The History of
The true history of Malverne goes back further than anyone knows. Located
on the south shore of Long Island , our village has quite possibly existed
for millions of years.
More than 10,000 years ago, much of Long Island was covered by glaciers.
When the ice began to melt, it formed lakes, brooks, ponds, and streams. The
glaciers also transported millions of tons of sand and gravel towards the oceans,
building up what is now our south shore. Malverne rests upon this bed of sand
Our water supply comes from a vast underground basin which extends beneath
much of Long Island and runs two thousand feet deep in some places. With its
proximity to the south shore, Malverne’s water table is higher than in
more northerly villages, and many residents can remember the once vigorously
rushing brooks and ponds that occasionally overflowed their banks. The area
where Hempstead Avenue and Franklin Avenue meet was once known as "Grassy
Pond" and was a popular spot for ice skating during the winter.
Malverne is ideally situated, only 45 minutes from the heart of New York
City, and within ten minutes of some of the world’s most beautiful white
sand beaches. We also enjoy the temperate Long Island climate – warmer
in the winter and cooler in the summer than nearby cities and suburbs.
Malverne is located on what was once the tribal territory of the Rockaway
Indians, whose lands extended over a good part of present-day Queens and Nassau.
The Rockaways were known for their skill in making wampum from shells. Wampum
was used as a form of monetary exchanges as well as for jewelry. Older residents
of Malverne have found arrow heads, pottery and other Native American relics,
reminding us of our village’s first inhabitants.
Historical evidence suggests that Malverne’s first white settlers began
to arrive in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many of Malverne’s
older homes were built during this period and some of the familiar streets
of Malverne derived their names from early families like the Cornwells, the
Riders, the Wicks, the Nostrands, and others.
The Early Community
While many original settlers of Long Island were attracted to fishing industries,
Malverne’s excellent location attracted farmers. With our many brooks,
streams, and reservoirs, the land was fertile and offered easy irrigation.
The high water table also caused its share of problems; during the construction
of homes, many sites had to be pumped for days before a foundation could be
laid. Even after homes were built, some homeowners experienced flooded basements
during rainy weather.
In addition to farming, there were a number of other businesses in Malverne,
including a wheelwright shop, a grist mill, several general stores, a greenhouse,
a small hotel and a tavern.
In 1870, the Hempstead and Rockaway Railroad connected Valley Stream with
Hempstead. Where the railroad crossed Franklin Avenue (then known as Grassy
Pond) was a station called Bridgeport. Nearby was a company which transported
manure in flatcars to be sold as fertilizer to the farmers. The smell, especially
during the hot summer months, led to the site being nicknamed "Skunk’s
Misery." Contrary to popular belief, Skunk’s Misery was never the
name of Malverne.
The railroad had problems from the beginning. A few years after it started
running, an engine blew up at the Hempstead station and killed a man. In 1875,
flooding from spring rains caused an accident and killed an engineer and two
others. The railroad never recovered from the lawsuits following the accident
and was virtually abandoned.
In 1895, the New York Bay Extension Railroad Company
began to run a line through Malverne, which was later joined to other railroads
to become part of the Long Island Railroad. But the line was unprofitable
and discontinued in 1910. In 1911, the railroad began running a battery driven
trolley from Valley Stream to Hempstead. This trolley had a comic-book like
appearance and became affectionately known as "the dinky." The
dinky was Malverne’s
only source of railroad transportation until 1926.
Malverne Gets its Name
During the early 20th century, migration accelerated from the crowded city
into the suburbs of Queens and outlying areas. In 1911, the Amsterdam Development
and Land Company purchased its first parcel of land in Malverne – the
Lindner farm – and Malverne began its transformation from rural village
to suburban community.
The Amsterdam Company was financed in part by the president of the Eimer
and Amed Chemical Company. Its manager, Alfred H. Wagg, built the first home
in the new development at the corner of Norwood and Hempstead Avenues. The
second home built was for Ernest Childs, an executive of the chemical company.
Together, Wagg and Childs contributed to the naming of our village in 1913.
