Saturday, November 21, 2015

Help Solve Forest Hills Gardens Mysteries & Rediscover Relics

Copyright Michael Perlman
Forgotten Past of The Forest Hills Gardens by Michael Perlman

- Why did the handprint & footprint concrete slabs featuring celebrities outside the Forest Hills Inn, once known as "Celebrity Walk" vanish?
- Why are the 2 concrete eagles at the base pedestals of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium nowhere to be seen?
- Why is the only remnant of the Sun Dial on Village Green a 4-hole pedestal?
- Why & when did the historic Fountain of Piping Pan in Olivia Park vanish?
- Why is 8 Greenway Terrace, which  contains a greenhouse that once belonged to the popular Forest Hills Flower Shop left vacant in the exclusive Forest Hills Gardens for approximately 15 years?
- Will the Tea Garden see new light?
- Is the Forest Hills Gardens' standalone stone mailbox post the last of its kind locally?

Forgotten relics and some mysteries are very much alive in our backyard, and such is the case in the Forest Hills Gardens.

Established in 1909 as America's earliest planned garden community, Tudor and Arts & Crafts homes on winding streets featuring lush landscapes add up to a predominant preservation success story, thanks to restrictive covenants administered by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation.

Principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury and urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. would generally be content, despite the few features that have vanished.
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
On Village Green, situated along Greenway Terrace, one comes upon a pea gravel pedestal with four holes. Affixed to the top was once the “Sun Dial.” The pathways which extend from the pedestal are symbolic of the sun’s rays providing contrast from the lawn.

Back in 1915, it was boasted by The Newtown Register as “a very attractive feature which was depended upon as giving the correct time when the sun shines.”

Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Olivia Park offers a most intimate setting, but a tranquil and functional feature once known as the Fountain of Piping Pan has long vanished. In 1915, The Sun published, “The presiding genius of the fountain is a small nude boy in plaster playing a pipe and the water tumbles over the stones at his feet down into a miniature lake, where the birds may disport themselves as in one of nature’s own sylvan retreats.”

On July 4, 1915, with a local branch of the Audubon Society on scene, the fountain, designed by Beatrix Forbes-Robinson Hale, was dedicated to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who was kindly regarded for her passion to birds.

Also part of her acclaim was her establishment of the Russell Sage Foundation, which sought to improve the social and living conditions in the United States.

Her vision was realized as this park often served as a natural amphitheater, where Irmgard, Baroness von Rottenthal performed interpretative dances at the ceremony to the sounds of Grieg and Tchaikovsky.

Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
Copyright Michael Perlman, 2015
At 8 Greenway Terrace stands an Old English single-story Forest Hills Flower Shop with an adjoining greenhouse that opened in the 1920s as florist and landscape contractors, but shuttered around 1998.

“The florist John J. Loguercio ran the shop for many years, and would employ some of the local teens as delivery boys, including one that became an M.D. Andre, who now owns Forest Hills Flowers & Blossoms on Metropolitan Avenue, began working for John,” recalled Forest Hills native Maria Swanson.

“It was a beautiful spot with climbing roses and window displays,” added Kew Gardens resident Eileen Mahoney, who was raised at 14 Greenway Terrace. “Everyone in the neighborhood had him provide flowers for their weddings. Neighborhood Christmas trees and wreathes were purchased there.”

Copyright Michael Perlman
“It saddens me that some of these unique features have disappeared,” said Swanson, who recalled concrete slabs in front of the Forest Hills Inn, which consisted of Forest Hills’ Celebrity Walk.

On site were entertainers’ handprints and footprints. They included Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr. and likely Buddy Hackett, The Beatles, The Marx Bros, Betty Davis, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne.

“They were possibly removed in the late 1970s,” she continued.

Former Forest Hills resident Steven Grimando was on scene at the time the slabs were salvaged during a construction project.

“They were framed in wood and placed on dollies, two at a time,” he said. “Under the Forest Hills Inn, there’s a ramp with doors, and the slabs were then placed deep within a series of catacombs.”

Copyright Michael Perlman
As the Inn was a center of a classy social life prior to its residential conversion in 1967, the Tea Garden, nestled behind the Inn was in full swing. Opened in 1912, it was once the site of afternoon teas, weddings, dances, and productions by The Gardens Players that took inspiration from the natural setting.

