Tag Archives: history

New historical research group started in Woodhaven


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Woodhaven is known for its history, but there was no central repository for the trove of information about it — until now.

The Woodhaven History Research Group was recently started by Ed Wendell as part of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

The new group’s mission is to perform methodical searches of archives of the neighborhood to record names, addresses and any interesting pieces of information it finds about the town into a database, something that Wendell said would connect residents to the history of Woodhaven.

“There is all this great history about Woodhaven that many of us don’t even know yet,” he said. “My hope is to build a database that will outline the hyper-local history of the neighborhood.”

Wendell came up with the idea for the research group by chance.

He was invited by a local resident to a house where the man’s parents once lived. As they were checking out some of the home’s antiques, Wendell came across a flyer from the early 1900s with a man’s name on it who had a dog training service at the time. When Wendell plugged the name into the computer, he found “an incredible amount of history on the guy.”

He then wanted to have a place where he could archive such history, which is how the group began.

Wendell found a website that has archived The Lead Observer, Woodhaven’s newspaper, dating back to the early 1900s. He said he would like to split up the members of the group by giving them specific research areas.

After the research is completed, Wendell said he hopes that all members of the group will meet up and put together the pieces of history until “the puzzle is filled.”

The first meeting will be on Oct. 28 at the Avenue Diner, located at 91-06 Jamaica Ave., at 7 p.m. Wendell encourages all those who are interested in doing some local research and even those who would just like to learn more about Woodhaven to come down.

“I want people to be interested in their hyper-local history,” Wendell said. “Once you start searching, you never know what you’re going to find.”

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Historic greenhouses receive more than $1M for restoration project


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The Queens County Farm Museum is getting some serious green to fix three greenhouses on the state’s oldest continuously running farm, according to city records.

The city Department of Design and Construction will begin a $1.4 million construction project in 2015 to restore the wooden structures.

The last time the Floral Park site’s greenhouses were restored was in 1999 and since then their concrete foundations and wooden window frames have decayed.

According to James Trent, the founder of the museum, the greenhouses need to be restored every few decades since they were built in 1929 and 1934.

“They’re the last wooden greenhouses owned by the city,” he said. “These houses are very attractive but they need to be worked on periodically.”

Currently, only one of the sites are being used for plants and flowers. The other two are empty and the public isn’t allowed in them out of fear that the aging wood might drop the glass panels that they hold.

“It really causes the wood to shift out of place,” said Executive Director Amy Boncardo. “It’s like a living structure and very complex.”

The farm, which began in 1697, is owned by the Parks Department and serves as an agricultural production center and an educational center for schools.

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Goodbye yellow brick road


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Thomas Curry

Somewhere under the asphalt, bricks are yellow.

That somewhere is in Woodhaven, where a routine repaving revealed a long-buried patch of yellow bricks.

And while this yellow brick road leads to Jamaica Avenue rather than the Emerald City,  it offers a glimpse of Belgian bricks that once covered most of Woodhaven and other parts of New York City.

Woodhaven resident Thomas Curry noticed that yellow bricks were peeking out of 88th Street near Park Lane South in June.

“When they ripped up the streets to repave last week – they revealed the old Belgian Blocks that the streets in Woodhaven once had,” he wrote on Facebook. “Follow the yellow brick road.”

According to Forgotten New York, a blog about New York City’s history, these bricks were used for many streets before blacktop roads substituted them in the 1940s. The bricks can still be found in places like DUMBO and the South Street Seaport.

In a picture taken during the 1940s of Schmidt’s Candy Shop, which is still around, Belgian blocks can be seen on Jamaica Avenue with trolley car tracks.

“All of Woodhaven used to be covered in those bricks. I wish it was like that now,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Historical and Cultural Society. “Or that they could be kept somehow. But then I guess bricks like that pose their own problem especially in the winter when you try to plow the area.”

Wendell said he saw the yellow bricks and noted that every so often the tornado of progress reveals Woodhaven’s history.

“The best is when a business closes and a new owner takes the building and removes the awning of the old business,” he said. “That’s when you get to see the original signage of whatever the building originally was and for a second Woodhaven is taken back to an earlier time.”


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Historic Howard Beach


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Benny Patti

Famous for its waterways, Howard Beach has been known since the early 1900s as the “Venice of Long Island.” The land that makes up the neighborhood today was originally settled by the Canarsie and Rockaway Native Americans, and later attracted English settlers for its fishing sites — particularly by Hawtree Creek and Jamaica Bay. William J. Howard, a Brooklyn glove manufacturer, purchased 32 acres of land in 1897 and began developing them.

The rest, as they say, is history…

Photo courtesy of Benny Patti

Hawtree Creek attracted English settlers for its prime fishing. By the 1770s, the strip of water became a hot spot for the New World’s industry. That tradition stayed constant throughout the neighborhood’s history, as seen here in 1928.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department

The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department was established in 1928 and remains one of the few volunteer corps in the city. This 1940s photo shows that the station house and hardware has changed, but the dedication and service to the community is still the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Bay North

 

Cross Bay Boulevard has always been a busy thoroughfare. These pictures, showing the bustling boulevard heading north and south, show the street is still recognizable, even before the multiple stores that are landmarks today.

