Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Has Local To National Merit
by Michael Perlman
Feb 01, 2012 | 21868 views | 14 14 comments | 497 497 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The legendary Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was almost sold for development, but now it is steps closer to being preserved.

On January 5, 2012, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium and Clubhouse, and other historic features of the West Side Tennis Club property has been declared "NR-Eligible," or eligible for inclusion on the State & National Register of Historic Places by State Historic Preservation Office Specialist Daniel McEneny.

As Chairman of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, I nominated the property in summer 2011 on behalf of our membership, and a vast coalition of preservation, civic, tennis and music enthusiasts from the local to national level.

If the WSTC signs off on this opportunity, the office can move forward, and the property can be placed on the State & National Register of Historic Places. Besides commemoration, the Register would open the door to economic incentives for restoration and historically sensitive upgrades.

In addition, the New York Landmarks Conservancy non-profit, which is accredited as one of the largest preservation grant awardees, has a number of funding programs that a property may be eligible for upon placement on the Register. This would benefit the WSTC and a potential preservation-friendly partner.

Backtracking, a string of promising events has transpired since the stadium's endangerment in summer 2010. In October 2010, a plan to sell the stadium parcel to developer Cord Meyer to build “Anytown USA” condos was rejected by more than half of the voting-eligible WSTC members, and President Kenneth Parker expressed his disappointment.

On January 1, 2012, President Roland Meier took the seat of Kenneth Parker. President Meier has not made his views publicly known, but is believed to be pro-preservation. A case in point was when Cord Meyer Development proposed condos, and Roland Meier resigned in protest from his seat as Tennis Committee Chair in August 2010.

In November 2011, it was announced that the Stadium Arts Alliance non-profit envisions partnering with the WSTC, and restoring and revitalizing the stadium for tennis matches, periodic musical acts, and ice hockey and skating in the winter, to make the venue usable year-round for the WSTC and greater community.

The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium witnessed a series of firsts architecturally, culturally, and socially. It was the first concrete stadium in the U.S., and was designed by a foremost architect of public buildings, Kenneth Murchison.

It was also the first home of the US Open, and a plethora of tennis legends including Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Helen Jacobs, Tony Trabert, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, and Althea Gibson, played there. And Forest Hills Music Festivals featured the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Barbra Streisand. The stadium put Forest Hills on the map.

Creative reuse would signify an educational, cultural and economic boost community-wide. It would improve our quality of life, preserve a historic site, increase business in Forest Hills, and create jobs at and near the stadium, while improving finances for the club in the long term. However, selling the stadium for the highest offer would be a one-time cash generator for WSTC.

No development in place of the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium can ever equal or exceed its value. Fading photos of the stadium which grace the walls of the clubhouse could never measure up to preserving the Real McCoy. How many times have we seen tribute plaques in place of historic sites which could have still been standing proudly? Do we wish to be remembered as a society that revitalized a world icon, or one that operated under a throwaway culture mentality, which destroyed it along the lines of the late great Pennsylvania Station?

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Caroline D. Roswell
April 30, 2012
Thank you for your dedication and efforts to preserve one of Forest Hills historic treasures, glad your working to get the job done!
March 22, 2012
What a beautiful and informative article, Michael! Your passion,devotion and dedication to this cause come right out of this article and touch my heart! Please let me share a beautiful quote that I found... "It has been said that,at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future." - William J. Murtagh, Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America

(New York:Sterling Publishing Co.,Inc.,1988),p.168
Henry Euler
February 26, 2012
The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium and Clubhouse must be preserved and creative reuse is just the ticket to do so. What a win win situation that would be for the community, the county and our entire city!

Thank you, Michael, for all you do to preserve and protect our history and our precious architectural icons!
February 23, 2012
As a musician who lives in Forest Hills, I feel it would be a wonderful chance to get to see the stadium restored and kept alive. Also, I am a huge Forest Hills Music Fest buff who would like to see the possibility of more music festivals and amazing performers play there. Perhaps one day I will get the chance to perform there myself...
Adele Bender
February 22, 2012
The tennis stadium is an important part of Forest Hills history. We need to preserve that stadium and the area. It is needed to impede on mediocrity. It not only represents an important part of our history, but also our future. The stadium area lends to much-needed stimuli in our area. It holds some very nice memories for many residents. I remember when The Beatles arrived in a helicopter. I took my teenage niece and her friend to see Stevie Wonder and the Supremes. Not only does this neighborhood need the Forest Hills Stadium, but I hope it will be well publicized. It is easy to reach by railroad, subway, buses and by car. We need the stadium for sports, entertainment and perhaps it could be used for tours for children in school to learn part of the history of Forest Hills. It could also be featured in walking tours, not only for the residents of the area, but for visitors to New York. I think it would also bring some business to the stores on Austin Street, and to the restaurant in Forest Hills Inn.

Maureen Guido
February 21, 2012
While walking through the neighborhood even before I knew what the stadium was, the outside intrigued me. Now that I know its history and potential, I think it's even more important that it be saved. Queens has lost far too many historic places.
Maria Maresca
February 21, 2012
Great work, Michael.

It would be great to be able to go ice skating, or see a concert or hockey game right here n Forest Hills!
K. Slutsky
February 21, 2012
Great idea, that of creative reuse. I wish someone would come in and make that happen. it's always tear down and build up, instead of preserve and enhance.
Dorothy Black
February 21, 2012
Well said, Michael. More Queens landmarks should be preserved. Thank you for caring enough to take up the cause.
Marty Oppenheim
February 21, 2012
When I moved into the neighborhood in 1974, the Open was still going on - I peeked through the fence & saw Billie Jean King practicing. I thought how cool is that. It is a wonderful and historic place & needs to be preserved - simple as that!
K. Ortiz
February 07, 2012
Very informative article! It must be preserved. It is a legacy that must be kept for future generations to come and as part of our heritage. Thank you for your dedicated and conscientious efforts .
Scott Lifshine
February 03, 2012
I could be the only one who ever walked in there with a home movie camera.
K.J. Perkins
February 03, 2012
Excellent article! We do not need any more "Generica" developments. This historic landmark is a treasure that deserves to be recognized and saved for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Kudos to you for all of your efforts to preserve the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium!
Gayle M. Lambert
February 02, 2012
I agree Michael, it's a beautiful piece of Forest Hills history and should be preserved. Thanks for an informative, well-written article.