The history of Baxter Estates dates back to the days before
the arrival of the first settlers when the Matinecock Indians
lived on the entire Port Washington peninsula. The Indians
were hunters and fishermen and being of a peaceful nature,
caused the early settlers little difficulty. Eventually, many
were employed by the Cow Neck seafarers as sailors.
By the mid 17th century the permanent settlement of Cow Neck
was established. The area was so named because the land was
enclosed as common pasture for cattle belonging to farmers
owning large tracts of land. Its growth was very slow in pre-Revolutionary
One of the earliest homesteads on Cow Neck was built in 1673
by John Betts and Robert Hutchings and still stands on its
original site at the corner of Central Drive and Shore Road,
overlooking Manhasset Bay. In 1741 or 1743, the home was purchased
by Oliver Baxter. An early survey of the Baxter land shows
an Indian wigwam located near Baxter’s Pond, evidence
that an entire wigwam village probably existed on the very
site of this house.
The Baxters, who were shipbuilders, sea captains, whalers,
and blacksmiths, retained ownership of the house until the
end of the 19th century. During the Revolutionary War, Hessian troops, engaged by the British, were quartered in
In 1895 the first
library of Port Washington met in the parlor of the Baxter
house on Shore Road. The Baxter family was, and the house is, a proud
part of the history of our Village. The house is now designated a
It was estimated that fewer than 200 people lived
on the entire peninsula before 1840. Small as it was, the farming community
needed a general store. The first such store was opened by
Thomas McKee on the corner of Harbor Road and Shore Road; it was
torn down in the Mid 1900s. This corner was also the location
of Port’s first post office which officially opened
on July 12, 1859. Thomas McKee was the first postmaster and
among his successors were Alfred Bayles and Ida Baxter, both
prominent in Village history. The mail was brought
by horse cart twice a day from Great Neck, which at the time
was the easterly terminus of the railroad that connected the
area to New York City.
Sand mining was common in the Port area, yet
few realize that approximately one fifth of Baxter Estates
was once used for sand mining. At the beginning of the 20th century
the land behind McKee’s store was a sandbank as was
the entire Village shorefront. A small dock, constructed over
what is now the Village owned private beach, ran from the
head of the excavation out to the station where the sand barges
were moored, waiting to transport the sand. Travel on that
section of Shore Road was slow, dusty, and very noisy. A.C.
Bayles, one of Port’s large land owners in its early
days, once said of the sand bank in Baxter estates, “This
property, from long before my coming in 1869, presented an
appearance as rough as one could imagine, being bounded from
the north and south side of the Mill Pond… with a high
bluff of loam and gravel covered with scrub oak, cedars and
briars, some 50 feet or more high upon which no buildings
could be erected. The entire farm was of little value, hardly
able to pay taxes which, at the time, were small.” Mr.
Bayles firmly believed that the sand mining operation made
the development of Baxter Estates possible.
Today one of Baxter Estates’ biggest assets is the beautiful,
hilly nature of the Village that was partially carved from
a sandbank. In 1910, Charles (Buck) Hyde, one of the leading
realtors of Baxter Estates’ home sites, described the
Village as “… a private estate divided into home
sites of exceptional desirability…in natural beauty,
in location, this property is extremely fortunate.”
The residents today would agree with those words from that
early Hyde and Baxter promotion pamphlet. The pamphlet went
on to describe Baxter Estates as “…an all year
round home place, delightful in summer – yet the winter
season holds much charm…the long rolling grades afford
fine coasting, the lakes excellent skating.” Those were
the days of sleighing down Central Drive and north onto Shore
Road right to the Mill Pond. Local highways were not sanded,
of course, so sleighing was a winter pastime for all ages.
Skating on Baxter’s Pond was great fun, provided the
skaters were willing to clear the ice first. Bonfires burned
along the pond’s shoreline, illuminating the skaters
by night. Unfortunately, skating on Baxter’s Pond was
discontinued in the mid 1970’s.
After the Long Island Rail Road was extended from Great Neck
to Port Washington in 1898, newcomers began settling around lower Main
Street, quickly making this area the new hub of the community.
Their arrival added a new class of people to
the town; the original residents were known humorously as
“clam diggers” and the new arrivals were called
“commuters”. Lower Main Street, as we know it
today, was quite different around the turn of the 20th century. The dirt road known as Flower Hill Avenue ran
straight to the town dock, the curve being added in 1850.
In 1912 the entire street was renamed Main Street.
Main Street also comprised a segment of the trolley line,
made famous by Fontaine Fox in his comic strip, “The
Toonerville Trolley”. The line opened in 1908 and ran
from Port Washington to Mineola. Although the local terminal was near
the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, it often made a stop at the
Cove Inn, on the corner of Main Street and Shore Road. The
trolley stopped running after a blizzard in February, 1920.
Today many of the turn-of-the-century and older buildings
still exist on the northern, or "Village side" of
lower Main Street, and many owners have maintained the charm
and character of these structures by preserving their original
facades as much as possible. The history of Baxter Estates
is linked to many of these historic structures and locations.
In 2003, the Board of Trustees enacted a Landmark Preservation
Law to enable the Village to ensure that worthy structures
The Village of Baxter Estates was incorporated in 1931. In
1930, the nearby Village of Manorhaven was formed after it
became dissatisfied with the Zoning Code of the Town. The
residents of Baxter Estates feared being annexed by Manorhaven,
and so incorporated to avoid substantial taxes that would
have been incurred if annexation had been allowed.
The growth of the Village over the many years since its incorporation
has been carefully monitored through strict zoning and other
ordinances. Preserving our distinctive residential area and
the historical charm of the small business district are primary
concerns of the Boards of Trustees and Zoning Appeals, as
well as the majority of the residents living here.
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