Previously, Malverne had been known as Norwood, a name shared by several Norwoods
in New York State, leading to frequent misdelivery of mail. When Wagg, Childs
and others met to decide on a new name, Lynmouth was selected and later rejected
because of its similarity to nearby Lynbrook. Childs was originally from England
and knew of a town called Malvern, known for its green spaces and yearly George
Bernard Shaw festival. He offered its name and the suggestion was accepted.
The name, Malvern, comes from the Old English and means "green
mall" or "green park." (The British pronunciation sounds like "Mall-vrn." Our
pronunciation sounds more like the Latin prefix "Mal" which means "bad.")
There were several other Malverns in the world. The largest is a suburb of
Melbourne, Australia (in fact, "Melbourne" might also be an
adaptation of "Malvern.") In the United States, there are Malverns
in Alabama , Pennsylvania, Virginia and Arkansas. Only our Malverne, however,
is spelled with the final "e" – and how we got that "e"
is a mystery which has never been solved.
Incorporation and Growth
The development of Malverne posed many challenges for residents – the
need for street paving, water supply, street lighting, mail service, zoning
laws. Unfortunately, World War I intruded and further development was put on
hold. Coal shortages, a major flu epidemic and the general anxiety of wartime
contributed to the difficulties the village faced then.
After the war, development accelerated again. A key issue was whether or
not to incorporate. The issue was decided in October of 1920, although official
documents list the date of incorporation as April 13, 1921.
As Malverne’s new officials worked to provide the village with services – police,
fire, sanitation, roads, improved utilities – some residents protested
the increased taxes while others resented the new ordinances and procedures
which they felt were encroaching upon their freedom. The friction led those
who had earlier opposed incorporation to vote in favor of disincorporating.
The majority of the voters remained in favor of incorporation, however. Malverne
had survived its first political crisis.
The Depression Years
In 1929, the collapse of the stock market and the ensuing Great Depression
stalled the rapid development that had been taking place in Malverne. Unemployment
skyrocketed and many homeowners were unable to pay their taxes. Throughout
Long Island, villages teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, services were slashed
and homeowners were forced into foreclosure.
Malverne, however, was fortunate to have elected Hamilton Gaddis as mayor.
Gaddis implemented several measures to keep Malverne afloat. Among them was
an increase in the valuation of property owned by the Long Island Railroad
and the utility companies, which effectively increased their taxes. Gaddis
also reduced Village operational costs without drastically altering service.
Finally, Gaddis worked out an installment plan for homeowners who owed back
Malverne survived the Depression and by 1937 its faith in its mayor was rewarded
when Gaddis announced that the tax rate would be decreased by 25 percent. In
addition to steering the village through the Depression, the Gaddis administration
successfully fought to keep a coal company from setting up business in Malverne.
This set a precedent against over-industrialization which has helped Malverne
to retain its lovely, small-town atmosphere.
When the depression ended, Malverne again began to grow. By 1940, Malverne’s
population was large enough to qualify the village for "first class" status,
with added responsibilities to the village administration, and also the right
to increase the salaries of the Mayor and trustees (the administration chose
not to take advantage of this right.)
Malverne had also developed a thriving artistic community, with several Broadway
actors taking up residence in the village. Their influence was felt in the
many shows that were staged in Malverne. Malverne also was known for its annual
art show, where professionals and amateurs from Nassau and Suffolk exhibited
In 1941, the United States entered World War II. Malvernites pitched in and
did their share for the war effort. Malverne also sent 707 of its young men
off to war. Twenty-two of them did not return. Dr. Howard T. Herber, the superintendent
of School District 12, in 1948 dedicated a pipe organ to honor all those who
served, and as a memorial to those who gave their lives.
With the end of the war, Malverne again turned its attention to continuing
improvement of the growing village. When Malverne celebrated its 25 th anniversary,
New York ’s Governor Thomas E. Dewey called Malverne "one of the
best-governed communities in the state."
