Sunday, March 11, 2012

Forest Hills Inn's 100th Anniversary Marked By Restoration & Historic Committee

This is Michael Perlman's feature story on the Forest Hills Inn's 100th anniversary in the Queens Ledger/Forest Hills Times. Please feel free to post a comment on the link & share it with your friends. Let's take part in this historic moment:
Circa early 1920s postcard of the Forest Hills Inn towering over Station Square
The Inn as of August 2009 amidst scaffolding
The Inn as of March 2012
Scaffolds Come Down & Reveal Forest Hills History
Passersby and residents of the historic Forest Hills Inn at 1 Station Square can see the light of day, and even more so in the near future with planned restorations of adjacent buildings.

This prominent Forest Hills Gardens tower’s scaffolding and netting, which was erected circa 2004, is now at ground level at Station Square and Greenway South, and the repaired façade can once again be appreciated for its Tudor and Arts & Crafts appeal.

The Forest Hills Inn officially opened on May 1, 1912, making its restoration timely for its 100th anniversary.

Forest Hills Gardens originated in 1909. The Russell Sage Foundation appointed Grosvenor Atterbury as the Gardens’ principal architect, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. as the landscape architect for public spaces and parks.

Inspired by Ebenezer Howard's Garden City Movement of England, this is our country's earliest planned garden community. It is a highly recognized model of urban planning, with Old English mansions tastefully situated on classically named private winding streets with lush landscape.

The board of Forest Hills Inn meets with contractors monthly to plan the restoration. The roof and facades of all three buildings have not been restored for at least the same number of decades, but now repairs on the Inn’s tower are complete.

Terra-cotta roof tiles were falling, and the pebble stucco finish on the façade became porous. This affected the metal structure underneath, allowing water into the apartments. Also weathered were top-floor terraces bearing gargoyles, which serve as drainage features.

“While examining the façades, we kept noticing weathered features, needing restoration,” explains Martin Restituyo, president of the One Station Square, Inc. co-op board. “Our five-year capital improvement plan, estimated at $3.5 million, will soon address all remaining restoration, which encompasses the Inn Apartments (of the Forest Hills Inn), the Raleigh, and the Marlboro. Restorations are funded through shareholder assessments. Unlike the past, we have appropriate plans and funds.”

“Restorations are funded through shareholder assessments,” he adds. “Unlike the past, we have appropriate plans and funds.”

Before Martin Restituyo’s presidency in December 2008, the previous board erected scaffolding around the Inn in 2004, without obtaining Forest Hills Gardens Corporation approval. The board felt it was essential due to emergency repairs, but the Gardens Corporation referenced restrictive covenants that protect the Gardens’ historic character.

By March 2009, the legal dispute between the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation and the Inn’s board was settled, and the tower’s repairs were completed in a year’s time.

Restoration of Station Square is costly, but possible with commitment. Friends of Station Square vice president Suzanne Parker explains the non-profit’s mission. “To protect, beautify, and educate the community about Station Square, Forest Hills, and its environs,” she says.

As a case in point, she cites re-installing a restored lantern to a corner of Burns Street after raising approximately $20,000, but that the majority of the eight remaining lanterns from 1910 are in deterioration. “Friends of Station Square embraced these whimsical icons of the prevailing Arts & Crafts style of the Square as an ongoing project, and continues its fundraising efforts,” notes Parker.

In the Inn’s early years, the Sage Foundation Homes Company distributed an illustrated 25-page prospectus to new residents and guests, establishing why the Inn and the Gardens is unique.

“Forest Hills Inn is a delightful all year round home for the busy man or woman who must spend the day in the city, but appreciates every minute saved for outdoor living and recreation amid wholesome and aesthetic surroundings,” read the brochure.

Station Square was conceived as a town center with the Inn, apartments, connected shops and the train station, which took locals to Penn Station in 13 minutes.
The 150-room Inn’s rates were $14 - $18 per week, including meals. References were required. Guests were welcomed to socialize at the Inn’s reception and smoking rooms on a vine-screened loggia overlooking the square. Guests enjoyed dinner overlooking the Greenway and Tea Garden, which hosted weddings. Tennis courts, golf, billiards, and a squash court were other fine amenities.

The 100th anniversary of the Inn is marked by the board’s establishment of a Historic Committee, co-chaired by Martin Levinson and George Hoban, who is collecting memorabilia for preservation’s sake, while telling a most significant chapter of Forest Hills history.

"The Innside Story" on a super-sized matchbook cover, circa 1950s
The social heart of Forest Hills! Amazing how the matches were embellished with an artist's touch.
If we were able to journey back in time, which space(s) should define your day?
One of the earliest postcards depicting the Forest Hills Inn circa 1912. Note the long-vanished fountain in the center of Station Square, which has been replaced not long after with a center island with traffic control booths & a landscaped sitting area.

One of many matchbooks from the Forest Hills Inn's hotel days under Knott Management
The July 4, 1919 carnival poster in front of the Forest Hills LIRR train station. Two years earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered his famed Unification Speech atop the station steps to the crowds at Station Square.
Station Square has a traditional yet renewed sense as the seasons change
The banner on the right boasts the Forest Hills Gardens Centennial in 2009, but the Forest Hills Inn opened in 1912.

Forest Hills train station
Wide perspective on the Forest Hills train station

Fall 2009 photo: Friends of Station Square planned on restoring 1 of 8 Arts & Crafts lanterns designed by Grosvenor Atterbury. 
March 2012 photo: Friends of Station Square succeeded in restoring 1 of 8 Arts & Crafts lanterns designed by Grosvenor Atterbury. This marks a case study of "steep" commitment towards the restoration & beautification of Station Square.

View from Greenway Terrace towards the Forest Hills Inn at Station Square, March 2012


  1. I have an scanned B&W Forest Hills Inn Thanksgiving ad from the NY Post 11/24/63.
    This is the same weekend as JFK's funeral.
    My email address is:

  2. I lived in Forest Hills from 1936 until 1951 and remember the Inn, the train station and the Tennis stadium very well...used to park cars during the tennis matches....we jumped on the running boards of the cars and directed the driver to the area near our homes and charged .25 cents for a parking spot.....Don Segel

  3. My grandparents were married there in 1927. I hope to visit someday!

  4. When I was sixteen, my Dad was down on his luck and we stayed at the Forest Hills Inn. Funds ran short and he could not pay our bill. So the hotel management locked us out and took my clothes from closet as well as my suuitcase. I do not have good memories of this Tudor pile. I was a kid and not responsible for my Father's financial woes.
    Monica Lopes Jacobsen

  5. Today is the 57th Anniversary of my conception in the Forest Hills Inn Honeymoon Suite. My mother would always point out the tower when we drove past and tell me that was where she and daddy made me on their wedding night.

  6. I attended my first formal dance at The Forest Hills Inn back in 1958 when I was 15 years old. My mother lived in the nearby Forest Arms apt. in the early 1920's. Most of my friends, from OLQM, lived in Forest Hills Gardens. Boys from my class were "Ball Boys" for the tennis stadium. We used to play around Station Square & run up and down the stairs of the RR station. Now, living in NC, I know a member of the Cord Meyer family who developed "The Gardens". Many happy memories.