You are looking at what was considered the downtown hub of Jamaica in 1916 — Washington Street and Jamaica Avenue.At the time there were 36 Washington streets throughout the Borough of Queens. Can you imagine the problems encountered by the police department, fire department and the post office? In 1917 the name was changed to 160th Street.
The Fowler house in Whitestone provides an interesting story in terms of the early Queens pioneer spirit.
David and Alice Fowler, immigrants from England who first moved to Canada and came to the United States in 1924 with their two daughters, built the home in 1930.
Whenever the history of Forest Hills is discussed, the names Cord Meyer and Frederick and Ascan Backus always come up. Relatively few people remember another major player in the area’s history — the Springsteen family.
The Springsteens were farmers of Dutch descent who owned a large portion of land on the south side of Queens Boulevard, unlike the Backus family, which was dominant on the north side. Springsteen’s holdings started at Ascan Avenue and extended to 77th Avenue.
Rosedale, at the very southeastern tip of Queens, was home to a large farming community as late as the 1930s. Some of the better known and larger ones were Anton Hoffner’s Farm, Joseph Brothers Farm, John Miller and Sons Farm, John Santa Marie’s Farm, Albert Schmitt and Brothers Farm and the George Schmitt Farm.
In the late 1930s the construction of homes in an area off Laurelton Parkway called Beaux Arts Park began. The builder was the Parkway Construction Co., owned by Morris Praver (1893-1978), who lived a short distance away on 231st Street in Laurelton with his wife, Hilda, and their two sons. The salesman was his younger brother Albert Praver.
Jackson Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and Fourth Street in Long Island City was a major shopping hub early in the 20th century, with stores such as Snedeker Hardware, Hirshfield Jewelers and Willmark Baking Products, to name just a few.
At the time there were exactly 22 different Fourth streets scattered throughout Queens, making it a nightmare for emergency services, and the name was eventually changed to 50th Avenue.
The junction of Jamaica Avenue and the Van Wyck Expressway marks an interesting element in Queens County history.
During the Revolutionary War, Jamaica and what later would be called Richmond Hill chose overwhelmingly to remain loyal to the British crown. That stance later brought the wrath of New York’s lawmakers down upon the residents.
As late as the 1940s, some Revolutionary-era buildings still stood in the vicinity of Queens Boulevard and Broadway in Elmhurst. But property values made development much more lucrative than any potential tourist attraction, so they didn’t last.
In 1939, Fred Reiner, who made his fortune in mortgages and real estate, bought the northeast corner lot. It had already been flattened by eminent domain when the subway was being built a few years earlier. Reiner had a real estate office at 87-12 Grand Ave. and lived in Forest Hills Gardens at 85 Ascan Ave.
Prior to 1960 there were no office buildings to speak of in the Rego Park-Forest Hills area. Then the John Hancock Insurance Co. approved a mortgage for a 13-story innovative luxury office building at 97-45 Queens Blvd. At 13 stories it would tower over anything else in the immediate area.
Architect Jack Brown, who had done dozens of apartment buildings in Brooklyn, got the call from the LeFrak Organization to design something special. It was a unique project, with a curved front. The first tenant was Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor, which occupied the entire ground floor storefront.