A History of the Garden City Historical Society
With the first crash of the wrecking ball into the façade of the Garden City Hotel, Long Island, New York's premiere hotel servicing notable individuals from around the world, and the community’s third hotel on the Stewart Avenue property, a small group of onlookers vowed to preserve the architectural and historical heritage of their village. Two years later in 1975, seven residents banned together to form the Garden City Historical Society. They held the first meeting on November 17, 1975 and filed for a provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents.
The Early Years
The next three years saw the Society increase its original 138 membership several fold, and pursue a campaign of historical awareness through lectures and presentations, and an education program for school children. A 26-member committee catalogued the 54 Stewart-era houses remaining in the Village and succeeded in having them listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Society commissioned the sculpting of a bust of Charles Lindbergh, which is permanently displayed in the Garden City Public Library, and began exhibiting yearly in the library’s main showcase. Members encouraged interest in the magnificent Cathedral of the Incarnation, and taped community resident interviews. The Society also secured republication rights to the pictorial history book of Garden City written by former Village Historian Mildred Smith.
The Stewart-era Apostle House
In 1975, the Episcopal Diocese donated the home it owned at 89 Fifth Street to the newly formed Society. The house, one of 9 identical homes known as “Apostle Houses,” was built in 1872 as part of Alexander T. Stewart’s visionary planned community of Garden City. In 1892 the Diocese built St. Mary’s School next door to the home. For a time, the building, which never served as a private residence, housed classes and offered boarding for faculty. In 1902 when St. Mary’s expanded its facility, the house was moved across Cathedral Avenue on Fifth Street. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Society members restored the home, planted Victorian gardens and held meetings there.4
Relocation of Apostle House
In July 1988, the Society’s “Apostle House” was moved to its current location on Eleventh Street, thanks to the generous offer from the Village of Garden City to provide the site. Five years later, the Society discovered the home had been deregistered from landmark status because of the move, and renewed the process to effect its listing. In the mid-1990s, the Village provided additional land to the east and north to accommodate the current driveway off Eleventh Street.
Restoration and Future Plans
In the footsteps of A.T. Stewart, after completion of partial interior renovations and restoration in September 2005, the Society's Board of Directors opened the "Apostle House" as The Garden City Historical Society Museum, exhibit hall and meeting place. As part of those renovations, a fire sprinkler and fire and smoke alarm systems were installed, restoration was completed on the main floor, and an Archives and administrative office were created on the second floor. The Society continues to seek preservation of historic property and artifacts within the Village, offer educational presentations, and increase awareness of Garden City’s unique heritage.