Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Healthy and Productive New Year Like It's 1911!

As we make the transition into 2011, let's reflect upon our traditions, enriched with art and personality through direct humanly touch, prior to the digital age, when most people can design something by clicks of the mouse in Adobe Photoshop (not to discredit current times entirely). Let's take a journey to 1911, as the above postcard creatively exhibits the year in lace. A number of hand-colored and sometimes embossed postcards with poetic greetings, penmanship, and ornate illustrations were sent to family and friends, and were indeed sold in Queens in your corner convenience shop or in soda fountain drugstores such as the former Sutton Hall Pharmacy on Ascan Ave in Forest Hills. Queens became part of the City of NY on January 1, 1898, and on Dec 24, 1901, "post card" was authorized by the act of congress, and was allowed to be printed on the back of the undivided postcards of the era (previously known as private mailing cards). Postcards were a novelty each year, and the medium was relatively new within itself.

We wish everyone a year filled with health, happiness, and great productivity personally. May historic preservation be productive for Forest Hills, Rego Park, and our neighbors who are advocating for landmarking and the general preservation and creative reuse of the built cornerstones of our neighborhoods, which create the very essence of an appealing and diverse city. Let's be neighborly, and progressively defend our neighborhoods from greedy developers by expanding our coalition of volunteers and supporters. Let's not forget where we came from as a nation, in order to have a greater understanding of the principles we are built upon, to pave the way for a culturally and architecturally richer future.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Historic Business: Forest Hills & Rego Park Edition!

Bring a date! Put on your dancing shoes! You are invited to the Gardens Players Supper Dance & Cabaret. The date was May 24, 1935. This is one of numerous ads that were a major draw to Forest Hills residents in our heyday.
A less common matchcover known as a supersized matchcover.

Even the matches have an illustration! Here we see the Forest Hills Inn & Station Square in the Forest Hills Gardens.

The backside of this supersized matchcover shows the unique cultural contributions the Forest Hills Inn held to Forest Hills & beyond. The Forest Hills Inn's architecture serves as a reminder of our masterminds, but the days of unique spaces within are long gone. Note how the Tournament Grille is named after the tennis championships held at the nearby Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. The Patio In The Garden is in a state of disarray today, and is unknown by most Forest Hills residents. Visionaries, where are you?

Unveiling our Historic Businesses of Forest Hills & Rego Park Collection on Flickr, featuring ads from vintage publications, matchcovers, and photos of vintage signs and painted ads:

Much of historic preservation revolves around researching and archiving historic buildings and homes that grant your neighborhood character and a "sense of place" as a whole, as well as advocating for Individual Landmark (facade), Interior Landmark, &/or Historic District designation, so harmonious buildings and neighborhoods can live on, and accommodate and inspire future community residents and businesses.

What we sometimes take for granted is another worthy part of historic preservation when surveying a neighborhood through photos and research, which is a question you must ask yourself...

"What businesses were in my neighborhood decades earlier, which is now where my Duane Reade, Starbucks, & Verizon is? How did this impact the demographics, economic conditions of the neighborhood from then until now, and how did it impact storefront architecture and frame of mind of the streetscape for local and transient patrons?

There is no question that greater attention was paid to the design of our shops years back, rather than the mass produced cookie-cutter glass, stucco, aluminum and dropped ceiling era of today's businesses. Kudos to the few detail-oriented businesses owners that think "outside of the box" by paying attention to the overall historic character of the neighborhood, through the precise design of their storefronts and interiors. This bears a sense of permanence, and that the business was always there, so perhaps it will be here to stay.

On many instances, landmark-worthy apartment houses and commercial buildings co-exist with commercial spaces on their first story or in close proximity, and the relationship between the above characteristics is the very essence of what composes a more appealing and profitable neighborhood in the name of preservation, with historically-appropriate development and adaptively-reused establishments. Every neighborhood has an economic backbone, so let's take a look back at some businesses in Forest Hills depicted in ads published in the 1935 Gardens Varieties by The Gardens Players of Forest Hills, LI. Then decide whether we changed for the better or for worse in regard to detail and character (which is very evident in the ads & matchcovers)......

