Tag Archives: Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society

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 Woodhaven cemetery gets new life


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

Only one month ago, the historic Wyckoff-Snediker Family Cemetery in Woodhaven was completely covered in foliage and debris.

Now, after several clean-up sessions, volunteers have reclaimed a large portion of the land, located at 85-45 96th St. on the grounds of All Saints Episcopal Church.

“The cemetery clean-up has turned into a nice combination of neighborhood beautification and education for young students,” said Ed Wendell, organizer of the clean-up and president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society. “Still a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re making solid progress.”

About two dozen volunteers came out on Aug. 9 for the clean-up and gathered close to 70 bags of garbage and cut down half a dozen dead and rotted trees to uncover historic tombstones in the cemetery. Their efforts have cleared nearly 50 percent of the cemetery already and Wendell hopes to keep this going until it is completely reclaimed.

Once the tombstones are cleared and legible, Wendell encourages the student volunteers do genealogy research and find some of the rich history that is present in the cemetery.

He said having the students do the genealogy research is a great learning experience but doing this works goes a step further than technical education.

“Not only are students learning how to do genealogy and research,” he said, “they are learning about using tools. When it came to cutting down the trees, the experienced hands we had on site explained how to properly tie down a tree so it could be taken down safely.”

The clean-up project is sponsored by both the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society and the St. Thomas the Apostle Woodhaven History Club. It takes place every second Saturday of the month and the society welcomes students from all over to participate. To find out more on the clean-up go to projectwoodhaven.com.

 

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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.