Monday, November 11, 2019

11/16 "Reflections of Historic Forest Hills" Art Show at Jade

The community is invited to historian & artist Michael Perlman's art show opening on November 16 from 6 PM to 8 PM. His exhibit, "Reflections of Historic Forest Hills" features his local architectural photography, often embraced by nature, as well as his restored vintage community images.

Jade Eatery is located at 1 Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens. Admission is FREE & a Happy Hour special will begin at 6 PM.

All prints are for sale, & his exhibit will be on display through 12/15. Please invite your friends.

Michael Perlman will explain his perspective on photography & the restoration process, as well as showcase local historic sites. A toast to an enjoyable evening & community spirit!

Facebook event page:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Unsolved Mystery: The Fountain of Piping Pan

By Michael Perlman

Fountain of Piping Pan, Olivia Park circa 1915, Courtesy of Michael Perlman
“There is a mystery on our hands!” Decades ago, the “Fountain of Piping Pan,” also known as “Olivia Fountain,” a focal point of the one-acre Olivia Park bounded by Markwood Road and Deepdene Road in Forest Hills Gardens, mysteriously vanished despite restrictive covenants which have long-preserved the Gardens’ historic beauty. Now the community wants answers, with a vision of rediscovering or rebuilding the fountain.

This attractive, tranquil, and environmentally beneficial feature consisted of a young male cherub playing a pipe which overlooked a bird fountain alongside the right-hand pathway as residents would walk from Markwood Road. 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.” In response to The Bird Club of Long Island which formed that summer to safeguard bird life, the publication stated, “From Brooklyn to Montauk Point, branch clubs are being formed, bird refugees and sanctuaries are bring created, and other steps are being taken to make the bird population multiply, and the insect horde decrease.” The membership numbered 300 and spanned 40 communities.

On July 4, 1915, with a local chapter of the Audubon Society on site, the bird fountain designed by Underwood Road resident Beatrix Forbes-Robinson Hale (later Women’s Suffrage Club of Forest Hills president) and presented by the Russell Sage Homes Company, was dedicated to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who was praised for her passion for birds. As a case in point, she purchased Marsh Island to transform it into a bird sanctuary. 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. The park was originally named in her honor, and her vision was realized as it served as a natural amphitheatre due to its sloping topography and acoustics. 

Forest Hills Gardens resident Elma Rae who unveiled Fountain of Piping Pan, 1915, Courtesy of Michael Perlman
 A woodthrush began to sing, a hidden orchestra played “Morning” by Grieg, and an elf emerged from the forest, drank from a fairy spring, and offered a libation to nature. Irmgard, Baroness von Rottenthal performed five interpretative dances at the fountain’s dedication ceremony. The repertoire also consisted of “Anitra’s Dance” by Grieg, where the pagan girl carried garlands of flowers and expresses joy in living, “Eve” by Tchaikovsky, “The Butterfly” by Chaminade, and “The Bird Basket” by Lacombe, where a Dresden China Shepherdess abandoned her flock to feed the birds which she calls from the trees. The New York Tribune read, “The entire village of merrymakers surged around the natural amphitheatre in their brilliant costumes as she emerged from cover to worship the beauty on every side.” Operatic singer Vivian Holt performed “Hark, Hark The Lark” by Schubert. Then the fountain was unveiled by a young Gardens resident, Elma Rea, who dedicated it “to the birds in recognition of their services and charm.” The program also read, “It is at the same time given to the people of the Gardens, to whom this park belongs.” 

Olivia Park is one of the most serene and private Forest Hills Gardens settings, where stately homes minimally meet the eye. A 1918 edition of “Country Life on Long Island” read, “It was especially desired to shut this park off almost entirely from the street and to give it the restfulness and seclusion of a remote piece of woodland, and yet to make the interior more inviting, if possible, than the original valley. The long stone steps and bright gravel walks invite the passerby to enter, while the smooth green grass within temps him to stop and rest beneath the shade of the Dogwood and the Wild Cherry trees.”

Among the locals who value preservation and restoration is Tony Barsamian, who called the fountain fascinating, and is hopeful to solve the mystery. As a member of the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation Board of Directors and an active community participant, he said, “I have always believed that it is crucial to preserve and maintain the historic integrity of our unique community. People buy into the Gardens knowing that the homes cannot be arbitrarily changed architecturally and stylistically. Our process is designed to withstand the whimsical fashion dujour and trendy applications, which is why Forest Hills Gardens appears as it has looked for over a hundred years; a stunningly beautiful neighborhood in the midst of New York City.”

