The plaque honors George Washington, but it was the students remembering the first president who were celebrated on Tuesday.
After months of delays and years of work, the students of the Aquinas Honor Society at the Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates hosted a ceremony to unveil a plaque in honor of Washington’s overnight stay at a Jamaica tavern in 1790.
In 2011, during their research for their book, “Images of America: Jamaica,” the students discovered that Washington spent a night at a colonial-era tavern located at the present-day intersection of Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, where the Addabbo federal building stands today.
The plaque was due to be unveiled in October, but the government shutdown forced a postponement of the ceremony.
On Tuesday, the honor students finally got the recognition that state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) says the students deserve.
“My family is proud but I am so proud of the efforts of these students,” Addabbo, whose father the federal building is named after, said after the ceremony. “I’m so happy to be here and express my family’s appreciation for what the students have accomplished.”
The ceremony began with renditions of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Yankee Doodle” by the Immaculate Conception School choir and continued with a presentation of the Aquinas Honor Society’s work by eighth-grader and society President Anjali Deodat and Vice President Ariel Narine, a seventh-grader.
After the plaque was unfurled for the crowd of over 100 students, faculty and guests, Addabbo and other representatives from area historical groups spoke highly of the students’ accomplishments.
“I’m glad it all worked out so perfectly,” teacher and Aquinas Honor Society moderator Carl Ballenas said. “I’m overwhelmed, I can’t even put it into words how proud I am of these students.”
Deodat says that, while she wishes the previous members of the Aquinas Honor Society, who are now in high school, could have been there to view the result of their hard work, she was so excited to see the cover finally come off the plaque.
“It made me really proud of our work,” Deodat said. “I’m just so happy.”
“Everyone worked so hard on it,” Narine added. “It goes to show that hard work pays off.”
The plaque contains a colonial-era design of what the tavern looked like at the time of Washington’s stay, the text that he wrote in his diary regarding his stay and background information on the building itself, which was razed in 1906.
Plans are to place the plaque on the exterior of the Addabbo federal building sometime next spring.
“It feels really good. Now people will know a little bit more about the history of Jamaica,” Aquinas Honor Society secretary Carlos Carranza said. “All of our work finally paid off.”