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What Do You Know About Herricks?

Vignettes of Herricks, Part VI:


In the early summer there is an outbreak of infantile paralysis (“polio”) in New York City, and by late-July it has spread into Nassau County. Within one month, there are more than 150 cases in North Hempstead. There are at least four cases in the Herricks-East Williston area, but some neighborhoods are hit much harder, including Westbury (25 cases) and Mineola (12 cases). A quarantine is declared in North Hempstead, and between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., there are health inspectors on every road leading in or out of the township checking all children for symptoms. Families with an infected child are kept under surveillance. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, a resident of Oyster Bay, forms a special committee to combat the threat. He meets with wealthy estate owners in the Wheatley Hills area, which includes the northern portion of the Herricks district, and receives pledges of $40,000 to fund inspectors and emergency facilities. Isolation hospitals are set up at Roslyn, Hicksville and Hempstead. By the end of September, the epidemic subsides, the quarantine ends and schools are finally opened for the fall term.


The Nassau County Board of Supervisors, the county legislature, votes to acquire land and expend funds to extend the Mineola Boulevard north and west to meet Searingtown Road just east of Herricks Pond. However, the plan is contingent on New York State building an expected state highway from North Hempstead Turnpike (Northern Boulevard) along Searingtown Road to meet the proposed county highway. The state never builds the new highway and the new boulevard is not built through what is now Williston Park.


New York City attorney Henry Root Stern purchases the 15-acre Wigglesworth estate on the south side of the Links Golf Course. A few months later, Stern buys the Atterbury’s land and within a few years he creates one large estate that includes everything from what is now Executive Drive to Monterrey Drive and from New Hyde Park Road to Robby Lane, on both sides of Old Courthouse Road. Eventually, Stern will own about 90 acres in the heart of Plattsdale (about 26 acres of it are in the Great Neck School District). Stern, a graduate of Philips Academy, Yale and Columbia, is one of Herricks’ most prominent citizens. He is a founder of the law firm of Sprague & Stern along with Nassau County’s longtime County Executive and Republican Chairman, J. Russel Sprague, Stern serves as Treasurer of both the county and state Republican Parties, and also serves on government boards overseeing emergency relief work during the Depression years, and becomes a statewide authority on welfare and social services. Stern serves for years as the permanent president of New York’s Electoral College, and he always casts the first vote when the elected delegates meet in years the Republican nominee for President carries New York. Stern’s wife, Ethel, was a leader in the local Red Cross and passed away in 1948. When Stern dies in 1959, his property is sold and the last large sections of the redesignated community of Manhasset Hills is opened up to development. Manhasset Hills is built out into the streets and neighborhoods we know today by the end of 1964.