Another Forest Hills Gardens Corporation board member, Elizabeth Haberkorn, takes pride in how the park was used as an amphitheatre, historically for dances and performances by the Garden Players. Now she is working with FHGC to develop a plan to upgrade parks including Olivia Park. She said, “We are in the planning stage, and will work with landscape architects and residents to keep the parks holistically consistent and historically accurate, while making them more attractive and useful to residents.” 

Olivia Park in 2015, Photo by Michael Perlman
She also admires the park’s wildlife, trees, and its potential for recreation. “I have often watched woodpeckers and other birds in the trees. It is also beautiful in the fall with various colors of leaves. My son and I have sledded in the park for years. I recall one blustery winter day when two NYC cops joined in and raced down the hill.” 

As an avid gardener, she coordinated with FHGC nearly five years ago to plant naturalizing narcissus and daffodils along the wooded edges, and her son and other children also volunteered. Over the years, thousands of bulbs were planted. “Last year, at the suggestion of a resident, a renowned architect and landscape architect, we added 1,000 hyacinthoides hispanica, small blue woodland flowers among the earlier plantings.”

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Annual "Spirits Alive" Event Honors Our Ancestors

By Michael Perlman

An annual event, “Spirits Alive,” resurrects the memory of our notable ancestors at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. In late September, it once again proved to be a successful tradition, where local residents venture on a self-guided tour and meet actors in period costumes who portray their roles.

Back in 2004, Immaculate Conception School of Jamaica Estates students paid tribute to noteworthy individuals buried at Maple Grove by recreating their roles. Their teacher, Carl Ballenas, launched the Historical Wax Museum project, a social studies program. “I wanted the youth of today to meet the challenges of the future by remembering the roots of the past, and sought to bring it to the entire community,” he said. With the help of Linda Mayo Perez, former Maple Grove president, “Celebrating the Living Spirit” was born, and in 2005 the name was changed.

Russell & Kyle Pfalzer alongside monument with pictorial tribute, Photo by Michael Perlman
 Pfalzer family monument, Photo by Michael Perlman
Russell Pfalzer, who has 26 family members buried at Maple Grove, spoke in front of his family plot alongside a large collection of ancestral photos. His son Kyle was also present. “My family’s history is rooted in Queens County, and only the last generation moved East on Long Island. They worked the land, were three generations of farmers, and were German immigrants. My grandfather, George Jr, grew up on a farm in Woodhaven. My great-grandfather, George, was the last to farm in Queens, on a Forest Hills farm that bordered the LIRR. He was a tenant farmer who lost everything in The Great Depression. My father John used to bring over bags of coal to heat his house in the wintertime and used his Model A Ford to sell his cut flowers and produce on the street to help his grandfather out.” Pfalzer feels that “living generations are connectors between the past and the future.” “If we don’t try to remember and pass on the information, it’s going to be lost. They are part of the history of Queens County. They weren’t famous like the Van Sicklens or the Wyckoffs (farming families), but made a living, raised kids, did their best during hard times, and that should be remembered.” 

George Pfalzer, Russell Pfalzer's great-grandfather, 1863 - 1936, Courtesy of Russell Pfalzer
John H Pfalzer, Russell Pfalzer's father's WWII portrait in 1944
John & Anna Elizabeth Pfalzer,1860s tin image, Courtesy of Russell Pfalzer
James Laws Hutton, Photo by Michael Perlman
James Laws Hutton was born on a farm in 1847 in Ohio and came to New York City to earn his fortune. He died at 38, but taught his sons about the stock market. “In 1904, Edward who was only 29 years old, and his younger brother Franklyn, started the American Stock Brokerage firm called E. F. Hutton & Company in San Francisco.” Edward’s second wife was Marjorie Merriweather Post, one of the wealthiest women in the 20th century. “She was a noted businesswoman and philanthropist. She owned General Foods which not only made cereal but owns Jell-O, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Log Cabin syrup, Birds Eye, and others.”

William Yepsen, Photo by Michael Perlman
William Yepsen was one of 27 servicemen on the Kew Gardens WWII Memorial plaque. He stated, “I was a Second Lieutenant. 504 Parachute Infantry, 1st Battalion, 82 Airborne Division, HQ Company. I stand at my father George’s grave at Maple Grove.” Yepsen enlisted on October 24, 1942 and became part of the Battle of the Bulge. “I became a casualty and was 32 years old. I was posthumously awarded the Silver Star,” he explained. 

Jane Heath, Photo by Michael Perlman
Jane Heath is buried with her distinguished husband, Henry Roswell Heath. She said, “I am a direct descendant of Roger Williams, founder of the colony of Rhode Island in America in 1636 and a pioneer of religious liberty.” Henry was born in 1845 in Massachusetts. He served in the Civil War, was wounded at Ball’s Bluff, and was taken as prisoner. In 1862, he was paroled by the Confederacy. “For the rest of his life, Henry would tell friends and family that upon returning to Washington, he was the first prisoner to shake hands with President Lincoln,” she said. 

James E. Ware, Photo by Michael Perlman
Maple Grove Cemetery Gatehouse, 1880
Architect James E. Ware’s spirit also came alive. He said, “I was famous for devising model tenements for the poor, as well as the first luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan. I created New York’s first armory, the world’s first fireproof warehouse, and my Osborne Apartments were the forerunner of the modern skyscraper. Its lobby is said to be the finest in all of the City of New York. My own parish was the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, which I also designed. In the 1870s and 1880s, my payment for designing the buildings here at Maple Grove was $100 for a plot of 12 for me and my family.”

Ione Vandever, Photo by Michael Perlman
Delaware native Ione Vandever relocated to New York and married Jacob Vandever, manager of the Nazareth Cement Company. She said, “He made a very good salary and we enjoyed a more privileged life and moved to a beautiful house in the newly formed town of Kew Gardens in 1913! We were one of the first families and lived at 226 Onslow Place.” She later explained, “Kew Gardens was developed by Alrick Platt Man. His father Albon founded Richmond Hill in 1868 in honor of the Man’s Family ancestral home in England. South of here, Richmond Hill can be found on a flat plain. Our land here is very hilly, and was created when the mile-high glaciers of ice from the great Ice Age melted and deposited soil and boulders creating the Terminal Moraine, what many call the ‘backbone’ of Long Island. The Man family used this beautiful land to create the Richmond Hill Golf Club and it had nine holes! One of the hazards on the golf course was a beautiful glacial pond called Crystal Lake. It was covered over in 1908, when they started preparing the land for the creation of our town.”

 Mary Ann Burkhardt, Photo by Michael Perlman
 Mary Ann Burkhardt, Photo by Michael Perlman
Born in Newtown, Queens was Mary Ann Burkhardt. She said, “One of my ancestors, Thomas Lawrence was the first Lawrence to come to America from England and landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1635. Thomas eventually moved to Long Island and he was one of the founding families of Hempstead and Flushing.”Referring to James Lawrence, she said, “I am also a direct descendant of a US naval hero, who became famous for the battle cry, ‘Don’t give up the Ship!’” 

Richard Smith, Photo by Michael Perlman
Richard Smith alongside lots of memorabilia, Photo by Michael Perlman
Private Richard Smith, who lived on Metropolitan Avenue and was a Richmond Hill High School graduate, also came to life. He joined the Naval Air Force in 1942, but was honorably discharged in 1943. America was involved in a global conflict with the Pacific and the Atlantic. He said, “With even more determination and resolved than ever, I enlisted again and joined the U.S Army. I was sent to Field Artillery Replacement Training Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was part of “B” Battery, 309th Field Artillery, 78th Division. Tens of thousands of artillerymen were trained on the post’s extensive ranges.”

In 1944, he fought in Europe. “I gave the ultimate sacrifice and died in battle in Germany. Many from Kew Gardens joined the war effort, and 27 of us made that supreme sacrifice. At the intersection of Kew Gardens, where Lefferts Boulevard, Grenfell Street, and 83rd Avenue and Audley Street meet in a small garden by the Homestead Home, a WWII Memorial plaque was erected by Kew Gardens Post 1374. It honors the 27 who gave their lives during WWII.” 

 Adam Dove, Photo by Michael Perlman
Other notables who came to life include Ralph Rawdon, Walter Roth, Emily Huber, Adam Dove, and Virginia Smith. Ballenas said, “Spirits Alive has become a popular community event, and we are delighted to continue this annual tradition. I have written hundreds of scripts over the years, and I am already working on scripts for next year.”
A similar version of this feature appeared in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:  

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The 6 Koi Art Show & Fundraiser, Jade Eatery & Lounge, 9/21 opening show & Event through 11/1

For Immediate Release

Rego-Forest Preservation Council Chairman Michael Perlman  (917) 446-7775

Artist & Gallery Owner David Chatowsky  (401) 835-4623

“The 6 Koi” from Rhode Island to Forest Hills: Art Exhibition To Benefit New York Police & Fire Widow's & Children’s Benefit Fund
NEW YORK, NY & NEWPORT, RI (Sept 16, 2019) – “The 6 Koi” exhibit, sale, & fundraiser is running from September 15 to November 1, 2019 at Jade Eatery & Lounge at 1 Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens, NY, which offers a popular gallery where artists gather. 

All are invited to an art show, sale, & fundraiser on September 21 from 5 PM to 10 PM. The exhibit is being organized by artist, humanitarian, and multiple gallery owner David Chatowsky, a Rhode Island resident who is returning to NY for another artistic and humanitarian opportunity.
Ten percent of all sales will benefit the New York Police and Fire Widow's and Children’s Benefit Fund, which provides financial assistance and support to the families of NYC police officers, firefighters, Port Authority police, and EMS personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. This initiative is in partnership with Chatowsky’s friend Lyle Carey, who is running in the NYC Marathon to raise 4k for the charitable cause.
Local historian Michael Perlman said, “On a trip to Newport, RI last fall, I am proud to have met a very talented and unique artist and humanitarian, David Chatowsky, and bring him to Forest Hills, NY on two occasions for highly beneficial causes. The arts are universal and can serve as a platform for committing good deeds.”  All works of art are for sale and will be presented to the buyer by Jade Eatery & Lounge on the day of purchase.   

Patrons enter Jade Eatery & Lounge, which offers a rare koi pond, home to 6 beautiful koi fish. Chatowsky said, “These 6 Koi are the inspiration for my art show. I am very familiar with koi and aquatic plants, since I worked on an aquatic farm in Palm City, Florida in my early twenties, and helped raise koi. I also grew many water plants such as water lilies and lotuses.” 
Acrylic paintings that are on display include “The Jonah Koi,” “The Samurai Koi,” “Koi with Water Lilies,” and “Red and Green Koi with Lotus Flowers.” “I hope my paintings’ variation in sizes and the fact that some are in color and black and white will stimulate the creative process in patrons,” said Chatowsky. 

The exhibition bears the potential to positively impact Forest Hills and the world. Chatowsky explained, “Animals make our lives more interesting. Their colors enrich our landscapes. All animals are here for our enjoyment, and we are their stewards. Therefore, it is our responsibility to create areas within the urban environment for animals, so future generations can be graced by their presence.  It is very important to use the gifts we have been given to bring peace and harmony into this world.”   
Chatowsky feels a bit like Jonah after he exited the giant fish. He said, “Unlike Jonah, I am selling the giant koi fish, which took me back to NYC. My message is not that of repentance, but environmental stewardship.”  

The collaboration between a Rhode Island artist and Jade “signifies the willingness of people working together to create a better future,” according to Chatowsky, who opened his first D. Chatowsky Art Gallery in Portsmouth, RI in 2016, followed by a second in Newport last year. His third gallery recently opened on Block Island. His diverse accomplishments also include permanent mural installations at the Florida Museum of Natural History, owning art galleries in Florida and New York, and coordinating humanitarian art exhibits in Los Angeles and Boston.

For a sneak peek of David Chatowsky’s “The 6 Koi” paintings, visit:

Event page:


“Ian Anderson Presents: Jethro Tull 50th Anniversary Tour” at Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman
Jethro Tull takes the Forest Hills Stadium stage, Photo by Michael Perlman
Forest Hills was on the map for the Jethro Tull tour, where the largely filled stadium was the quintessential venue for a 50th anniversary concert on the mild late summer’s night of September 14. Ian Anderson, who was born in 1947 in Fife, Scotland, is the sole original member of the British rock band “Jethro Tull,” as well as the lead vocalist and a flautist, credited for introducing the flute to rock music. Additionally, he is a multi-instrumentalist, who can also be found playing the guitar, harmonica, bass, and keyboard. 

Ian Anderson's flute & signature one-leg stance, Photo by Michael Perlman
The band debuted at the famed Marquee Club in London, and their success continued with 30 albums that sold over 60 million copies. In 50 years, Jethro Tull performed in 40 countries, performing over 3,000 concerts. Today, Anderson lives on a farm in England, site of his rehearsal and recording studio. 

Ian Anderson plays flute in front of his cultural background video monitor, Photo by Michael Perlman
Anderson’s quality lyrics engaged the audience and his showmanship were distinguished by his eloquence and witty nature. The stage became his dance studio, where he freely moves, and his signature single-legged flute stance was evident from early in his career. Two sets consisted of 18 numbers including “Dharma for One,” “Thick as a Brick,” “A New Day Yesterday,” “Warm Sporran,” and some of the most famous, “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” Traditional and cultural themes were apparent such as in “Bourée in E minor,” a flute-based spin on Bach’s classical piece, “Pastime with Good Company,” a King Henry VIII cover, as well as in “Heavy Horses” which mourns the loss of labor for England’s horses by favored machinery.

Anderson narrated select numbers. Before performing “Warm Sporran,” which has only been played publicly in the last few weeks, he said, “This is a piece that has sentimental value during the years that I spent in agriculture in the highlands of Scotland back in the 80s and 90s. I can often be found back then wandering through the glorious glens of the mountainsides, along the steep river banks, wearing nothing but a warm sporran.”

“This is the oldest theme of all,” Anderson said before performing “Pastime With Good Company.” “It wasn’t written by me, since I was still in short trousers back then in the 16th century when it was recorded as King Henry VIII’s madrigal in merry old England.” 

Jethro Tull, Photo by Michael Perlman
Fans ranged from diehards to first-timers. Eric Schreiber has been tuning in to Jethro Tull since the 1970s. He observed how over 50 years, the band journeyed through folk, progressive, and hard rock phases. He said, “Their trademark sound, which distinguishes Ian Anderson from other frontmen, is his prominent featuring of the flute. For a lead singer to alternate vocals with playing a wind instrument with his level of mastery is impressive. With some bands, the lead guitarist creates the band’s signature sound, but with Jethro Tull, it’s definitely Anderson’s flute and vocals.” He continued, “It was interesting how he chronicled the evolution of the band over the years with all of its members. His current band does a fine job of supporting him and did the music justice.” His favorite numbers were “A New Day Yesterday,” “My God,” “Aqualung,” and “Locomotive Breath,” and in response to the latter, he said, “It was kind of cool that you could see the LIRR from the stadium as that song was playing.” 

Jethro Tull with one of many outstanding backdrops, Photo by Michael Perlman
“When Ian came on stage, the sun was setting, it became dark just like in the theatre, and when he started performing, it was magical,” said Linda Glaser. “When I think of Jethro Tull, I think of Ian playing the flute with his toes touching his opposite knee. It was like time hasn’t moved since the 70s.” As for the band’s rapport with the audience, she said, “It was something I have never seen! Every song had a backup story, and past musicians were presented on video to narrate the songs.” She also fell in love with the venue’s ambiance. “The people we met in our row felt like long-lost friends,” she said. 

Ian Anderson belting a note, Photo by Michael Perlman
Peter Arato considered the high points the instrumentals, such as in “Bourée.” Additionally, he admired how Anderson entertained the crowd with retrospective stories of each tune between songs. He said, “An elaborate backdrop alternated between historic footage of Tull, a psychedelic light show, tributes by other musicians to the band’s 50th anniversary, and folks doing duets with Ian Anderson. The visuals really added to the experience.” His evening was also boosted by the stadium’s character. “There is probably no better or more intimate venue to see an outdoor show than Forest Hills Stadium, with a sense of history from the basic structure to the portraits of legends, both athletic and musical.” 

Longtime fan Steven Rosen sports his Jethro Tull t-shirt
“My memories came flooding back reliving my journey with them over 50 years,” said Steven Rosen, who found enjoyment in what he considers lesser known numbers, “Heavy Horses” and “Farm by the Freeway,” in addition to top hits “Aqualong” and “Locomotive Breath.” He praised Anderson’s rapport and professionalism. “Ian referred to seeing old friends again, which was nice to hear, and also let the applause die down before continuing the concert, which most bands in a hurry to finish do not.” 
Ian Anderson & his band take a bow, Photo by Michael Perlman
For Jane Firkser-Brody, it was a nostalgic night, which was reminiscent of the 1970 Jethro Tull concert at the Fillmore East. “Bourée” was her personal favorite, which largely made the crowd interact. She said, “I absolutely love the sound of a flute, and Ian Anderson plays as good as ever. Even though he is the only original member, his band sounds as if they have been playing together for years. Jethro Tull is made up of excellent musicians!” 

A portion of Kevin Wadalavage's Jethro Tull ticket stub collection
It was Kevin Wadalavage’s 14th Jethro Tull engagement, and he proudly retained his ticket stubs since 1972 at Madison Square Garden. He explained, “The musicians of early Tull, some of which were featured on the screen in the show, including Barriemore Barlow, Jeffrey Hammond, and Clive Bunker, were amazingly entertaining and skilled, and I would invite anyone to watch some of their early concert footage.” He continued, “Ian makes all the classic moves he has made for decades, and that is all we visually focus on with the band while they dutifully execute the notes.” He reminisced, “I first came to Forest Hills Stadium to see The Who in 1971, and having always lived in Queens, it has been a real treat to see the Stadium come back to life. I can see world-class talent and still be home in ten minutes.”

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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Forest Hills Mystery... "Celebrity Walk"

By Michael Perlman

Every community has forgotten relics which either survive or have been concealed, demolished, or carted away and awaiting rediscovery. The latter is the case with “Celebrity Walk,” a collection of handprints and signatures in cement slabs which existed in the 1960s and 1970s along the perimeters of the lawns in front of one of Forest Hills Gardens’ most historic and storied buildings, the Forest Hills Inn. It evoked the ambiance of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre’s forecourt’s footprints and handprints feature.

“I loved coming up with press-generating ideas, including the creation of a Celebrity Walk in front of the hotel’s sidewalk cafe. Marketing seemed to come easily to me,” said Mark H. Fleischman, former owner of the famed Studio 54 nightclub and author of “Inside Studio 54” which features a memoir of his life. From 1965 to 1968, he co-owned the Forest Hills Inn and served as executive director, although he retained stock in the company that sold to the co-op and rented the restaurants.

Fleischman explained, “It was a real coup when we got Frank Sinatra to put his handprints into a block of wet cement when he headlined the Forest Hills Music Festival at the nearby tennis stadium. As soon as other celebrities heard about Sinatra’s handprints and signature, they agreed to be included in our Celebrity Walk when they performed.”

Other celebrities who followed included Barbra Streisand, Trini Lopez, Woody Allen, and Buddy Hackett. On August 17, 1965, locals picked up the Long Island Star-Journal and read, “The Forest Hills Inn has Frank Sinatra’s and Barbra Streisand’s handprints imbedded on their sidewalk pavement, but it had to get them the hard way. Both stars agreed to make the imprint, but refused to do it at the sidewalk. So wet cement was sent to both stars, the imprints made, and the hardened blocks were then inserted in the pavement.”

The same publication read that on July 8, 1966, Sammy Davis, Jr. was expected at the Forest Hills Inn to place his handprints in the hotel’s “celebrity sidewalk.” Fleischman reminisced, “I was also able to get tennis stars playing for the U.S. Championship to participate in our Celebrity Walk, including Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, John Newcombe, and my hero from Spain where I attended summer courses at the University of Madrid, Manuel ‘Manolo’ Santana.”

In May 1965, the 300-room Forest Hills Inn and the adjoining apartments were sold for over $1 million to Martin Fleischman, who owned the Skyway Hotels at Kennedy Airport, and his son Mark Fleischman, a 1962 graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. At the time, it offered an English pub, cocktail lounges, a formal dining room known as the Windsor Room, a sidewalk cafe, what was originally named “The Tea Garden,” and four social function rooms accommodating 400 guests. “The Inn was a venerable hotel that looked like an English country manor,” explained Mark Fleischman. A draw was also its location in an upscale community and the proximity to Forest Hills Stadium, but yet it was in foreclosure. “I focused my energies with absolute determination and belief in my ability to revive the Forest Hills Inn, while also still committed to my duties as a Naval officer,” he reminisced.

Fleischman said, “Reviving the Inn involved more than just upgrading the food in the formal restaurant, the Windsor Room, and bringing in a new maître d’. I had to change the stuffy attitude of the staff as well and went head to head with the Hotel/Restaurant Workers’ Union.” He hired some new personnel and transformed the Tournament Grill into the Three Swans, an authentic English pub that became a neighborhood success. At the grand opening, local VIPs and politicians attended, including Mayor John Lindsay.

Some local residents recall the existence of a tunnel with a series of catacombs, which may have connected the inn’s basement to the Clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club. Rumor has it that a sidewalk construction project led to the relocation of the handprints, which may have been placed in the inn’s basement in a potentially concealed tunnel for safekeeping, possibly in the mid to late 1970s.

“I am unsure what happened to the slabs of cement, and my partner in charge of construction passed away many years ago, so I wouldn't know who to ask,” lamented Fleischman. In 2015 and 2017, a search began to rediscover and potentially resurrect the handprints at a secure location to be determined, to educate the public and commemorate diverse celebrities while celebrating Forest Hills history. A small but ambitious committee ventured into the Forest Hills Inn’s basement with flashlights and camera equipment, but on both occasions, the search yielded no results.

George Hoban, president of the board of the Station Square Inn Apartments Corporation is a member of the committee that began searching for the handprints. “I’ve personally looked through the bowels of the Forest Hills Inn for the infamous handprints and came up empty every time. I’ve never found photographic proof that they actually existed.” At one point, he said, “I’m beginning to think that the handprints may be an urban legend like ‘Bigfoot’ or the ‘Loch Ness Monster.’”

“It was an honor to be invited by this columnist, Michael Perlman, to explore the basement of the Forest Hills Inn to look for the signature and handprint slabs,” said Bea Hunt, co-chair of West Side Tennis Club Archives Council. “We searched every nook of the basement and learned much of the Inn's rich history. Unfortunately, we did not find any slabs, but I am confident that the search will continue. The West Side Tennis Club is extremely fortunate to have one slab in our archive.” It features the signatures and handprints of three famous tennis players from various decades, Jack Kramer, Bill Talbert, and Manolo Santana.

Upon viewing a photo of the sole cement slab that turned up in the West Side Tennis Club’s archives in more recent times, Hoban said, “The fact that Celebrity Walk existed is a testament to the rich history of the Forest Hills Inn, and we proudly honor that history as we continue to restore the Inn.” He is in favor of resurrecting Celebrity Walk in some form, if many slabs resurface. “We would need the approval and support of the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation and Friends of Station Square.” 

An alternate form of this article has been published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

New Helen Keller Mural Lighting The Way in Forest Hills

By Michael Perlman

The Ascan Avenue LIRR underpass is now a historic passageway, with the “Tribute To Ascan Avenue & Forest Hills Gardens” mural on the east wall, completed in 2017, and the “Helen Keller Forest Hills Tribute” mural, completed on the west wall on June 14. For many local residents and visitors who observed the dedicated and humorous LIRR crew installing the mural within a couple of hours, it was a historic moment. They stood proudly in memory of Keller, an advocate, author, and lecturer who persevered in her mission to remove stigmas associated with sight and hearing disorders despite being blind and deaf.

From 1917 to 1938, Helen Keller resided in a 7-room house, along with her teacher and closest companion “Miracle Worker” Anne Sullivan Macy and her secretary Polly Thomson. Today it is home to The Reform Temple of Forest Hills at 71-11 112th Street. 

Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy, & Polly Thomson's house, 71-11 112th St, Courtesy of Michael Perlman
Helen Keller inside her home, Courtesy of Susanna & Robert Hof
The 48-foot by 4-foot mural on preservation-friendly panels, was designed by Crisp from Australia and Praxis from Columbia, and developed by this columnist. It also became a reality due to the partnership with lead sponsor Council Member Karen Koslowitz, Queens Economic Development Corporation, and The Reform Temple of Forest Hills among local organizations, restaurants, shops, and residents who served as benefactors. 

Helen Keller & dog Sieglinde in bottom row, Anne Sullivan Macy & Polly Thomson in top row, Courtesy of the Hof family
The mural features a hand touching Braille, Helen Keller’s portrait and profile view, her pets, her demolished house, an equal rights voting box, and her feature on a 15-cent stamp with Macy. Her voice comes alive through two of her many quotes, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” and “The millions of blind eyes must be opened.” Her spirit initiates much light through a plaque designed in collaboration with Continental Photo, which features her local to international accomplishments, quotes, signature, and photos. 

Muralists Praxis & Crisp painting a Helen Keller mural panel, Photo by Michael Perlman
The mural was painted at The Reform Temple on June 12 and June 13, and the public had the opportunity to have a sneak peek and hear several presentations at two “Helen Keller Comes Home” events. Guest speakers shared valuable insights, discussing her history and the importance of contributing. 

Helen Keller Comes Home guest speaker panel, Day 1, Photo by Michael Perlman

Helen Keller Comes Home Day 1 attendees, Reform Temple of Forest Hills holding Helen Keller plaque & photos, Photo by Alvin Callo
Helen Keller Comes Home, Day 2 panel & guests, Photo by Alvin Callo

Teamwork was essential for every aspect of the project. Transporting the mural panels from the temple to Ascan Avenue nearly did not transpire in time, until Home Depot donated their services. Home Depot Assistant Manager Christina Strongilos said, “A mural commemorating Helen Keller was installed in Forest Hills, thanks to the Glendale Home Depot which came to the rescue when there was no other way to get the mural panels there. A great job to our very own department heads Fredy and Drew who made it happen!” 

Home Depot dept heads Drew & Fredy load Braille mural panel on flatbed, Photo by Michael Perlman
Helen Keller mural fans & benefactors
Reform Temple congregant Barry Joseph co-founded Girl Scout Troop 04281 last February, which consists of fourth and fifth graders who meet at the temple. “This season, they are working on a badge to learn more about their neighborhood and create something to teach others. They came up with the idea of creating Helen Keller playing cards that could be shared with people who came to the mural painting events at the temple. I was really proud of them for doing something to teach others about local history that was also connected to art and human rights.” 

LIRR staff displays Helen Keller mural panels, Photo by Michael Perlman
“Murals are not just artwork, but at their best tell a story,” said congregant Barry Wollner. “The Helen Keller story is worth telling and those who know her story will reflect on her life. Parents and their children will walk by the mural, and it will encourage discussion and result in a visit to the library to learn more about her life.” 

