a borough that is officially 319 years old, there are secret treasures
around almost every corner, reminding the Queensites of the 21st
Century of the Queensites that came before. Here’s a small sample of
the best historic treasures that the borough has to offer, from houses
to farms to railroads.
Got the Whole World . . .
1964, the World’s Fair swept into Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,
bringing futuristic treasures, fantastic buildings and thousands of
people into the borough. Every Queens resident old enough remembers
the year-long festival that put the borough on the map, and although
the food and attractions are gone, there are several structures still
standing that remind everyone of the fair’s excitement.
Harry belted out ballads for Broadway at his
historic mansion in Beechhurst.
Tribune Photo by Michael Vonder Lieth
140-foot high, 700,000 pound Unisphere is the main structure still
standing, and has become a symbol of the borough. It was dedicated on
August 22, 1964, and is surrounded by three rings symbolizing the
orbits of the first two American astronauts and the orbit first
Russian cosmonaut. In addition to the Unisphere, the New York State
Pavillion and the Open Air Theater still stand as symbols of the past
at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Lush, leafy and low-key - the “gardens” of
Tribune Photo by Jeremy Olchan
streets of Queens are packed with historic churches, from Long Island
City to Glen Oaks. St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing was
founded in 1702 and chartered in 1761. Although it was enlarged in the
1920s, the original structure can still be found on 38th Avenue and
Church of the Resurrection in Kew Gardens was founded in 1866 by
Reverend George Cook, and can still be found on 118th Street and 85th
They call it the “Toonerville Trolley,”
straphangers who rough-it out on the infamous No. 7 line.
Tribune Photo by Liz Goff
Jamaica, Grace Episcopal Church was built in 1862, First Presbyterian
Church was built in 1813 and St. Monica’s Church in Jamaica was
built in 1856.
Monica’s is located on the York College campus, and although the
front of it has been preserved, the rest of the building is falling
apart, despite landmark status.
NY State Pavillion: renovations in its future.
founders of Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor on 117th Street and Hillside
Avenue in Richmond Hill have been serving up sweet goodies since 1897,
but have only been in its current building since 1923.
old fashioned sweet shop has a nickelodeon piano and most of the same
furniture and decorations as it had at the turn of the 20th Century.
The décor takes patrons back in time, while the ice cream just keeps
them coming back.
Louis Latimer - even his Flushing home was a mover
Tribune Photo by Sarah Feinsmith
Portal To Queens
July 4, 1917, President Theodore Roosevelt gave an Independence Day
speech at the Forest Hills Long Island Railroad Station, a national
landmark that has been renovated over the years to keep it preserved
as it was when it opened in 1911.
station is still where Forest Hills residents can catch the train and
has an old-fashioned touch that keeps with the charm of the Forest
Hills Gardens neighborhood that surrounds it.
Bowne House - where we won our right to practice
open religious beliefs.
Tribune Photo by Jeremy Olshan
Bowne, a Quaker who came to America in the 1600s, emerged as one of
the lead opponents of the religious oppression imposed on Flushing
residents by then Governor Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutchman who tried to
overturn the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657 –
a document calling for religious freedom for all people in the
New World. Bowne was the key player in upholding that document in 1662
and has been revered by the people of Flushing as a result.
home he built in 1661 with his own two hands still stands in Flushing
on 37th Avenue and Bowne Street and is filled with pieces of Queens
history. The home was the first place where Quakers were allowed to
meet in New Amsterdam. After being owned by nine generations of Bownes,
the house is now run by the Queens Historical Society, which gives
tours of the home, and keeps it in good condition.
was King of this
Manor - statesman, diplomat and “gentleman
A Founding Father
King, a delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention of
1787, called Jamaica home from 1805 to 1897, when he owned a farm that
has since been converted into an 11-acre park. His home still stands
at 161st Street and 90th Avenue in Jamaica and is run by the Queens
Center of Flushing Life
Town Hall, now used by the Flushing Center for Culture and the Arts
for plays and cultural events, originally opened in 1862 on 137th
Street and Northern Boulevard in Flushing, and was used for a variety
of purposes including being an assembly point for Union recruits
during the Civil War. The building, constructed in the Romanesque
revival style of architecture, was also used as a bank, a police
station, a jail, a grand ballroom, a courthouse and a site for P.T.
in Floral Park
Queens County Farm Museum is a 47-acre plot of land along Little Neck
Turnpike in Floral Park that still operates as a “truck farm”
while also acting as a museum. The farm’s property includes an 18th
Century farmhouse filled with historic gadgets that a farmer in the
1700s would need. Tours are given of the property, workshops are
taught, and festivals are held there. The farm also grows crops and
Fortress of Memories
nearly 150 years, Bayside’s Fort Totten stood as an armed and
operational United States Army base, protecting New York and its
residents through the Civil War, the British invasion of 1812 and the
feared Spanish invasion of 1898. Thousands of soldiers were trained
and quartered on the historic property, which was commissioned in 1857
and named for Brevet Major General Joseph Totten in 1901. Although the
Fort was decommissioned in 1995 and is now going to be used for a Fire
Department training facility and as public parkland, the winding
roads, old-fashioned buildings and remaining pieces of stone wall
remind Queens residents of the battles fought and the soldiers who
stayed there. Many of the buildings on the Fort are run-down, but the
City hopes to rebuild them and preserve the Fort as well as possible.
Queens and Manhattan
the late 1800s, businessmen across the City began thinking about
constructing a bridge that would connect Queens to Manhattan,
encouraging economic development and travel between boroughs. After
several failed plans, Gustave Linderthal, Leffert Buck and Henry
Hornbostel created a design for a twin cantilever bridge that would be
used by trains to take people across the East River.
began on July 19, 1901, and during construction it was decided that
the bridge should be used for cars. The Queensboro Bridge, also known
as the 59th Street bridge, opened to traffic on March 30, 1909 and
connected Long Island City with lower Manhattan. Construction of the
bridge cost $20 million and 50 lives – a portion of the unfinished
bridge collapsed in a storm, killing several workers.
“Action” to “Amen”
Valencia Theatre in Jamaica was designed in 1929 by John Eberson to be
a “Spanish-style movie palace,” with 3,500 seats and a
comfortable, fancy atmosphere. In 2001, the theatre still stands at
165-11 Jamaica Ave., but as the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People
Church. Although the outside of the structure shows that it’s a
church, the inside has not been changed from its original look and
Poppenhusen, a rubber baron who opened for business in College Point
in the 1800s, was known for being good to his workers and giving back
to the community, providing housing for employees and donating money
to improve the local neighborhood. On his 50th birthday in 1868,
Poppenhusen dedicated $100,000 to College Point for the creation of an
institute, which was used as a village hall, a congregational church,
a bank, a library, a firehouse and a jail. The five-story Victorian
edifice with tall arched windows also offered the nation’s first
free kindergarten. The structure still stands today and holds
historical documents from College Point. It also provides tours,
workshops and lectures on the history of College Point.
Oldest Meeting House in the City
Flushing Quaker Meeting House, an unassuming, shingled hipped-roof
building that stands on 137th Street and Northern Boulevard in
Flushing, is the oldest house of worship in New York City, and is
still being used after being built by settlers in 1694.
the shade of the Weeping Beech tree planted in 1847 stands the
Kingsland Homestead, a two and a half story home built by Charles
Doughty in 1785. It was originally built on the old turnpike in
Flushing, but was moved because of proposed construction that would
have destroyed it.
original land for the home was purchased by Doughty’s father
Benjamin, a rich Quaker, and was named after Doughty’s son-in-law
Joseph King, who bought the home in 1801. The home has a gambrel roof,
a crescent-shaped window, a Dutch-style split front door and an
unusually wide chimney. The first floor is used for depicting Queens
history and the second floor is decorated as if it belonged to a
Victorian family. Its current location was once owned by Flushing
nurseryman Samuel Parsons. It is the current headquarters of the
Queens Historical Society and is located at 143rd Street and 37th
Avenue, just steps away from the Bowne House.
Home of a Bright Light
Latimer moved his family to a quaint two-story home in Jamaica in
1906: a home that is still standing, but has been moved to Leavitt
Street and 14th Avenue Flushing to avoid being destroyed by
development. Latimer, who was the son of runaway slaves, worked with
Edison to perfect the light bulb filament and handed in Bell’s
patent application hours before another inventor tried to submit one.
He lived in New York with his wife and entertained the African-
American community there.
Place to Play
1915 until 1977, the biggest names in tennis congregated at the West
Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills for the U.S. Open, a tournament that
was held on the club’s grass courts until a bigger seating capacity
was needed for the growing interest in the sport. The club, which was
built in 1862, is still open for business, featuring 39 courts with
various surfaces for over 800 members. In its heyday, the club was the
center of the tennis and entertainment worlds, acting as the venue for
several major concerts, including a Beatles show in 1965.
Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) was once home to a 120-year old
windmill and water pump that was actually used to help power the
facility. In 1988, the windmill was gutted by a fire and restored
after Assemblyman Saul Weprin secured funding to rebuild it. The
rebuilt windmill now stands outside of APEC as a reminder of the way
the Dutch settlers in the area generated power.
a Dark, Desert Highway
the intersection of Francis Lewis Boulevard and 73rd Avenue in Fresh
Meadows, there is an overpass that serves as a bike and jogging path
for the residents of Queens. That overpass used to be part of the
45-mile Long Island Motor Parkway, established by racing fan William
Vanderbilt Jr. in 1908. The road was a private road for personal
vehicles, and was the first built from Queens to Suffolk County. The
paved road wound through Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica and Hollis
Hills on the Queens side and included 65 steel and concrete bridges.
The road, which required a toll, was used by 175,000 cars in 1929, but
closed in 1938 after the free Northern State Parkway was built by
Robert Moses and the Motor Parkway could not compete. The road was
sold, but remnants of it can be found in Cunningham Park, in Fresh
Meadows and in Jamaica.
Piano Man’s Humble Abode
Steinway, the son of a German immigrant and expert piano maker,
continued to make Steinway pianos in Astoria, and built a mansion for
himself on 400 acres of farmland at 18-33 41 Street in Astoria. The
house was purchased and built between 1870 and 1873 and still stands
as a historic structure.
Hammerstein, the famous Broadway producer, called Whitestone home for
most of his life, when he lived in a 27-room neo-Tudor that he had
built in the 1920s on 168th Street and Powells Cover Boulevard. The
home, dubbed “Wildfire” by Hammerstein and his wife after his most
famous stage production, caught fire several times in the 1990s,
causing severe damage to the building. Developers have restored the
building and constructed condos inside. There are also condos around
the historic building.
Goodbye to Redbirds
time a red 7 Train rumbles through Queens, residents are reminded of
the past, when the “Redbird” subway cars first hit the City’s
tracks. The Redbirds, which came out in the 1950s for subway lines
named for numbers, were originally colored a deep shade of green. They
were only painted red in the 1980s after a severe graffiti problem
forced a complete overhaul of the metal cars, officially known as R26s
and R28s. The cars, now obsolete, are being phased out of the subway
system. Some cars are being recycled, others are being dumped in the
ocean off the coast of Delaware to act as artificial reefs to attract