Guests would dine to the Inn Trio’s performance of Nevin’s “A Day in Venice” and Dvorak’s “Humoresque.” Today, behind an ornate gate on Greenway Terrace stands majestic trees and a defunct central brick fountain, but the cascading wall fountain has vanished. Now plans are underway to restore the Tea Garden.
Copyright Michael Perlman
Copyright Michael Perlman
On a stroll among forgotten spots, locals can stop at presumably the last pea gravel mailbox post on Ascan Avenue and Greenway South, which bears a 1938 inscription. The mounted miniature mailbox is long gone, but to its right is a more familiar 1950s-era blue mailbox.
The long gone eagle & Bill Tilden in 1937 at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium
And a couple of concrete eagles have mysteriously gone missing from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which was designed as America’s first tennis stadium in 1923 by architect Kenneth Murchison and built by The Foundation Company.

Bea Hunt, former vice president of the West Side Tennis Club, noticed the pair in photos through the 1950s, but then examined a Rolling Stones concert photo marked July 2, 1966, where the eagles were missing.

“Today there are 11 concrete eagles at the upper fa├žade overlooking the amphitheater, but originally an eagle stood on each pedestal at the lower ends of the horseshoe,” she said.

Source: Queens Ledger - Forgotten Past of The Forest Hills Gardens 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

11/15: Triple 300th Anniversary at First Presbyterian Church of Newtown

A special invite from the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown on Queens Blvd & 54th Ave, which will celebrate a triple 300th anniversary on November 15, 2015:

The historical 363-year-old First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, was the only church in Queens west of the Flushing River from 1652 to 1735. It was founded in 1652 by Puritans (like the Pilgrims) who came seeking freedom to practice their religion. This 363-year-old church has been in the same area, now Elmhurst, long before there was even a country called the United States! The church they founded is still going strong. Today, the congregation is a wonderful multicultural, multiracial mix, with members from over 25 countries, working in harmony to serve God and the community.

Sun, Nov. 15 will be a day to give thanks and celebrate the church's 300th anniversary of three commemorative events:

1. In 1715, the original Puritan church (founded 1652) turned officially Presbyterian.

2. In 1715, land was given to the church by member and prominent citizen Jonathan Fish for its first two churches (1715-1774/5 and 1787- 1928), and its cemetery (1822-1959) – across the street from the current location. The original sheepskin 1715 deed will be displayed at this event.

3. In 1715, our oldest, and still existing, book of records was begun. The original will be shown! Done in quill pen, with quite a few ink blotches, it records not only membership, baptisms, marriages, and deaths, but also an earthquake, smallpox wiping out families, yellow fever, slaves becoming members of the church, and how sinning members were disciplined.

In celebration of these events, a memorial stone to Jonathan Fish, an early Newtown settler, will be mounted on the wall in the church entry hall and be unveiled on this day. He came from Massachusetts to the new English settlement that would later be called Newtown (all western Queens then). He died in 1663 after serving as a magistrate for the town for several years. He was the ancestor of many remarkable men, including Hamilton Fish, advisor to President Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Secretary of State under President Ulysses S. Grant, and wealthy railroad owner Stuyvesant Fish (who had the stone made), three New York State congressmen, and is also said to be related to the Bush family, Secretary of State John Kerry, and others.

There will be a display of various documents and historical artifacts, including the following:

1. The original 1715 handwritten deed, written in the reign of King George II (uncle of the infamous George III of Revolutionary War times)

2. Our original 1715 Record book

3. The original small draft of a 1774 resolution by some church members to form a Committee of Correspondence, and support the Continental Congress
4. Photos of some important Fish descendants
5. Photos documenting the moving of the present church on log rollers turned by hand winches from the other side of Queens Boulevard, when the street was widened in 1924 to accommodate subway construction
6. Other photos and documents showing the congregation at worship as the demographics of Queens changed.

Our 10:45 AM worship service will include music and message to celebrate our colonial heritage and 300 years of Presbyterian faith.

All are welcome to attend the events.

List of Events

10:00 AM - 2:00 PM: Historical display in the sanctuary

10:45 AM: Church service in the sanctuary

12:30 PM: Unveiling of Jonathan Fish memorial stone

Refreshments in Fellowship Hall after unveiling

2:00 PM: Historical walking tour of Newtown