the hidden treasures that are available in our very own library.

© 2018 by The Incorporated Village of Hempstead

99 James A. Garner Way

Hempstead, NY 11550

Tel: 516-489-3400

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