Sunday, December 20, 2009

Filming in Forest Hills 1921: Sentimental Tommy

I Have Often Walked: Filming in Forest Hills, 1921
by Queens Historian Ron Marzlock

Members of the Hasselriis family of Forest Hills Gardens walk up the hill on 66th Road toward the movie set for “Sentimental Tommy,” in 1921.

Due to the movement of stone and soil during the last great ice age, Forest Hills sits atop of a glacial moraine, then the land dips down sharply to where the Grand Central Parkway now runs.

The very steep 66th Road didn’t offer the best land for building homes back in the 1920s. But for Astoria Studios of Long Island City, the upward climb toward Queens Boulevard was perfect.

That’s where Astoria constructed the set for “Sentimental Tommy,” a silent film made in 1921. From 102nd Street — where Forest Hills Hospital, the former LaGuardia Hospital, now sits — to 110th Street the studio transformed 66th Street in the style of an old European village. With no other apartment houses obstructing the view, the Forest Hills Inn tower could be seen in the distance, as in this photo.

Hollywood was just developing in the early ’20s, and movie production had not yet relocated west. Queens County was ideal for making movies due to its rural state. Shortly after the filming “Sentimental Tommy,” Astoria came back to Forest Hills to use the original Cord Meyer Building (which was torn down in 1967) on Queens Boulevard, successfully passing it off as a college in a movie.

Today these great silent films in which Queens County was used are rapidly being lost due to the unstable nitrate film base they were shot on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rego Park & Its Superstitious Old Farmers by Historian Ron Marzlock

Queens Chronicle - I Have Often Walked

Farming and building near Queens Boulevard and 63rd Avenue in Rego Park, July 1925

Rego Park was founded and built on the old 27-acre Thomson farm. The agricultural operation had been willed through the family to a daughter, one Mrs. Howard, who left it to her son John Howard. He sold the land to the Rego Construction Company in 1923.

The Rego Construction Company — Rego being short for “real good,” hence the mural below the trestle on 63rd Drive — was a group of German Americans who operated out of an office on Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood. The firm was headed by President Henry Ludwig Schloh, whose partners were Charles Hausmann, Franz Muller and Herman Timmerman.

During the big building boom on Booth, Wetherole and Austin streets, Rego Park was just a real estate term. The original deeds to the properties read Elmhurst.

As development progressed, the community and media became aware that farming was soon going to be extinct in the area. In July 1925, local newspapers tried to do a story on the Chinese farmers still working the land south of Queens Boulevard and west of 63rd Avenue. The superstitious farmers attacked the photographers and drove them away with farm implements, believing their souls would be taken by the camera when their image was put down on film. This photo, in which some of the farmers are barely visible behind the billboard, was one of the few shots the lensmen managed to get.

Today, a great many people in rapidly growing China have cameras. But even now there are some elderly Chinese who believe that photographers capture not just images, but souls.

Featured with permission