Perhaps Forest Hills residents are unaware of its Dutch influence. Some 250 years prior to its completion, the land was granted by a Dutch King to Casper Joost Springsteen in the mid-17th century, when Queens was a Dutch colonial province of the New Netherlands.
After remaining in the prominent Springsteen farming family for seven generations, the four-acre parcel sold for over $1,000,000 in December 1928 to Robert Shelley and Alfred J. Ball of the Shellball Realty Corporation, which built and managed the Holland House.
In the summer of 1929, the ten-story building was the tallest Queens apartment house in one of the most beautiful suburban American communities, with average home prices ranging from $25,000 to $350,000.
A notable architect by the name of Benjamin Braunstein designed the Holland House, and also left his mark on Sutton Hall, The Wakefield, Tilden Arms, and The Chatham in Forest Hills, Marion Court and Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Rego Park, and The Mowbray in Kew Gardens.
Braunstein designed the Holland House to be soundproof and fireproof. It offered two to eight rooms with one to three baths, foyers leading to living rooms, and three penthouses. Plans also included a 50-by-175 foot rear garden, a roof garden, and a social hall for residents and guests to entertain.
The Holland House is synonymous with Forest Hills Gardens’ Old English style, and is uniquely merged with the streamlined Art Deco influences at a time when the Chrysler Building was under construction. The façade features terra-cotta scrollwork depicting gargoyles, birds, and foxes, as well as raised brick, stonework, and ornamental balconies.
“A quiet dignity pervades the whole building, which is noted for high quality and character of its tenancy and management,” read an illustrated prospectus for new tenants when it first opened. Today, the Holland House is a co-op, and residents can attest to its quality living outlined in the original advertising materials.
“We were drawn to the building because of the pre-war architecture and our large apartment’s attention to detail,” said Carmela Gersbeck. “We have a very committed board, which sponsors events and makes the Holland House a diverse and active community.”
“Our community is very diverse, and several residents have resided here for over 40 years,” said co-op board president Bart Haggerty. “We are a half-block to Austin Street’s shopping and restaurants, while still being on the quiet residential section of Austin Street.”
“The Holland House has all the trappings of a Park Avenue residence, along with views of the Manhattan skyline and three bridges,” said historian Bill Safka. “Disc Jockey Eddie Arcaro and a model known as Sabrina lived here. Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee would visit a penthouse resident.”
The building takes pride in its garden, which was named “Keith's Courtyard” after their doorman Keith Smith.
“I planned and planted our garden along with Keith, who was so keen in seeing it rejuvenated,” said Safka, who is also chair of the Beautification Committee. “Way back when, brides would take their wedding photos in front of our Magnolia trees.”