In 1909, when the private community of Forest Hills Gardens was being completed and opened to the public, the surrounding areas immediately became valuable as well.Early Forest Hills sales and rental brochures always stated that tenants and buyers shall be carefully selected.
Before fast-food restaurants became common, entrepreneurs would convert old Pullman trains and trolley cars into restaurants. We had one such roadside gem right here in Queens.
After Hillside Avenue was zoned commercial, an old Pullman was set up in front of a mansion at 182-45 Hillside Ave. in the late 1920s and called the Hillside Diner. German-American Charles Koegerl served liquor, beer, steaks and fish. It was a great success for decades. After World War II the old Board of Transportation (now the MTA) announced it would be expanding the last stop on the IND Subway from 169th Street to 179th Street. With this massive project, the diner was on the chopping block. Under eminent domain law it was bought by the city and condemned. With nowhere to move to, it was torn down and we lost another piece of roadside America.
During the building boom of the 1920s, Elmhurst was considered a blue-chip growth area. Land was still cheap and the IRT subway along Roosevelt Avenue was nearby. Another subway line called the IND was built along Broadway in the early 1930s.
Broadway was zoned for both residential and commercial use. A four-story pale brick building was erected in 1927 at the northwestern corner of Broadway and 77th Street. In common form, the upper floors were residential and the bottom was commercial.
German immigrants Frank and William Haufe owned land off Metropolitan Avenue wedged between the Lutheran cemetery and the BMT subway system and worked as farmers in a thriving florist business.
In March 1923, 41-year-old Frank Haufe took 23-year-old Emma Liebl as his bride. With her great love for flowers, the store was named Emma Haufe Florist Shop.
Rego Park was originally the creation of Ridgewood builder Henry Schloh in 1925. In 1929 Harry Le Vay, also from Ridgewood — he lived on Putnam Street — took a chance and opened up Le Vay’s restaurant on the south side of Queens Boulevard at 63rd Avenue (then still technically Elmhurst as per the Post Office). After the ban on alcohol was repealed he changed it to The Boulevard Tavern early in 1934.
The original Spanish stucco building was expanded and had two floor shows nightly, with accommodations for 500 people.
Queens has always been famous for historical properties but is equally famous for seeing them torn down in the name of progress. Here is one such case.
The Rev. John Moore, one of the earliest settlers of Newtown (now Elmhurst), arranged to buy land from the native Indians. Capt. Samuel Moore, his son, was granted 80 acres and built the center house here in 1661. The extension on the right was added years later.
Astoria, up in the northwest corner of Queens, was named after entrepreneur John Jacob Astor — though it is said he never actually lived in the area or even visited it.
Lumber yards sprang up along the East River shore and homes were built in the late 18th century. As late as the 1930s families still lived in houses on busy Broadway, one of the main arteries in the community.
A brick building was built in 1920 at 29-02 30 Ave. in Astoria. Its first tenant was Academy Chemist Pharmacy, which was a compound pharmacy where they mixed the prescriptions custom-made for individual needs. By the 1950s it was no longer making its own mixtures and a new owner renamed it the DeRose Pharmacy. The business ran strong into the end of the 20th century. Unfortunately, it could not compete with the big chain pharmacies, however, and closed its doors in the 21st century.
The relatively small lot was vacant and ready for a change. It was converted into an eatery. It was on the market for one day and sold on July 1, 2014 for $2,800,000. The store is in a C1-3/R-6-A zone.