LIRR crew along with Crisp & Michael Perlman
The temple’s Rabbi Mark Kaiserman organizes the annual “Helen Keller Shabbat of Inclusion” featuring a guest speaker facing challenges but permits will power to lead the way. “The mural offers a real artistic and social benefit to Forest Hills, and it is an honor to have Crisp and Praxis’ beautiful art fill our town. Helen Keller was not Jewish, but embodied the blessings and values of our faith and every faith; the idea of overcoming incredible obstacles and working together with the community and living her life to making it a better world. She chose to become an ambassador across the planet, traveling places that many of us would never dream of, to reach out and inspire people.”

Rene David Alkalay, who contributed on behalf of Red Pipe Cafe and Genesis Society, said “I hope we can continue to maintain growth through the arts and find ways to communicate with one another.”

On behalf of benefactor West Side Tennis Club, archivist Bea Hunt explained, “West Side came to Forest Hills in 1913, four years before Helen Keller. She had friends in the neighborhood including the Marsh family who were Club members.” Hunt is determined to further research if Helen Keller ever visited the Club.

James Ng represented benefactor Elmhurst History & Cemeteries Preservation Society and called it an “honor to participate.” “I like to volunteer to make sure our history is preserved, since if you lose it once, it’s lost forever. When I watched the movie ‘Miracle Worker,’ the actress who played her was Patty Duke, who was born in Elmhurst. Also, I worked for a company that sold American Sign Language interpreting services to hospitals, so in a way, Helen Keller provided me with that avenue of work.”

Alexa Arecchi, Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi stated, “Helen Keller is truly the embodiment of what you can achieve when you persevere and don’t let people get you down or tell you otherwise. I am sure it would have been easier if she resigned to what many thought would be her fate – life in an asylum, but she knew that she was destined for more. That is a mindset, where we can all take our daily lives to achieve what we want. Hopefully when people pass the mural, they will be inspired and feel the same things.”

On behalf of the Queens EDC, tourism director Rob MacKay explained, “Whenever anyone hears that Helen Keller lived in Forest Hills, it will create pride. Hopefully it will become instagramable, since many people pass by murals and take photos and get the word out for free on the internet.”

Benefactors Rob Hof and his wife Susanna Hof of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty were in attendance. He shared his family photos featuring Helen Keller. “My mother’s family was geographically proximate to Helen Keller’s house in a home where the John Alden building stands today. My mother and her siblings would walk from PS 3 to home, and would have milk and cookies daily with Helen. My grandparents were also dear friends. They were all members of the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills across the street from the Reform Temple. As a young child and into the sixties, my grandmother would read letters from dear Helen to my siblings and I. Many stories always had the characteristics of gentleness, wisdom, and progressive ideas.” Rob’s maternal grandfather was Robert E. Marsh, VP of Cord Meyer Development Company, who helped secure Keller’s house. Rob added, “Helen nicknamed her house ‘castle on the marsh.’” 

Helen Keller, Courtesy of Queens Community Board 6
 “Like Helen Keller, I am deaf-blind,” signed Lesley Silva-Kopec. “Deaf-blindness has a wide spectrum of hearing and vision loss. I have Usher syndrome, which is genetic. My transition from deaf to deaf-blind was difficult. It took many years to embrace myself as a deaf-blind person. When I accepted my deaf-blindness, my burden eventually lifted off my shoulder and I felt free. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that people are 100 percent accepting and kind. For the most part people are helpful, but I still get the looks, since I am sighted and I use a white cane. My cane helps me see what I may not see due to the blind spots and the dark areas. I also have two wonderful dogs that help me. My husband is also deaf-blind. We still experience oppression, but have to stay positive and support each other.” She then explained, “What the city lacks is the Support Service Provider (SSP), also known as a sighted guide. I am currently working with the Mayor’s Office for people with disabilities to have SSP, so they can have autonomy life. It serves as an extra pair of eyes, and is helpful for activities that may not be safe for deaf-blind people.”

She continued, “I am so touched that Helen Keller was chosen to be painted on the Ascan Avenue LIRR underpass. It is a place where I walk with my dogs, so it’s going to make my walk extra special. “ 

“I brought my niece today, since she really didn’t know anything about Helen Keller,” said Leslie Brown, Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce President. She explained, “On 72nd between 110th and Queens Boulevard was the Seeing Eye Dog Foundation, where dogs were training. There was a cornerstone that read, ‘The house that love built – Helen Keller.’” Then the house was demolished. “My mother wanted my sister and I to search through the rubble and find the cornerstone.”

Benefactor Helen Day, VP of Richmond Hill Historical Society said, “It is fabulous to bring Helen Keller back to life and create a special remembrance of where she lived for so many years. She was a person on the world stage, and to come from so far away to a great city of the world and become a part of this great community really needs to be remembered.”

Muralists Praxis & Crisp with historian & mural developer Michael Perlman, Photo by Linda Perlman

Helen Keller's quote & signature, Feb 24, 1920