A Brief History of The Five Towns
Archeologists believe that indigenous people occupied the area of Southern New York from about 4600 B.C. From about 1000 B.C., the native people of this area demonstrated a tradition of cultivated crops, permanent or semi-permanent villages and the use of baked pottery vessels. The relatively warm, dry climate and the abundance of streams and tidal basins produced a variety of food sources. Woodlands were cleared for fields which were planted with corn and probably beans and squash. The archeological evidence shows that fishing and the harvesting of shellfish were important occupations. Around 1100 A.D., a new population, identified by archaeologists through their distinctive pottery, inhabited the area. These people, referred to by archaeologists as the East River Culture, inhabited the western part of Long Island and co-existed with the tribes which lived further to the North and East. It is thought that the East River Culture are the ancestors of the Algonquian-speaking people who inhabited the area at the time that the first European settlers arrived, in the Seventeenth Century.
The founding families of the Town of Hempstead were descendants of English immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony who made their way south through Connecticut. Members of the Hewlett, Brower, Combs, Pearsall and Seaman families, whose names are well-known throughout L.I., established themselves in the South Shore communities during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Once rural farmland, this suburban area of New York City became known after the Civil War as a recreational area for the wealthy. Its proximity to the ocean and nearby meadows and beaches made it a desirable area for hotels and summer mansions. The development of the Long Island Rail Road and the establishment of its Rockaway Branch, permitted easy access from New York City. Industrialists, politicians and celebrities included “The Branch” as a summer destination and a community developed to cater to their needs. In its early days famous residents were industrialists and politicians such as Russell Sage, Robert L. Burton and George Woodward Wickersham.
After World War II, the area became more developed and became recognized for its upwardly mobile population. The “Five Towns” moniker became synonymous with prosperity and in the 1990’s Worth magazine listed Hewlett Bay Park and Hewlett Harbor among the wealthiest communities in the U.S.
In recent years, the late football player Lyle Alzado, fashion figures Donna Karan and Steve Madden, filmmakers Ed Burns and Howard Deutsch, artist Ross Bleckner, actress Peggy Lipton, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Louise Gluck, children’s author David Adler, molecular geneticist Jeffrey M. Friedman and the late Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Robert R. Furchgott have been among those who called the Five Towns their home.