Wantagh (pronounced /WAHN-taw/) is a hamlet and census-designated place (an unincorporated section of the town of Hempstead) in Nassau County on Long Island, New York, United States. The population of Wantagh was 18,871 at the time of the 2010 census.
Wantagh is known as "The Gateway to Jones Beach".
The Wantagh area was inhabited by the Merokee (or Merikoke) tribe of Algonquin Native Americans prior to the first wave of European settlement in the mid-1600s. The Dutch settlers came west from their New Amsterdam colony, and English settlers came south from Connecticut and Massachusetts settlements. When the English and Dutch settled their competing claims to Long Island in the 1650 treaty conducted in Hartford, the Dutch partition included all lands west of Oyster Bay and thus the Wantagh area. Long Island then was ceded to the Duke of York in 1663-64, but then fell back into Dutch hands after the Dutch regained New York in 1673. The Treaty of Westminster in 1674 settled the land claims once and for all, incorporating Long Island into the now-British colony of New York.
Wantagh was originally known as Jerusalem, although some early accounts do refer to the area as "Wantagh." The creek running north/south through Wantagh, and which has been covered up in many places but is still visible between Wantagh Parkway and the housing developments west of Wantagh Avenue, was originally the Jerusalem River. The original post office was built in 1837, for Jerusalem, but mail service from Brooklyn began around 1780. The town's first school was established in 1790. At some time around the 1880s, Jerusalem was renamed Ridgewood, and the town's original LIRR station was for "Ridgewood Station". Later, Ridgewood was renamed Wantagh to avoid confusion with another town in New York State with the same name.
The oldest original settlers of the Wantagh/Jerusalem area were the Jackson, and Seaman families, and their marks are still visible today. For example, the Cherrywood shopping center (at the corner of Jerusalem and Wantagh Avenues) was the site of prominent settler Capt. John Seaman's estate, which was named Cherrywood. Wantagh is home to a number of New York State Historical Markers (9 of Nassau County's 25), including:
History of Friends Meeting House and Burial Grounds at Jerusalem/Wantah with transcription of burials: