THE HISTORY OF DOUGLASTON-LITTLE NECK
The earliest known residents of the area that would become Douglaston–Little Neck were the Matinecock Native Americans. They were sustained by the seafood in Little Neck Bay. Early Dutch settlers were drawn to the area by the rich land and abundant fishing. In the 17th century, European settlers began arriving in the area for its conveniently located harbor. Soon after, the British and Dutch gained control of the Matinecock lands peacefully, except for a small area known as Madnan's Neck (possibly a shortened form of Native American name for the area, Menhaden-ock, or "place of fish"). Thomas Hicks, of the Hicks family that eventually founded Hicksville, and a band of armed settlers forcibly drove out the Matinecock in a battle at today's Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway.
In 1796, Hicks's estate passed to Thomas Wickes (1770–1854), and in 1819, to Wyant Van Zandt, a wealthy merchant, who built a large Greek Revival mansion in the area. Today, this mansion houses the Douglaston Club, a private club with tennis courts, social activities and swimming pools. In 1835, George Douglas bought 240 acres (0.97 km2) of land along with Van Zandt's mansion. Upon Douglas' death in 1862, the land was inherited by his son, William Douglas.
Douglaston Hill is the oldest area of the community, and is characterized by turn-of-the-20th-century homes in Queen Anne and Victorian styles. It was laid out with very large lots in 1853, at the very beginning of a movement in the United States to create suburban gardens. The area was recognized as a New York City Historic District in December 2004 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Douglaston Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
The settlers thrived producing produce for the Manhattan market and the area was used as a dock on Little Neck Bay. The Little Neck and Douglaston stations opened in 1866 on the North Shore Railroad (now the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington Branch and the same line featured prominently in the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby) to serve the community and the dock area.
Northern Boulevard was developed into a commercial and cultural hub, and the Little Neck Theater, a 576-seat movie theater, was opened in 1929 at the intersection of Northern Boulevard & Morgan Street. The theater was closed in 1983.
From the 1860s through the 1890s, small hard clams (quahogs) from Little Neck Bay were served in the best restaurants of New York and several European capitals. Eventually, the term "littleneck" or "littleneck clam" came to be used as a size category for all hard clams, regardless of origin.
In the early 20th century, the Rickert-Finlay Realty Company of Manhattan purchased 175 acres (0.71 km2) of the Douglas' family holdings, and formed the Douglas Manor Association, creating a planned community. Many of the houses in this area were built in architectural styles popular at the time, such as Tudor, Mediterranean, Colonial Revival, and Arts and Crafts. In 1997, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Douglas Manor as the Douglaston Historic District, ensuring that no new buildings or external alterations could be made without the commission's approval.The Douglaston Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
An old Matinecock cemetery remained on Northern Boulevard between Cornell Lane and Jesse Court. One of the last photographs of the cemetery was taken by the Daily News in August 1931, a few months before it was removed to make room for a widened Northern Boulevard. The remains from the cemetery were moved to the Zion Episcopal Church of Douglaston and placed under a stone marker that reads "Here rest the last of the Matinecoc."
Other areas of Douglaston–Little Neck were developed during the latter half of the 20th century. Douglaston Park contains a mixture of large, older homes as well as Capes, Tudors, and ranch-style homes dating from the 1960s. The areas adjacent to the Douglaston Shopping Center are occupied mainly by attached single-family homes built in the 1950s through 1970s (Beech Hills, Deepdale, and another development known colloquially as the "Korvette's Houses" due to the former proximity of an E.J. Korvette department store), as well as four-story condominiums added in the mid-1980s.
Douglaston Civic Association • 917-862-3286 • • PO Box 630222, Douglaston, NY 11363