This section needs additional citations for verification
. (April 2008)
In 1869, the Irish-born millionaire Alexander Turney Stewart bought a portion of the lightly populated Hempstead Plains. In a letter, Stewart described his intentions for Garden City:
Having been informed that interested parties are circulating statements to the effect that my purpose in desiring to purchase the Hempstead Plains is to devote them to the erection of tenement houses, and public charities of a like character, etc. I consider it proper to state that my only object in seeking to acquire these lands is to devote them to the usual purposes for which such lands, so located, should be applied that is, open them by constructing extensive public roads, laying out the lands in parcels for sale to actual settlers, and erecting at various points attractive buildings and residences, so that a barren waste may speedily be covered by a population desirable in every respect as neighbour taxpayers and as citizens. In doing this I am prepared and would be willing to expend several millions of dollars.
Parenthetically, the name "Garden City" pre-dates that of the garden city movement, which was established some years later near the end of the nineteenth century. The central attraction of the new community was the Garden City Hotel, designed by the acclaimed firm of McKim, Mead & White. Although the original structure, as well as that which replaced it at the end of the 19th century, were torn down years ago after a fire, a rebuilt hotel still stands on the original grounds, as do many nearby Victorian homes. Access to Garden City was provided by the Central Railroad of Long Island, another Stewart project which he undertook at the same time. The railroad's Hempstead Branch opened in 1873.
Stewart's wife, Cornelia, founded the St. Paul's School for boys, St. Mary's School for girls, a Bishop's Residence and the Gothic Cathedral of the Incarnation, which is today the center of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, as well as the final resting place of Alexander Turney Stewart and Cornelia Stewart. This elaborate memorial was completed in 1885. Mrs. Stewart died the following year. In 2008, the Cathedral of the Incarnation underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation and rehabilitation project, which was completed in 2012.
Voters selected Mineola (in the town of North Hempstead) to be the county seat for the new county of Nassau in November 1898 (before Mineola incorporated as a village in 1906 and set its boundaries), winning out over Hicksville and Hempstead. The Garden City Company (founded in 1893 by the heirs of Alexander Turney Stewart) donated four acres of land for the county buildings just south of the Mineola train station and the present-day village of Mineola, in the town of Hempstead. The land and the buildings have a Mineola postal address, but are within the present-day village of Garden City, which did not incorporate, or set its boundaries, until 1919. The early village did well due to its proximity to Hempstead, which was at that time the commercial center of Long Island. In time, thanks to the railroad and to automobiles, as well, Garden City’s population increased.
In 1910, Doubleday, Page, and Co., one of the world's most important publishers, moved its operations, which included its own train station, to Garden City. The Doubleday company purchased much of the land on the west site of Franklin Avenue, and built estate homes for many of its executives on Fourth Street. In 1916, company co-founder and Garden City resident Walter Hines Page was named Ambassador to Great Britain.
In 1915, the village of Garden City merged with the village of Garden City Estates to its west.Stewart Manor, Garden City Park, Garden City South and East Garden City.
It became an incorporated village in 1919. Garden City’s growth promoted the development of many nearby towns, including
In the 1920s, the community continued to grow, with houses built in Garden City Estates as well as the eastern section of Garden City. This development included the Mott Section, developed by the heirs to the Mott's apple juice fortune, which was spurred by easy access to the now-defunct Long Island Motor Parkway, as well as the establishment of the Doubleday publishing group’s corporate headquarters. Doubleday's headquarters, known as Country Life Press, remained in Garden City until Bertelsmann took over the firm in the mid-1980s. The plant closed in 1988 and has been converted to offices for Bookspan, a media firm partly owned by Doubleday.
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh departed on his famous solo transatlantic flight from Roosevelt Field in East Garden City.
Housing construction slowed after the 1929 stock market crash. But in the 1930s, hundreds of houses were built to accommodate a population boom, though Garden City used a strict zoning code to preserve Stewart’s vision. Alone in central Nassau, the village retained a sense of orderly development, true to its rigorously planned roots. Mitchel Air Force Base, on the far east side of Garden City, served as a United States Air Force base from 1918 through 1961. As of 2008, the U.S. military still retained a limited physical presence, with the rest of the base occupied by housing, Hofstra University, , a Sony IMAX theater and the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
After World War II, following a trend of urban residents moving to the suburbs, Garden City continued to grow. Post-war construction filled out the present borders of Garden City with many split-level and ranch-style homes, with construction occurring in the town's far eastern, northern and western sections. The Waldorf School of Garden City was founded in 1947 (one of the first Waldorf schools in the United States), originally as a part of Adelphi University. The village's public high school was also constructed during this time.
In the 1970s, the old Garden City Hotel declared bankruptcy, and subsequently closed. The hotel was later demolished, and Garden City lost one of its grandest and most historical landmarks. A new Garden City Hotel was constructed on the site of the old Garden City Hotel. In 1978, 50 of the original structures collectively known as the A. T. Stewart Era Buildings were designated a national historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1989, the St. Paul's School also closed and in 1993 was purchased by the Village of Garden City. Recently, the village voted to designate St. Paul's and its property as "park land". St. Mary's School, the sister school of St. Paul's, was demolished in 2002. Since then, six large single-family houses have been built on the property.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the village's downtown areas (New Hyde Park Road, Seventh Street and Franklin Avenue) benefited from an urban renewal campaign and new construction. Bloomingdale's has moved from Franklin Avenue to the Roosevelt Field shopping mall. Lord & Taylor has a large freestanding location that opened in 1956 on Franklin Avenue, which is still there today. Sears now occupies the building that was once home to Bloomingdale's. Several luxury restaurants have also opened in recent years along this avenue.
On December 7, 1993, the city's Merillon Avenue station was the location of the Long Island Rail Road massacre in which six people were murdered and 19 injured in a racially motivated mass shooting perpetrated by Colin Ferguson, a black Jamaican immigrant.