Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Continued Evolution of Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman

The eagle-adorned Forest Hills Stadium, Photo by Michael Perlman
Forest Hills Stadium, which became America’s first tennis stadium in 1923, and operated as a restored concert and pro tennis venue since its reopening in 2013, may soon offer year-round opportunities. Madison House Presents, which is about to coordinate another concert season starring a number of legendary artists, has potential plans to introduce diverse attractions including a novelty “Grand Slam Automat” feature, a spinoff of the nostalgic Horn & Hardart Automat branches, which served an average of 800,000 patrons daily at 180 self-service cafeterias throughout New York and Philadelphia, shaping 20th century American dining and culture. 

Grand Slam Automat preliminary rendering, Courtesy of Madison House Presents & Creative Director Bill Sullivan - Note: Current text is only for theme
Winter Wonderland ice skating daytime rendering, Courtesy of Madison House Presents & Creative Director Bill Sullivan

Also part of the vision is to offer ice skating on its hallowed courts, in addition to a Christmas tree with holiday vendors as part of a "winter wonderland” carnival. “We have been dreaming about this general idea for years, and now there are a number of options that we are working on,” said Concert Manager Mike Luba of Madison House Presents, who works closely with Jason Brandt, the stadium’s general manager. “When the concepts are more fully developed, we will present the ideas to the board of the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), and they will let us know if we have the approval to move forward,” said Luba. 

Winter Wonderland ice skating rendering, Courtesy of Madison House Presents & Creative Director Bill Sullivan  

Since a proposal has yet to be submitted, there are hopes that the vision will materialize in time for next winter. He continued, “As the WSTC has been a great partner on the stadium restoration/renovation, I am hopeful that they will continue to be supportive of ideas which are not only good for the WSTC, but for the neighborhood and Queens.”

Madison House Presents continues to keep the community and visitors on its radar, and expressed much sentiment for a historic stadium. “The stadium and its grounds are magic, pure and simple, and we are always dreaming of events that will hopefully boost the quality of life for those who get to experience them,” said Luba. 

Winter Wonderland carnival rendering, Courtesy of Madison House Presents & Creative Director Bill Sullivan
Forest Hills was once home to smaller scale Horn & Hardart Retail Shops near the stadium at 71-63 Austin Street and 116-63 Queens Boulevard, and the firm’s vice president, Frank Hardart, Jr, resided at 188 Ascan Avenue and 64 Dartmouth Street in Forest Hills Gardens. Marianne Hardart, the great-granddaughter of H&H Automat co-founder Frank Hardart, keeps the Automat’s history alive and emphasized much pride. “People always ask me about bringing back the Automat, as it held a special place in their heart and our country’s history, and it sounds like Forest Hills Stadium’s installation of Automat windows would be a beautiful tribute.” 

Horn & Hardart Retail Shop, 71-63 Austin St, Forest Hills, Courtesy of John W. Romas Collection

Courtesy of Michael Perlman & Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Horn & Hardart Automat at 1557 Broadway, 1st branch in NYC which opened in 1912 - Now Grand Slam, Courtesy of Michael Perlman & Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Marianne Hardart also explained how the H&H Automat was a forerunner from its architecture to affordability of delicious fresh food. “Those little windows sparked the imagination of diners of all ages and introduced a new way of generations of Americans by getting a handful of nickels from a thrower and then going to the windows to pick your food. It was an adventure especially for children, and was also a place that tore down barriers based on class, gender, or race, as it welcomed everyone.” 

Forest Hills Stadium Creative Director Bill Sullivan poses with his book, "Forest Hills" in front of the WSTC Clubhouse, Photo by Michael Perlman, August 2018

Bill Sullivan is an artist who serves as Forest Hills Stadium Creative Director. He has designed logos, media material, and most recognizably, colorful portrait heads and plaques celebrating the stadium’s role in tennis and music that can be found along the stadium arcade’s colonnade. In commemoration of the WSTC’s 125th anniversary in 2017, he produced banners which bear homage to historic achievements. He even authored the book “Forest Hills,” which features a large collection of his re-imagined photos that capture the evolution of tennis viewed through its players and its impact on architecture, art, and fashion. 

Architect Kenneth MacKenzie Murchison, the famed public buildings architect who designed Forest Hills Stadium, Courtesy of Murchison's descendants

Sullivan praised Stadium architect and past WSTC member Kenneth Murchison as a Renaissance man. “Murchison had a theatrical vision with a pageantry to celebrate the tennis match, and created a planned experience. Every year it changed into a slightly new form, and my book is about the element of change within the stadium’s horseshoe.”

One of the well-known Art Deco locations on 6th Ave & W 57th St in the 1930s - Now demolished, Postcard courtesy of Michael Perlman & Rego-Forest Preservation Council

Sullivan patronized one of the last Automats on West 57th Street. Looking forward, he said, “We are trying to integrate the quality and streamlined aesthetics of a very American experience, and offering a new way to serve around 10,000 people.” Concertgoers could “pick, swipe, and take” hot and cold sandwiches from the Grand Slam Automat’s compartments. The Tilden, named after tennis player Bill Tilden, could offer a Philly cheesesteak, and The Connolly, as in tennis player “Little Mo” Maureen Connolly, could serve grilled chicken. “It would have clocks with four time zones for the Grand Slam; Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open,” said Sullivan.
The vision does not end there. “A new scoreboard would celebrate tennis and music’s past,” said Sullivan. Some upcoming concerts include Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters on June 13, Roger Daltrey performs The Who’s “Tommy” with The New York Pops on June 17, Boy George & Culture Club on July 28, and David Byrne on September 15. The expansive lineup continues with the first-ever food festival, “The Infatuation’s EEEEEATSCON” on October 6, and New York radio station WFUV creating an on-site experience within a dedicated space, the “FUV Clubhouse,” to broadcast select shows live on air. The complete lineup which includes comedy is at At the public’s request, plans continue with new gender-inclusive permanent restrooms on its main concourse, which will minimize wait time for a more enjoyable concert experience.

Sullivan called Jason Brandt a chess master of today’s space, and explained, “Jason often talks about ‘creating discoverable experiences,’ and we always want people to think there’s something new and interesting around the corner in Forest Hills. We are the caretakers of this cathedral of American tennis and music, which is unlike any place in the world, but there was a lost past at Forest Hills Stadium. Now people are rediscovering how the stadium and its grounds were built.”

Dadras Architects, a firm led by partners Robert Dadras and Victor Dadras, who founded the Downtown Revitalization Group, which specializes in historic preservation, urban design, and adaptive reuse, is well-acquainted with Forest Hills, and also expressed much enthusiasm for the stadium’s future. “The idea of bringing back an Automat is innovative, and I also suggest events for the diverse audiences that live in Forest Hills would be very much appreciated,” said Robert Dadras. He referenced the stadium and Forest Hills as superb examples of urban planning and architecture accomplished correctly. “Anything that can help preserve and restore Kenneth Murchison’s iconic structure would be a positive thing, since it stands as a rare example in today’s world of what can be achieved if folks collaborate to produce a quality place to live, work, and play.” 

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium as America's Tennis Stadium in Ad, The Technology Review November 1922, Courtesy of  Michael Perlman

A similar version appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Station Square: Restoring The Gateway To Forest Hills Gardens

By Michael Perlman

The talk of the town is the much-anticipated Station Square Restoration Project, announced last week by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, which maintains the character of Forest Hills Gardens, an earliest planned garden community in America, originating in 1909.

The Forest Hills Inn triumphs over the stately Station Square, Photo by Michael Perlman, November 2015

Station Square, November 2015 photo by Michael Perlman
A statement read, “This will be a multi-faceted project with many phases, and involving more than just the restoration of the historic road surface. All the public utilities will also be upgraded, including their infrastructure, once the roadway is opened.” The project will commence this week and continue through 2018. While vehicular traffic will be off limits east of Continental Avenue, emergency vehicles will be permitted. 

Station Square circa 1916 to 1920 postcard, Courtesy of Rego-Forest Preservation Council
Local residents began to discuss Station Square’s history and their hopes for a community anchor. Sir Leonard Lombard, a director of the Station Square Inn Apartments Corp said, “What makes its ambiance unique is the whimsical Arts & Crafts style that the architects employed, combined with the fantasy-like Neuschwanstein romantic road castle. The architectural and cultural history, which was in vogue at that time, is unlikely to be duplicated with today's technology and state-of-the-art construction methods.” He hopes the restoration will continue with the facades. “I hope to see a more unified commercial look and more upscale shops along Station Square.” 

Inspired by Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement, this model residential development was designed by principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Station Square accommodated a classy social life, particularly at the spire-adorned Forest Hills Inn, which opened in 1912 and offered 150 rooms, adjoining the Raleigh apartments on the east and the Marlboro apartments on the west. The LIRR Station, accessible from the Inn through arcades and bridges sheltering residents and visitors from the weather, enabled a 13-minute commute to Manhattan. Historic events transpired, including annual 4th of July celebrations, and at the Station, where Col. Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “100 Percent American” speech on July 4, 1917, and Helen Keller greeted over 1,200 soldiers of the Rainbow Division that same year. 

LIRR Station with original fountain as the centerpiece circa1915, Courtesy of Susanna & Robert Hof
When guests and prospective residents of the Forest Hills Gardens picked up a copy of “Forest Hills Inn,” an early 20th century illustrated pamphlet by philanthropic organization Russell Sage Foundation’s subsidiary, Sage Foundation Homes Company, they learned about the Gardens’ benefits of location, education, and business, as evident by the planning of parks and open spaces alongside homes with architectural treatment. It read, “Grouped around the arcade, through whose arches may be seen the Common, the groves, and the homes of Forest Hills Gardens, are attractive stores and shops that supply every normal want. In the center of the Square, the play of a fountain adds to the vivacity and charm of the scene. The architecture and plan of Station Square have been designed to provide an attractive spot for the common use and pleasure of residents. Beauty, harmony, and utility are here combined in a unique way.” 

Grosvenor Atterbury's sketch of Station Square, circa 1909 - 1910, Courtesy of Susanna & Robert Hof
One couple who builds upon the history of their families living in the Gardens since its origins is Susanna and Robert Hof, owners and managing brokers of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, which occupies three Station Square storefronts. Since pedestrians will be channeled onto the sidewalks, he said, “We see it as a net neutral or even positive aspect for businesses.”

The project will preserve and utilize the roadway’s authentic bricks, which will be stored in a loading area along Greenway Terrace. Robert H. explained, “The distance between the roadbed and the sidewalk has deepened. The brickwork, in the pattern of a Union Jack is sacred, and where there are gaps, they will be filled in with proper vintage bricks of the same type and acquired potentially from Upstate New York.”

Susanna H. provided further insight. “As part of the plan, the Forest Hills Gardens Corp. is trying to work out the details to restore the large decorative lanterns that hang from the facades.” The center island is also expected to be repaired, which is where a fountain once provided water for horses, and then around 1916, two kiosks were added and would function as police and taxi outposts. “It is wonderful how it evolved into a sitting area,” she said.

In a joint statement, they explained, “We are very enthused over the restoration plans, and thank Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who was instrumental in arranging a grant which helps all of us.”

Wendy Bachman, president of Friends of Station Square admires how Station Square was described as "one of the finest public spaces in America" by Robert A.M. Stern, former dean of the Yale School of Architecture and founder of architectural firm RAMSA. “The LIRR, Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, and Friends of Station Square collaborated for over 25 years to raise funds and seek guidance in maintaining this American architectural jewel,” she said.

Past restoration success stories include the center island in 1995, the LIRR Station in 1999 after being deemed “National Register - Eligible,” and landscaping as the result of the Millennium Appeal from 2000 to 2001. She continued, “The guts of the square need a complete overhaul. After the restoration is complete, my hope is that it will take another 100 years before any work of this magnitude.” 

The Sage Foundation’s 1912 ad read, “Endowed by nature with every beauty, the country is disfigured by towns, cities, and suburban developments which make a sorry and hideous spectacle. Our rapid growth may be a reason for our having neglected to take some thought of how we were planning and what we were building, but the time has come for more forethought, and this excuse should no longer be tolerated.”

This precise planning lives up to its testament. “I feel truly blessed to live in Station Square and love looking out my window, seeing the clock and life in Forest Hills Gardens passing by, changing with seasons,” said Mr. James, who embraces the turn-of-the-century ambiance. He continued, “One observation is the expression on people's faces when they step off the LIRR for the first time, wondering where they are, and amazed with what they are seeing in Queens.” 

Forest Hills Inn & Station Square with ivy, 1966 postcard courtesy of Rego-Forest Preservation Council

A similar version appeared in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

For updates on the Station Square Restoration Project, email the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation at  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Preservation Call For Local Bank Buildings

Local Banks Offer A “Rich” Architectural History
by Michael Perlman

Between the 1939 World’s Fair and 1964 World’s Fair, local communities such as Forest Hills, Rego Park, and Kew Gardens Hills experienced much growth in development, marked by architectural achievements. Now it is time to have a look at noteworthy examples of banks, ranging from traditional Colonial to Classical Moderne and Modernist styles, which offered a sense of permanence. Some have remained banks, while others have been repurposed.

