Friday, August 5, 2011

Forest Hills Post Office History Recognized in Queens Chronicle

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The Forest Hills post office under construction in September 1938 and completed in 1940. The topless female sculpture above the door was criticized at the time. The building behind the facility is labeled “Forest Hills Fireproof Storage.” Courtesy of Ron Marzlock, Queens Chronicle Historian
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Forest Hills Post Office in September 1938 - Courtesy of Ron Marzlock, Queens Chronicle Historian
2007 photo courtesy of Greg Godfrey
The Forest Hills Post Office is currently the only building in Forest Hills on the State & National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for federal tax credits and state-matching grants for preservation-friendly upgrades & restoration work. Rego-Forest Preservation Council is currently documenting the Forest Hills Post Office's history and authentic features for a good cause, so imagine how we felt when we discovered the building in the 8/4 edition of the Queens Chronicle's "I Have Often Walked" column, written by Historian Ron Marzlock:

Queens Chronicle: A Post Office Deemed Risque

In the 1930s, most post offices in Queens were little candy store-type buildings housing only a few letter carrier routes in a leased building.

In June 1936, the Emergency Construction Program Act was passed. Politically strong Forest Hills was able to arrange the construction of a federal building to house a post office, at 106-28 Queens Blvd.

The new building was to be a showpiece of the area, topped off with a sculpture called “The Spirit of Communication.” The Art Deco-style work, a bare-breasted woman holding a clock and dove, was denounced by conservative 1938 Forest Hills as bad art in bad taste. But sculptor Sten Jacobson’s creation was valued at more than $150,000 in 1990, and is protected today and cared for by the General Services Administration.

Most other buildings of the era put up by the Works Progress Administration got a painting for artwork. Forest Hills got real sculpture. The other fortunate areas of Queens to secure WPA buildings for a post office were Jackson Heights, Woodhaven, Far Rockaway and Flushing. All of them are protected by landmark status.

Today, the fine 71-year-old structure facing MacDonald Park is dwarfed by the highly-concentrated apartment houses which have since engulfed so much of Forest Hills. At least it’s not one of the five post offices in Queens the United States Postal Service is considering closing.

"The Spirit of Communication" adorns the terra-cotta facade. Recent photos courtesy of Michael Perlman, Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Polished brass doors bear Art Deco handles

The Forest Hills Post Office made the grade on the 10th annual walking tour of Downtown Forest Hills in September 2010 by Historian Jeff Gottlieb, President of the Central Queens Historical Association.

Admiring the verticals and cubism of an International Style/Art Moderne Federal building. Most other post offices designed in the 1930s & prior were of (Georgian) Colonial design in Queens. This design would be found in a 1939 World's Fair pavilion, but this predated it! A patriotic mark is made upon Queens Boulevard!

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