By the early 1950’s, Malverne had 8,500 residents. Frank Britton Wenzel,
mayor from 1951 to 1955, took a strong interest in moving the Library from
its makeshift facilities into its own building. By 1954, Wenzel’s dream
was realized, and nearly 1,000 people attended the dedication of the new Library.
During those same post-war years, the village experienced a renewed commitment
to improving facilities. Among those improvements were upgraded equipment for
the fire department and DPW, the erection of the Village Hall and beautifying
of Malverne’s parks. The village also stepped up recreation and youth
activities with a summer recreation program and winter ice skating facilities.
The people of Malverne continued to demonstrate community spirit throughout
the next several decades. In the late 1960’s, the holiday lighting of
Malverne began, with civic groups, the merchant’s association and volunteers
pitching in to celebrate the holiday season by decorating around the train
station and along Hempstead Avenue.
The Thomas Driscoll administration (1970-74) encouraged and supported the
activities of local service clubs and volunteers, whether it was a beautification
project at Westwood Park, or a special recognition to the recently formed
Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps., or the Malverne Environmental Council,
which was begun in the early 1970’s to promote recycling and other earth-friendly
It was also during this period that the village celebrated its 50 th anniversary.
In tribute to the neighborly feeling that had always existed in Malverne, the
celebration included an interfaith service at the Presbyterian Church, at which
representatives of the seven religious groups of the community presented the
histories of their congregations and asked for blessings for the village.
There were numerous parades, dances, ceremonies and other activities to commemorate
Malverne’s anniversary year, which was closed, as it began, with an ecumenical
Malvernites came together again during the 1970’s to celebrate the
country’s bicentennial year, and what a celebration it was! Helen Driscoll,
wife of the mayor, headed a committee that oversaw a year of parades (including
the largest parade in Malverne history), ceremonies, essay and poster contests,
the first Malverne country fair, dances, theatrical and chorale presentations,
block parties and an ecumenical Thanksgiving service. Today, the Thanksgiving
service is an annual Malverne institution.
Amid all of the hoopla of 1976, residents found time to open their hearts
for Billy McNally, a local boy who was injured in an accident, by raising $17,000
through a year-long barrage of cake sales, car washes, dances and garage sales.
Through the end of the decade and into the 1980’s, Malverne’s
rapid growth began to slow. The village had grown rapidly over the previous
decades, yet Malverne was still a small village with a stable population and
a growing number of senior citizens.
Stewart Morrow presided as mayor of the village during these years. After
12 years, he stepped down in 1986, and Louis Cocchi, deputy mayor, was sworn
in to fill his unexpired term.
The recession of the early 1980’s had made itself felt in the village,
and projects such as road construction were put off until the deterioration
became a major bone of contention for more than one Malverne mayoral administration.
Ultimately, the issue led to the birth of a new political party in Malverne,
the Hometown Pride Party. In 1987, Louis Cocchi ran for mayor as the Independent
Party’s candidate, but for the first time in 63 years, the Independent
Party was defeated.
Additionally, Malverne had its first female mayor in Catherine Hunt, who
served the village through 1991. Mayor Hunt had been a co-founder of the civic
association, and was involved in a number of beautification projects in the
village, including the restoration of the Malverne railroad station in the
mid-1980’s. Ironically, the road construction issue, which led to the
formation of the Home Town Pride Party, ultimately split the party, and the
Taxpayer’s Party was born.
In addition to a bitter election, 1987 saw the stock market crash, while
property values bottomed out and a long recession took hold. It was not until
1993-94 that the job market began to recover and property values began to rise
again, albeit not at the dizzying rates of the 1980’s. As a result, Mayor
Hennessey, who was elected as the Taxpayer Party candidate in 1991, kept a
tight rein of finances, successfully steering Malverne through the recession
with a combination of fiscal restraint and savvy administration.
It is the spirit that we celebrate – the spirit that helps Malverne
retain its small-town charm. In an era when people throughout our nation yearn
for community, we are fortunate to live in Malverne. We love our village, and
Special thanks to the author of this article, Donna Kraus.
Reprinted from Malverne’s 75 th Anniversary Commemorative Journal