“These banks tell the story of Queens as a rapidly growing borough in the mid-20th century, and the architects of these branches who were among the most prominent designers of bank institutions in New York City at the time,” said Frampton Tolbert, architectural historian and creator of the Queens Modern project. “Bank companies including Ridgewood Savings Bank, Queens County Savings Bank, and Long Island City Savings Bank were among the first companies opening in the neighborhood, looking to provide much-needed services to the influx of new residents.” Many were also situated along Queens Boulevard a short distance away from recently expanded subway lines. “These were especially an opportunity for a show-stopping design such as the Metropolitan Industrial Bank,” said Tolbert. 

Queens County Savings Bank resembling Independence Hall, Kew Gardens Hills, 1954
It is rare opportunity to encounter a nearly faithful replica of Independence Hall in Kew Gardens Hills. The Georgian Colonial style Queens County Savings Bank at 75-44 Main Street, designed by architect Harold O. Carlson, was the recipient of a 1st prize bronze plaque by the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1954. Rising from its gabled wings is a 100-foot tower featuring clocks, a cupola, and a weathervane that continues to mark the community’s highest point. The foyer includes a replica of the Liberty Bell, and the banking hall is graced with paintings such as the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and Washington Crossing the Delaware. In 2005, the bank was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and commemorated in a 2006 ceremony led by Queens Historian Jeff Gottlieb and banking and elected officials.

Linda Fisher, a licensed tour guide with the Guides Association of NYC explained, “Banks were designed to evoke feelings of confidence and stability, and this would account for Classical elements such as columns. This would have roots in Ancient Rome, where the Maison Carrée served as the model for government buildings, and although bank buildings are owned by private institutions, the architecture imbues the principles of solidity and democratic ideals.” 

Tower Diner, formerly Emigrant Savings Bank, Photo by Michael Perlman
Tower Diner has been enticing palates since 1993 at 98-95 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, but originated as City Savings and Loan Association in the mid-1960s, prior to merging with Emigrant Savings Bank. The Colonial façade’s clock tower and pitched roof with columns and cornice detail continue to offer a stately presence amidst traffic. 

Long Island City Savings Bank, Rego Park, 1952
The Colonial-style Long Island City Savings Bank at 97-27 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park was designed by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer, and was awarded during the 1952 Building Awards Competition by the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Notable features include a granite base with piers of face brick and Alabama limestone trim and coping, tall windows, and roundels. High ceilings with moldings and a spacious ambiance once added to the charm. The bank closed in the early 1990s, and today has been subdivided for a pharmacy and Tiger Schulmann's Karate. 

Metropolitan Industrial Bank, Forest Hills, 1952
Bank of America, which recently underwent a conversion for Mount Sinai Doctors at 99-01 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, opened in 1952 as the Metropolitan Industrial Bank, a Modernist building with industrial materials, which was considered revolutionary at a time of more traditional bank styles. Notable artist Dara Birnbaum, daughter of the late award-winning architect Philip Birnbaum, who was raised around the corner in Birnbaum’s Howard Apartments, said, “I thought it was a real winner, and it did win a 1st prize award by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, as it certainly was more than deserving. In fact, it was one of the jewels of my father's designs through the years.” Striking features include triple-height windows and a colonnade of Swedish granite and stainless steel fins that meet a rotunda entrance with curved glass. Although low-rise partitions have been installed, and the 22’ x 25’ mural commemorating Forest Hills’ growth is long-gone, the streamlined teakwood balcony and a whimsical terrazzo floor are retained. 

Ridgewood Savings Bank, Forest Hills, 1940
Shortly after the three-story Classical Moderne Ridgewood Savings Bank, designed by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer, opened in 1940 on a landscaped triangular plot at 107-55 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, it also won a first prize award. The convex and concave Alabama Rockwood stone façade includes flat eagles, bronze windows, streamlined and wave-like incised designs, and Moderne clocks. Entering the banking hall, Art Deco fixtures are suspended over a streamlined ceiling designed by famed muralist Angelo Magnanti, and travertine floors exist alongside buff pink Mansota stone walls on a wainscot of polished Rosato D’Or marble carried onto the counters.

As neighborhoods are undergoing development, many residents are realizing the value in buildings that offer historic character. Tolbert explained, “These are the neighborhood landmarks that create a unique sense of place, but only the Ridgewood Savings Bank is currently landmarked (designated in 2000). With changes along Queens Boulevard, others may disappear, so we must preserve our history while we still can, as it is a key piece of how our borough developed into the Queens we know today.” 

On May 6 at 1 PM, architectural historian & Queens Modern project creator Frampton Tolbert will offer a free tour, “Jane's Walk of Forest Hills and Rego Park Modern,” which will begin at MacDonald Park (Queens Blvd & 70th Ave), and stops will include several local banks. For more information, contact  

A similar version of the above feature appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: