Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Morton Manor II and the WH-Trump Connection

As a follow up to a previous post, the two photos above compare a then and now look of Oak St. in the Morton Manor section of West Hempstead, looking west from the intersection of Morton Ave. The "then" shot c. 1928 comes from an advertisement in the Brooklyn Eagle by Preferred Homes, Inc. who purchased lots at auction and then began building houses on neatly arranged 40x100 plots of land. The sellers touted the prime location of the development, a mere stones-throw away from West Hempstead's brand new LIRR station aside a newly electrified line that offered daily service to NYC. Single family 3 bedroom houses went on the market in July 1928 with a price tag of $7,350 ($4,750 down), and after three months, 40 homes had been sold. By October 1929, around 70 had been sold.

Then, in the Fall of that year, the stock market crashed.

Banks went under, credit dried up and people lost their jobs. The Great Depression was well under way and the nation would suffer its effects for the next decade. By the following year, Preferred Homes, Inc. had only 10 homes remaining on the market but understandably had a heck of a time finding buyers. Their answer was to resort to sales gimmicks, such as offering a Chrysler automobile with every remaining home sold.

As the Great Depression wore on, many of the original homebuyers in the Morton Manor development lost their homes to foreclosure. In 1934, the federal government created the Federal Housing Administration to help out the lagging housing market by facilitating more favorable lending terms to home buyers and by insuring the mortgages. In those very early days of the FHA, one of the companies that took advantage of this new entity was a firm called Metropolitan Investors, that proceeded to rehabilitate the homes and put them back on the market. By November, 1935, the New York Times reported that Metropolitan Investors had sold all but three of the homes that they renovated. Credit for the success of this transaction can be given to the head of the company, a young, enterprising 30 year-old real estate developer from Woodhaven named Fred C. Trump. His keen eye for a good business deal would eventually make him one of the wealthiest real estate moguls in the New York area, and would pave the road for the success of his famous son, Donald J. Trump.

The images above show a block that has been left relatively unchanged for over 80 years. Oak St. is curiously the only block in the development that does not run through to Maplewood but terminates as a dead-end. That's because the cul-de-sac portion of the block was once the location of a large property called "Morton Manor" that was not subdivided until around 1950.

More about the original Morton Manor property will come in a follow up post.

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