The Woodhaven Library on Forest Parkway will celebrate its 100th anniversary this coming weekend with a celebration on Saturday January 6th. The day kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with “Hero Story Time” sponsored by Councilwoman Joann Ariola followed by Nick the Balloonatic at 1 p.m. The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society at 2 p.m. with proclamations by elected officials, raffles and cake at 2:30. At 3 p.m., you’ll be treated to a suite of Dominican music by Berto Reyes and at 4 p.m., the Woodhaven Library will be burying a time capsule.
Forest Parkway is likely the most historic street in Woodhaven. Starting at the T-intersection at Jamaica Avenue, if you look at the top of the northwest corner you’ll see what residents of Woodhaven have seen for well over 100 years, the name Forest Parkway emblazoned on an old building (courtesy of the old Forest Parkway Pharmacy). Anyone passing through Woodhaven on the elevated train will be familiar with that sight.
On the other side of Forest Parkway, right at Jamaica Avenue, there is a monument to the many young soldiers of Woodhaven who lost their lives during World War 2. For many years, the Memorial Day Parade here stopped to pay tribute to these heroes and up until the early 1970s they used to include a 21-gun salute.
Although there hasn’t been a Memorial Day Parade here in Woodhaven for decades, local organizations and the American Legion still hold a ceremony each year in front of the monument, honoring those lost in all wars.
A little further along Forest Parkway is the Post Office and if you stop inside you’ll be treated to a large 80-year old mural by famed Lithuanian artist Ben Shahn that depicts the Bill of Rights and celebrates workers.
Keep walking up Forest Parkway and you’ll see one of the shooting locations for one of the most acclaimed television movies of all time, “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.”
The 1975 film stars Maureen Stapleton as Bea, a lonely widow who lives on Forest Parkway and runs a small thrift shop on Jamaica Avenue. She begins visiting the Stardust Ballroom (the old Haven Theater in disguise) to go dancing where she meets Al, played by Charles Durning (both were nominated for Emmys).
Those watching the film will be treated to several glimpses of 1970s Woodhaven. Locals will be scratching their heads watching a bus roll down Forest Parkway and stop in front of the Post Office. Of course, there was never a bus line that traveled along Forest Parkway; that was just some creative license taken by the filmmakers.
Directly across the street from our soon-to-be 100 year-old library you’ll find the Betty Smith house, where the novelist famous for writing “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” once lived.
If you continue walking, you’ll reach Park Lane South, at the entrance to Forest Park, where most people assume Forest Parkway ends. But if you look at most maps, Forest Parkway continues a short distance into the park, ending outside the historic 120-year old Golf Clubhouse.
These days, the Golf Clubhouse serves as the main office for Forest Park. If you go inside, you’ll be greeted by an old carousel horse, the sole survivor of the devastating fire which destroyed the original Forest Park Carousel in 1966.
And on either side of that road in the park you’ll find the Woodhaven Memorial Trees, planted in memory of each of the young men who lost their lives in the First World War. Families used to come here to decorate their loved one’s tree each Memorial Day, a tradition the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has revived.
It may not be the longest road in our community, but Forest Parkway is long in history and remains one of the more beloved and well-known streets in Woodhaven. The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has erected three different historical markers on Forest Parkway, and co-named a street sign within Forest Park commemorating the Memorial Trees.
If you ever want a quick walk in Woodhaven that’s packed full of history, Forest Parkway is your best bet. Look around and enjoy your historical surroundings of Forest Parkway on your way to the Woodhaven Library’s centennial celebration this weekend!