Gardens of Eden

Long Island's Early Twentieth-Century Planned Communities

Robert B. MacKay (Author)

Overview | Contents

Historical profiles of the major planned communities of early twentieth-century Long Island.

Edited by SPLIA’s former director, Dr. Robert B. MacKay, Gardens of Eden is an exploration of a distinct type of suburban development that proliferated across the region before zoning regulations were developed to manage land use in New York City and its environs. While the onset of suburbia on Long Island is often believed to be a post-World War II phenomena, it actually began a half century earlier when greater affluence, improved railroad service, and new methods of financing made the dream of country living a greater reality for a growing urban middle class. Luminaries such as Grosvenor Atterbury, Charles W. Leavitt Jr., and Frederick Law Olmsted designed dozens of high-end, carefully conceived communities on New York’s Long Island. Touted as an antidote to the complexities of urban living, these “residential parks” were characterized by significant investment in landscaping and infrastructure and employed concepts introduced by the Garden City movement in England.

Gardens of Eden covers the history and development of more than twenty of these remarkable communities and the colorful, at times unscrupulous personalities behind them—like Plandome, designed “for teachers only,” and the Metropolitan Museum’s Munsey Park, where all the streets were named for artists—with writings from their most knowledgeable historians. Other featured communities include: Garden City, Forest Hills Gardens, Long Beach, Great Neck Estates, Brightwaters, Montauk Beach, Prospect Park South in Brooklyn, and many more.

About the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities
SPLIA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to understanding, celebrating, and preserving Long Island’s cultural heritage. Founded in 1948, SPLIA engages its mission through a variety of activities that include interpreting historic houses, creating exhibitions and educational programs, providing preservation advisory services, and publishing works that explore the history of architecture and design on Long Island.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • September 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-393-73321-1
  • 9.4 × 12.4 in / 304 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Scholars of Long Island’s leading significance in American residential architecture will be very pleased with this important new contribution to regional housing history. . . . [E]xcellent work from the authors of this volume . . . . [T]he material is fresh, compact, interesting, and fills a significantly large gap in our understanding of how Long Island’s real estate projects of the early 20th century laid a mighty foundation for the rise of the post-World War II suburbs.” — Long Island History Journal

“[A] beautifully descriptive book . . . Gardens of Eden is a page turner for the history buff, filled with classical pictures of the storied homes Long Island is known for.” — Long Island Weekly

“[D]eserves ongoing mention as a top local reference gathering the work of architectural historians and local historians . . . . From museum developments and how properties were marked and divided to the early evolution of Long Island’s real estate community, Gardens of Eden packs in historical and social analysis in a presentation filled with social, political, economic, and architectural insights on choices made and their rationale. The result is a solid survey that’s highly recommended for any collection strong in New York state history.” — Midwest Book Review: California Bookwatch

“[C]ompiled chapter by chapter by knowledgeable historians, an endeavor eight years in the making. . . Gardens of Eden is an interesting read for Port Washington residents and all Long Islanders.” — Port Washington News

Gardens of Eden makes a major contribution to our understanding of the development of residential architecture and community in America. The unique geography of Long Island, with its transit links to New York City, resulted in the creation of a series of extraordinary planned communities where developers, architects, and affluent home owners created a vision of American life in the country that would be closely linked with the city. We owe a great debt to the developers who planned these major garden communities, to the authors in this book who comprehensively analyze these communities, and to the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities for publishing this handsome volume.” — Andrew Scott Dolkart, Professor of Historic Preservation, Director of the Historic Preservation Program, Columbia University School of Architecture

“For residents of metropolitan New York, Gardens of Eden provides the first detailed look at a key component of the area’s development, one that has had a profound and enduring effect on the landscape. For scholars of American urbanism, this book is an important case study that reveals the great extent of planned residential communities of the early twentieth century. Far from being rare exceptions, they represent a significant thrust in real estate endeavors that was transformative in its impact.” — Richard Longstreth, Professor of American Studies, George Washington University

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