 

 

 

 

 

Located at 98-01 159 Avenue, P.S. 146 has long been educating scores of the neighborhood’s youth.

Bayside through the years


| mchan@queenscourier.com

bayside
Photos by Melissa Chan; historic photos courtesy of the Bayside Historical Society

This view of Bell Boulevard was taken in 1916 and features the tracks that Bayside’s trolley ran along.

 


In the winter of 1950, this sledder overlooked the hills at Oakland Golf Course, which is now the location of the Queensborough Community College campus.

 

The old Bell Tavern, with “Chinese and American” lunch and dinner is long gone and has been replaced by Bayside’s little slice of New Orleans, Bourbon Street.

 

The corner of Bell and Northern boulevards marks the spot where one of the first enamel-steel prefabricated White Castle outlets was well-established by 1933. Today, the neighborhood has grown up and the castle is larger, but the burgers are about the same.

As the carousel turns: A history of the Forest Park Carousel


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Forest Park Carousel

When the Forest Park Carousel stopped spinning in 2008, it nevertheless continued its merry-go-round cycle that had become all too familiar over its history.

For decades, the carousel stood continuously in Forest Park as one of the many jewels of the 543-acre greenspace with locals and visitors flocking to the attraction each spring and summer.

“My cousin used to come from Brooklyn to take me to the carousel,” said Leonora Lavan, former president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, of the ride that only cost a nickel when she rode it in the 40s. “I had a favorite horse; I used to wait until it was free to get on.”

During the summers in the late 1940s, St. John’s journalism professor Frank Brady was the guardian of the famed merry-go-round. Brady operated the carousel, remembering the festive, carnival-like atmosphere.

“On a really nice Saturday or Sunday the place was packed. Sometimes we couldn’t even accommodate all the kids,” Brady, 78, remembered. “Every pony was taken.”

The carousel’s music, Johann Strauss waltzes, stuck with him through the decades, transporting him back to his days as operator.

“The music was always the big thing,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

The music stopped in late 1966 when a fire tore through the ride, leaving behind only ashes.

“The fire started at 8:40 p.m. and was fought by 67 firemen using 26 pieces of fire apparatus, according to the Fire Department, and totally destroyed the carousel,” reported a 1966 article in the Long Island Daily Press.

The article said the carousel had been “a landmark for 50 years,” though an exact date of its opening in the park could not be confirmed.

“After the carousel burnt down, I remember my father taking me up there and seeing the ashes,” Wendell recalled.

Six years passed with no carousel replacing the original.

A Daniel C. Muller-carved carousel that formerly spun at Lakeview Park in Dracut, Massachusetts was on sale in the early 1970s. For $30,000, according to a 1972 Daily News article, Forest Park got a new carousel.

“[The carousel] was in an interesting little park at the end of a dead-end road in nowhere Massachusetts,” said Roland Hopkins, editor of The Carousel News & Trader magazine, a monthly based in California for carousel enthusiasts.

“Muller was one of the special ones for sure; he had a distinct style,” Hopkins said. “He was a master of strong military horses — strong, but not intimidating.”

Only two of the master carver’s carousels remain in the country; Forest Park and the Midway Carousel in Sandusky, Ohio.

The park’s new carousel was built in 1903 and featured a menagerie of hand carved wooden animals.

Everyone was delighted when they brought a carousel back, Wendell said, but barely a decade passed before it again was shuttered.

It fell into disrepair after closing in 1985.

“It really hasn’t had a good history since they brought the new one in. It’s had a history of being neglected,” said Wendell, who also heads the Woodhaven Residents Block Association.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, and members of the board began to lobby for the piece of Queens history to be restored.

New operators were secured, the ride was restored and a new era was set to begin.

City dignitaries, including then-Mayor Ed Koch, attended the carousel’s 1989 grand re-opening.

Eager to enjoy the first trip on the carousel, the crowd rushed to get on.

It didn’t move.

“I guess it was the weight of all the people,” laughed Carey.

A minor tweak, and the carousel was up and running again after a four-year absence.

For the next two decades, the carousel ran with relatively few problems.

In 2008, New York One, the carousel vendor, did not renew its contract, setting off another stagnant era for the ride.

While the carousel has stood still, local officials and residents have worked behind the scenes to get the historic ride spinning again.

Facebook groups were started, T-shirts were sold and four Requests for Proposals were issued.

Good news was received in March when the Parks Department announced a new vendor was chosen and the ride would be ready by spring.

But as March and April passed, even the staunchest supporters thought another year would pass with no carousel.

Fears were erased when the Parks Department announced New York Carousel Entertainment would operate the carousel and the public would once again be able to enjoy the attraction beginning Memorial Day weekend.

“We hope now people are more appreciative. We’ve come close to losing it before,” said Wendell.

Even from across the country, carousel enthusiasts realize the attraction of the Forest Park ride.

“You guys have a nice machine there. I hope these guys pay attention,” said Hopkins. “It will be great to have it up and running; it’s a great machine.”

A new era will begin on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.