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From The Bryant Room Archive

September/October 2001

George Washington in Roslyn

By Myrna Sloam

On the morning of Monday, April 19, 1790, George Washington set out on a 5day tour of Long Island. In his first year as President, Washington proposed to tour the eastern states during the recess of Congress  “to acquire knowledge of the face of the country, the growth of agriculture thereof- and the temper and disposition of the inhabitants towards the new government….”

Washington crossed from Manhattan, the seat of the new government, to Brooklyn and traveled east as far as Patchogue, on the south shore. He then crossed to Setauket, returning along the north shore, a distance of 160 miles. As he traveled, he recorded observations and comments in his diary. On the morning of April 24th on his return route, Washington stopped in Roslyn, then called Hempstead Harbor, and breakfasted with local landowner and merchant, Hendrick Onderdonk. His diary account for that day reads as follows:

Saturday, 24th. Left Mr. Youngs before 6 o’clock and passing Musqueto Cove [Glen Cove], breakfasted at a Mr. Underdunck’s [Onderdonk] at the head of a little bay; there we were kindly received and well entertained. This gentleman works a Grist and two Paper Mills, the last of which he seems to carry on with spirit, and to profit—distc. from Oysterbay 12 miles. From hence to Flushing where we dined is 12 more—and from thence to Brooklyne through Newtown (the way we traveled and which is a mile further than to pass through Jamaica) is 18 miles more. The land I passed over to day is generally very good, but leveller and better as we approached New York—the soil in places is intermixed with pebble, and towards the West end with other kind of stone, which they apply to the purposes of fencing which is not to be seen on the South side of the Island, nor towards the Eastern parts of it. From Flushing to New Town 8 miles and thence to Brooklyn, the Road is very fine, and the Country in a higher state of cultivation and vegetation of Grass and grain forwarded than any place also, I had seen, occasioned in a great degree by the Manure drawn from the City of New York,-- before sundown we had crossed the Ferry and was at home.”  

Note: Hendrick Onderdonk’s former home is still in existence. Located on Old Northern Blvd. across from the Clocktower, it has been expanded in size over the years and is known as the George Washington Manor Restaurant. The Grist Mill that Washington mentioned is also still standing, east of restaurant, awaiting restoration by Nassau County. The paper mills were located on what is known as Paper Mill Road in Roslyn (now Gerry) Park. The original Onderdonk Paper Mill was built in 1773 and was the first paper mill to operate on Long Island. The existing building on Paper Mill Road was erected in 1915 as a “replica” and served as the headquarters of the Red Cross and the American Legion.

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