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!



  1. Hats off to Rego-Forest Preservation Council. I'm proud to volunteer with them. These collections and amazing photos on their FLICKR website will help us succeed in preserving the neighborhoods.

  2. I'm a proud resident of Forest Hills and want to contribute my time and effort to preserving our wonderful community.

  3. Fascinating memorabilia of times past, thanks Michael.
    Best wishes, Jim Griffin