The forgotten art of advertising thermometers

From functional thermometers to collectible art

By Michael Perlman

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Lawrence Brown Prime Meat Market circa 1940s, Rego Park.

Some vintage items may be collecting dust, but think twice about tossing them — since they may hold artistic, historical and financial value.

Such is the case of long-forgotten “advertising thermometers,” which were advertised in newspapers in the late 1890s, while keeping in mind that Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the modern thermometer in 1714. These relics could be found locally and nationally.

In the 1890s, America was largely rural and other than postcards and trade cards, it was generally a challenge to advertise, but thermometers engaged the public in a unique way through design and could be readily observed and utilized.

In the 1920s, as towns and cities across America evolved from rural to more urbanized destinations, the analog thermometers became even more prevalent.

They were a popular form of advertising for everything from bakeries to liquor stores to meat markets, and from food, automobile, healthcare and photography industries to World’s Fair expositions.

Most came with hangers to display inside or outside a home.

After the 1980s, they dwindled in popularity, and increasingly so as a result of mass advertising and detecting temperatures through digital technologies.

Today, there is an average of 11,000-plus advertising thermometers on eBay at any given time, and they are indeed a hot commodity, which capture nearly every theme and size imaginable and sell anywhere from 99 cents to $8,345.

1942 Art Deco Coca-Cola advertising thermometer.

Some standout thermometers are a die-cut 1910s “Drink Moxie,” a St. Bernard washed coal, a girl drinking Coca-Cola in 1939, Snow White cream soda, OshKosh B’gosh Work Wear, a Norman Rockwell-themed 1984 General Motors Parts, a cartoon-like Nesbitt’s Orange Soda and “Plant Coker Hybrids.”

Decades ago, a business owner could not have predicted that what was offered to patrons as a promotional means, whether free or as a bonus alongside a purchase, would hold a high value for today’s collectors.

Often for local brands, rare early wood thermometers could be circular and nine to 12 inches in diameter, whereas a rectangular model could be astonishingly up to six feet.

Most frequently, they were 17 inches.

Empire State Building advertising thermometer.

Diverse shapes initiated character with round signs bearing clock-like hands, whereas others were vertical rectangles or squares.

Sometimes they resembled the products that they represented such as a bottle of soda.

It was the thought of advertisers that it would remain on display in a shop longer than a more predictably shaped advertising thermometer.

The outdoor models, which rose in popularity in the 1920s, especially for rural areas, enabled residents to determine not only the temperature, but wind direction.

Advertising thermometers can be found in styles including Colonial, Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Early models were manufactured from tin and wood, which somewhat transitioned to porcelain.

In the 1940s, Masonite was the preferred choice for drugstore advertising thermometers.

Some manufacturers’ names can be discovered in classified ads, if not evident on advertising thermometers.

An ad published in The New York Sun on Aug. 15, 1897 read, “Wanted — Our line of advertising thermometer novelties for 1897-1898 is now ready. We pay liberal commission to competent salesmen. Send 10 cents in stamps for catalogue, sample and terms. Taylor Bros. Co., Rochester, N.Y.”

“Where the good thermometers come from” was their slogan.

Taylor Instruments was founded by George Taylor, a Stoddard native in 1851.

In the early 20th century, their factories were not only in Rochester, but in Toronto, London, New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

The firm evolved into what is presently known as Taylor Precision Products, which is acclaimed in measurement products.

The Feb. 22, 1899 edition of Printers’ Ink — A Journal For Advertisers, featured a Taylor Bros. Co. ad, where an excerpt reads: “The wood thermometer has been used as an advertising medium for a number of years and is to-day a staple article. The force of the wood advertising thermometer lies in being able to read weather temperatures at a greater distance than is possible with small thermometers.”

It continues, “By omitting the words usually printed upon one side of the thermometer scale — ‘Zero,’ ‘Freezing,’ ‘Temperate,’ etc., and alternating the figures of the scale on either side of the tube, makes it possible to use figures more than twice as large.”

An illustrated Taylor Brothers Co. ad ran in The Magazine of Business in 1905, which read: “What will you give your customers this year? The best thing to keep your name before them is an Advertising Thermometer. More valuable than calendars or novelties because they are appreciated and work for you every day for years. Better pay 12 ½ cents for an attractive 7” x 2” aluminum thermo with your ad on (see cut) than one-half as much for a one-man or one-year advertisement. Our 56 page Catalog B of other styles free.”

Another ad, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Jan. 11, 1925 read, “Fastest selling advertising thermometer calendar combination, 17c, metal back, three colors, uncond. guarantee, money making sideline. Newton Mfg. Co., Dept 17, Newton, Ia.”

This firm was founded in 1909.

From 1940 to the early 1970s, a dominant manufacturer was the Pam Clock Company, which produced advertising thermometers and clocks for large firms, and epitomized the industry. Coca-Cola and RC Cola were among thousands of organizations that appointed the firm to illuminate their image.

“Go For Bunny Bread” and “Ask For Valvoline Motor Oil” are two classic examples of round Pam thermometers, which consists of a 14” aluminum housing with domed-glass crystal.

The analog dial would be customized by logos or slogans.

Along the lines of the Pam Clock, the thermometer was backlit with super bright LED lamps.

Forest Hills and Rego Park shops earned their spot in the advertising thermometer field.

These collectibles that were distributed at local businesses are hard to find nowadays.

Continental Wine & Liquor Store, Forest Hills.

One example features “Continental Wine and Liquor Store,” which was located at 107-18 Continental Avenue and notes “Next to Forest Hills Theatre” in a nameplate accompanied by Art Deco detail.

It also ensures prompt deliveries and features a vintage phone number with a prefix: BOulevard 8-8865/8866.

The backing is wood and it features a carved frame that supports a colored mirrored surface.

The charming imagery consists of a woman sitting with her cat in front of a fireplace, and above the mantel are two candlesticks alongside a built-in thermometer. The manufacturer likely felt that this relaxing scene would complement any home’s décor while drawing one’s eye to the business.

Sometimes advertising thermometers tell a story that extends beyond a business, as in the case of the rare “Tilden Dairy and Delicatessen” collectible. This cherished business was located at 73-06 Austin Street and reads, “Everything from soup to nuts.”

Tilden Dairy & Delicatessen at Tilden Arms, Forest Hills.

Besides a thermometer, a three-minute sand glass was attached, which came in handy in the kitchen.

It dates to the time when Austin Street was nicknamed “The Village.”

This business was named after Tilden Arms at 73-20 Austin Street, a Georgian Colonial apartment building, completed in 1931.

It takes an advertising thermometer to inspire further research, where one learns that it was named after “Big Bill” Tilden, who won the U.S. National Championships, with wins in Forest Hills in 1920, 1924, 1925 and 1929. That included the first year at Forest Hills Stadium.

He holds a record for the most men’s singles titles and was the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920.

Advertising thermometers are bound to come in unique shapes. A classic example is a supersized ornate brass key that supports a thermometer.

It reads “1939 World’s Fair” and embossed on top is a depiction of the Fair’s symbolic Trylon and Perisphere monuments, which reflects the multicultural and innovative “World of Tomorrow” theme and could also be found at the Trylon Theater, on stationery, on cakes and on other forms of advertising countrywide.

1939 World’s Fair key thermometer with Trylon & Perisphere monuments on top.

Continuing the innovative theme, along with “Peace Through Understanding” is a 1964-1965 World’s Fair thermometer, which featured an embossed brass Unisphere, mounted on wood.

1964 – 1965 World’s Fair advertising thermometer.

Some advertising thermometers take the viewer to the great outdoors, as in the case of the circa 1940s “Lawrence Brown Prime Meat Market” thermometer, which features a watercolor-inspired scene of a Tudor cottage and a lush garden overlooking a lake with ducks.

This neighborly business was situated at 92-07 63rd Drive in Rego Park and memorializes the vintage prefix phone number found in HAvemeyer 4-0850.

The frame features unique Art Deco motifs.

In the 1950s, it became “Consumers Meat Market,” which longtime and former residents recall more so, but that too is long-gone.

“I enjoy looking at the wide variety of these thermometers available on the second-hand market,” said David Barnett, co-founder of Noble Signs and the New York Sign Museum.

“They showcase many styles of design and lettering. Some were distributed to shops and others as keepsakes directly to consumers. The practical value of a thermometer in a pre-digital age helped increase the likelihood that the advertisement would be saved instead of discarded.”

Now if you are not a collector, perhaps the foundation for an intriguing journey is about to begin

Perlman: A “REal GOod” Community To Turn 100

Marion Legler recalls Rego Park’s early days

By Michael Perlman

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Marion Legler on right with her daughter Karen with a sample of an uncirculated 1920s Rego Park collection, Photo by Michael Perlman.

In just a few months, residents can say “Happy 100th Birthday, Rego Park!”

Last Friday, this columnist had a follow-up of a 2016 Rego Park tour and interview with Marion Thone Legler (born 1932), who reflected upon her early life in Rego Park and why it is a “REal GOod” community.

She is the granddaughter of Joseph F. Thone (1870 – 1955), a builder and founding member of the Real Good Construction Company, and is among the last links to the neighborhood’s origins.

Now a resident of New Hyde Park, the meeting at her local library entailed digitizing over 70 uncirculated Rego Park photos commissioned by the firm’s founders.

“I am very honored that my father passed my grandfather’s precious photos on to me,” said Legler. “They have many memories of wonderful years of the early history of Rego Park. A museum containing information regarding Rego Park and Forest Hills would be invaluable to so many families.”

Marion Legler’s grandparents Joseph F Thone & Dorothea Thone doing chores in an elegant home, where only their dog poses.

Back in 1923, Rego Construction Company acquired farmland in Forest Hills West and named “Rego Park” after their advertising slogan, “REal GOod Homes.”

The typical story encompasses founders who immigrated from Germany; president Henry L. Schloh and secretary and treasurer Charles I. Hausmann, but Thone’s influence is a largely untold piece of the puzzle.

Legler’s rare photo collection documents a transition from farmland to a residential community in its first decade, the faces behind Rego Park and its earliest residents, the paving of roads, a trolley line along Queens Boulevard, the first shops, the Rego Park Community Club, P.S. 139, the ribbon-cutting of the 63rd Drive railroad station and a unique look inside an elegantly appointed house.

Many panoramic photos document the development of 525 eight-room, single-family “Rego Homes.” They included railroad-style Colonial frame houses with enclosed porches between 63rd Drive and Eliot Avenue along Saunders, Booth, Wetherole and Austin Streets, which sold for an approximate $7,500.

The collection follows with the development of the firm’s earliest and largely intact apartment houses along Saunders Street, which 70 families each called home: the Tudor-style Remo Hall (1927), the Spanish Mission-style Jupiter Court (1927) and Marion Court (1929), designed by Constantinople native Benjamin Braunstein.

Remo Hall, 61-40 Saunders St adorned with banners.

Legler believes that she was named after the latter building situated on Marion Avenue (now 63rd Avenue), stemming from her grandfather’s interest in the name.

Legler discussed the importance of preservation. “I believe in those early days, much thought went into preserving history. You can see that in the care that was taken when choosing architectural design. I am sure it was thought that these buildings would be in use for many years,” she said.

“Try your best to keep it preserved for future generations. Many good people gave much time and thought into what they prayed would be a Real Good place for families to live for generations to come,” she continued. “Only those who are here now can be a part of that prayer. It is in your hands. Don’t let those good people down.”

She began writing a memoir last December, which is slated for publication in January 2023.

“All chapters are about my life and my friends and family. I am writing it for my four daughters and their children,” Legler explained. “It will contain pictures and life stories. I want them to have it in print for future references.”

Legler has a rich family timeline in Rego Park.

“It began with my grandfather and grandmother, Joseph F. Thone and Dorothea Thone. Their home was at 63-35 Bourton Street. Then my parents, William (America native) and Anne Thone (Norway native), my sister Dorothy, my brother Donald and myself. We lived at 61-30 Booth Street. Also, my uncle Joseph H. Thone, his wife Peggy and their children Russell and Carol lived at 62-87 Booth Street. My uncle Walter Thone also lived at 63-35 Bourton Street,” she said.

Legler is grateful for fond memories with her grandparents: “I spent many days at their home. It was so beautiful,” she continued. “My grandmother always made me feel loved. She had two cats and a parrot that spoke English and German. I actually lived with them for nine months when my grandmother was very sick and my mother took care of her. I loved her dearly. After she died, we moved back into our home on Booth Street.”

Original Rego Park houses were known as railroad room homes, straight through from the front porch to the living room, dining room and kitchen.

She said, “The kitchen was quite large. Off the kitchen was the pantry with the ice box, pantry closet and back door. The ice man would deliver ice and put it in the top compartment. Thank goodness that kept everything cold. Dugan’s and Krug’s were the bread people. In the beginning, they came on a horse and buggy. Upstairs was three bedrooms and a bathroom. Another essential was a coal chute in the basement, since there was no gas heat.”

She continued, “We were lucky, as my grandfather built a staircase to the attic where there was usually a closet. My sister and brother and I slept up there during the 1939 World’s Fair, so my parents could take in tourists for extra money. Things were tough in those days.”

Legler takes pride in solid family values to this day.

“Everybody had to be at the table. If you were late for dinner, you were in big trouble. Before we would leave the table, we would say, ‘takk for maten’ (thank you for the food).”

Sunday dinner was after church at 1 p.m. and consisted of mostly roast beef and sometimes turkey.

She said, “The vegetables… you ate them.  Most were creamed and were German or Norwegian-style. Mom always made dessert…custard bread pudding, homemade pie, pineapple rice pudding from Norway and Brown Betty.”

Rego Park’s heyday featured diverse clubs: “Rego Park Community Club/Rego Park Clubhouse was on Jupiter Avenue (62nd Road) and Wetherole Street, where I had my wedding reception,” said Legler.

