Hillside Avenue is one of the longer avenues in Queens, starting in Richmond Hill and continuing over the city line in Floral Park.
For those who were well to do, a house up on the hillside was a sign of wealth and success. The prized north side real estate had some of the most gracious homes around — before there was a place called Jamaica Estates.
James J. Shevlin, born in 1863 and a son of Irish immigrants, joined the NYPD on Oct. 16, 1886. A rising star in the department, he advanced himself to captain of the old 279th Precinct in the Rockaways.
Shevlin built this mansion, originally numbered 453 Hillside Ave. With his wife, Mary, he raised eight boys — Thomas, Matthew, Eugene, Joseph, Gerard, John, Harold and Charles — in this home. His last child was a girl they named Mary. He even took in his mother- and father-in-law, Matthew and Nora Kett.
Once Hillside Avenue was zoned commercial east down to Hollis, these grand homes were doomed. Few remained when stores started to dominate the area. The price of commercial real state outweighed the value of these grand homes. But the Shevlin Mansion remained, though hidden.
First-born son Thomas Shevlin became a civil engineer, Joseph became an attorney and last-born Charles became a medical doctor with a practice on 153rd Street. Charles continued to live in the house until his death in the 1950s.
Today the grand old house is blocked from view by a building housing offices.