The Tudor-style Sutton Hall Apartments at 109-14 Ascan Ave had a legendary corner shop called Sutton Hall Pharmacy, which had a tin ceiling, terrazzo floors, and a much-admired feature by children & adults, the soda fountain! "Those were the days, my friend......" (sing along!)

The Holland House on Austin St remains one of Forest Hills' most exclusive addresses!

The southeast corner of Austin St & Continental Ave has a terra cotta-tiled, pitched roof building with tall windows, with wheat motifs on the facade for prosperity. Ever wonder what once occupied what now houses Boston Market & Aldo Shoes? The Corn Exchange Bank in the 1920s! It would be gratifying to see the paneling removed inside to reveal a grand arched ceiling, & the facade's tacky red and white paint stripped to reveal the original limestone and brick.

The West Side Tennis Club & Forest Hills Tennis Stadium had a number of shops & restaurants named after it. Afterall, Forest Hills: Tennis as Tennis: Forest Hills.

2 Continental Ave would be where the somber black glass office building designed by Cord Meyer is now. Forest Hills & Rego Park had its share of bowling alleys. Others were the well-known Hollywood Lanes on the north side of Queens Blvd at 67th Ave (now NY Sports Club), Cameo Bowling at the SW corner of Austin St & Continental Ave, a bowling alley adjacent to Ben's Deli in Rego Park, & another on 63rd Dr opposite PS 139 in Rego Park.

Want more? All ads in the Gardens Players flickr photoset can be accessed by visiting:

Enjoy the photoset for neighborhood matchcovers, which were once a great source of advertising and art:

The Carlton Terrace was once a famed nightspot in the Art Deco style, which is now Key Food on the north side of Queens Blvd. Look for clues to a rich past, develop a discerning eye, & never take anything for granted!

This matchcover features many of the famous musicians that performed at the currently endangered world-renown Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, during one of several summer music festivals. With proper management, wouldn't it be ideal to give an architectural, tennis, & musical icon back to our neighborhood and boroughs?

The Lost Battalion Hall in Rego Park was once an establishment that issued war bonds in the 1940s. Note the humorous cartoon-inspired illustrations on many matchcovers around that time period.

Many Queens residents and those who moved elsewhere have memories of another famed Forest Hills restaurant & nightspot. It hosted numerous special occasions circa 1940s - 1970s.  The Stratton is now TD Bank on the south side of Queens Blvd, on the opposite corner of the Midway Theatre. Patrons once boasted about the Stratton on one corner, and the Carlton Terrace on the opposite corner, on the north side of Queens Blvd, which is now Key Food. These were the places to dine & entertain!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

NY1 News Publicizes First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Restoration Fundraiser

The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown has a congregational history dating to 1652 & a brownstone edifice from 1895, but gained a new chapter of faith when it was featured on NY1 News. On December 16th, Rocco Vertuccio interviewed Church Historian Marjorie Melikian and Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chairman Michael Perlman, on their initiative to raise funding for the church's much-needed restoration. The NY1 segment, "First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Reaches Out To The Community" first aired on Dec 17th & will also be televised today and on Dec 19th:

Some measures to boost funding for a restoration include holding periodic concerts with a free will offering, and nominating the site for status on the State & National Register of Historic Places, but the site's future and historic beauty relies on the public. Any donation would be much appreciated.

To help restore this site which has roots to 17th century Newtown, donations to can be sent by check to:

First Presbyterian Church of Newtown Building Fund
54-05 Seabury St, Elmhurst, NY 11373.
("Building Fund" must be noted on the check.)

Dec 10 Posting: Christmas Concert Fundraiser For Restoration, Photos, & The Church's Significance

A rare glimpse of rural Queens Boulevard with the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown & humble frame houses. The church's original huge steeple doubled the height of the building, and was sacrificed during its move in 1924, when Queens Boulevard was widened to its present width. ~ Courtesy of the Michael Perlman Postcard Collection.