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Queens Chronicle

Forgotten Forest Hills comes to life

Photo exhibit shows landmarks and the changes over nine decades

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Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Thu Jul 12, 2012.

Occident Street. Meteor Street. Pilgrim Street. Anyone living in Forest Hills in the 1920s would likely have walked down all of them.

Of course, they’re all known by different names today, but strolling through the neighborhood’s past just became a little easier, courtesy of a photography exhibit on view through Sept. 1 at Jade Eatery and Lounge at 1 Station Square.

Culled from the extensive collection of the exhibit’s curator, Ron Marzlock, the mostly black-and-white photos recreate a sense of a bygone era. Despite the name changes of many of the surrounding streets — which, as depicted in a 1926 map of “Forest Hills, Long Island” also included Yellowstone Avenue and Jewel Street — many of the scenes on view remain basically as they were nearly 90 years ago. Time has, however, altered much, as well.

One picture calls to mind the original Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church on 72nd Avenue, which back in 1924 was known as Roman Avenue. And there’s a shot of the landmark Forest Hills firehouse at 111-02 Queens Blvd. as it appeared in 1930.

The exhibit, housed in the restaurant’s rear corridor leading to a once-famous outdoor tea garden, seems equally appealing to newcomers to the area and longtime residents.

Kateryna Lyman, 24, who came to the United States from the Ukraine nearly five years ago and settled in Forest Hills three years ago, couldn’t help drawing comparisons to her native country as she surveyed the photos along with her mother-in-law.

“During the 1940s in Russia it was a sad time,” she said. “You can see what was happening here. It looked like a different life. People had a life. They had theaters, beautiful cars. We couldn’t experience those things at that time.

“It makes me happy that a lot of the buildings still have their original architecture. We didn’t know the train station was here since 1915,” she said.

She found the exhibit “beautiful, amazing,” and added “I’d love to come back with my husband.”

Joseph Schneider has been living in Forest Hills since 1968 and was equally impressed with the display.

Looking at a rare Kodak Kodachrome panoramic view of Continental Avenue and Austin Street from 1944, he said, “I love this. It’s like going back into the past. Look what was playing at the Forest Hills movie theater.”

Moving to a 1930 photo depicting the Colonial Garage on Queens Boulevard at 78th Avenue, he said, “I wish this was still here. We could use a gas station.”

Raymond Taylor, the general manager of Jade, has been living in Forest Hills for the past six years and was instrumental in getting the current exhibit on its feet.

“Every two months I hand select an artist, usually local,” he said, to mount an exhibit in the space. “This particular show I selected for the 100-year anniversary of 1 Station Square.”

He worked with Marzlock for three months to arrive at the final selection of pictures.

“We went through a lot of photos,” he said, picking those that “best reflect the past that people can see and relate to.”

Taylor admitted to having two favorites. One is of the first U.S. Open Tennis Match at the West Side Tennis Club in 1915, in the stadium that has since fallen into extreme disrepair. The other depicts a Model T Ford in 1913 as it picks up passengers at Station Square.

“If I look outside, minus the Model T, the station looks the same,” he said.

Taylor anticipates upward of 2,000 visitors to the exhibit, which is free and open to the public, before it closes.

Historians would undoubtedly marvel at the building housing the exhibit, which for years was known as the Forest Hills Inn. Today the floors above the restaurant and an adjacent tower are co-op apartments. He said they will be working diligently to bring the tea garden back to its original luster.

Marzlock, a freelance photographer who lived a large portion of his life in Forest Hills, said they “wanted to put the passion down in pictures and show the rich legacy” of the neighborhood.

Thinking of the future, he added, “All of this is going to be lost. So many people are coming from around the world. They don’t know the history. It’s a slice of our life.”

Welcome to the discussion.