In 1928, her uncle Joseph H. Thone became president of the newly founded Rego Park Tennis Club, which operated on Saunders Street and 62nd Road.

Around 1929, he became secretary of the new Men’s Club of Lutheran Church of Our Saviour.

Legler recalls traveling mostly by bus or trolley, and then came the railroad and eventually the subway in 1936.

Queens Blvd trolley line with 2 cars, Rego Construction Co ad, Real Good Homes, April 10, 1925.

“I don’t know what my mom paid when we rode the trolley, but when I was old enough to ride the bus and subway, it was 5 cents,” she said.

Being raised in Rego Park was idyllic, according to Legler. A community fixture was “Buddy, the Bungalow Bar man.”

She reminisced, “I spent many days outdoors playing with neighborhood friends. We had great times playing handball, stickball, diamond ball, running basis, tag, football and stoop ball. At night, always hide and seek. Our parents would sit on the stoop and watch. We used to sleigh ride down 63rd Avenue and never had to worry about cars because there were very few. On Queens Boulevard, there were outdoor barbecue places, and we would be entertained for free.”

Off the north side of Queens Boulevard were swamps, Lost Battalion Hall and Howard Johnson’s.

The Art Deco Trylon Theater and Drake Theater were quite the attractions.

She said, “We always saw two movies, newsreels, cartoons and had a matron checking on us.” She saw mostly war films, but remembers many “Lassie” movies. She found “The Purple Heart” (1944) to be very moving.

She recalled her favorite shops: “On 63rd Drive, I loved Woolworth and across was McCrory’s. On Queens Boulevard between Eliot Avenue and 62nd, my dad owned a hardware store, which operated until ca.1939. I loved going there, since there were always fun things to see. He gave me my first roller skates; Kingston skates that came in a can.”

& plate glass, Queens Blvd near Eliot Ave.

Employment was sometimes a challenge, such as when her father gave up his hardware store during the Great Depression.

Legler is a graduate of P.S. 139, erected in 1929. She recalled, “We went from kindergarten through 8th grade. They taught arithmetic, the sciences, English, grammar and penmanship. In the upper grades, the boys took shop and the girls took home ed, which was learning how to be a housewife and a mother. Children went home for lunch.”

Victory gardening was prevalent during WWII and P.S. 139 participated.

“We grew carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and celery,” Legler recalled. “We would bring money and buy what was called stamps, which was like a savings account. You learned how to cook in school, how to grow food outside, and how to save your money at the same time.”

Legler operated a key punch machine for General Motors. She said, “In 1950, my salary was $33 a week, and that was before they took everything out. We had food stamps, but they were good years, where families worked together.”

That same year, she graduated from Forest Hills High School and remained in Rego Park until her marriage in 1956 at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour.

Fast-forwarding to 2022, she said, “I am retired and spend as much time as I can with my children and grandchildren. Time is precious. Camping has always been a large part of our family’s time. I have done it with my girls since they were little, so today we have a trailer in the Poconos. This is my haven.”

Legler turned 90 on July 16 and her family threw her a party at her granddaughter Courtney’s home.

She said, “They did not surprise me this time about the party, but surprised me with who was invited. There were many good old friends and family members. Also, they hired a Mister Softee ice cream truck, my favorite.”

Her neighbor, who lived next door on Booth Street, turned 90 in August 2021.

She said,” I attended her celebration and she was at mine this year. I don’t know what they plan for my 100th, so I’ll try to stick around.”

Looking back, she said, “I am so proud to know that my grandfather played an important part in the development of Rego Park. It’s a ‘Real Good’ place to live that has lived up to its name.”

Perlman: Curtain Call for Main Street Cinemas

Local theater shutters after 80 years

By Michael Perlman

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Main Street Cinemas. (Photo: Michael Perlman)

Upon hearing that Main Street Cinemas at 72-66 Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills will close its doors on Labor Day weekend, audiences of past and current local residents are already mourning its loss.

The $75,000 movie theater opened as a single-screen venue on January 29, 1941 as the Main Street Playhouse.

It was designed by Queens’ own architect Joseph Unger (1896 – 1996), who also designed the 1939 World’s Fair-inspired Trylon Theater in Forest Hills.

Now a six-screen, 550-seat venue, the independently operated Main Street Cinemas screens first-run films.

The Art Deco angular stone façade with vertical glass block bands was recently rediscovered after being concealed for decades, and it received a South Beach-inspired color scheme.

It is currently unannounced as to why Main Street Cinemas is closing its doors, but besides pandemic-related losses, rumors include a property sale and a higher rent.

Some residents suspect that it will be converted into a catering hall, synagogue or mini mall, while many hope that it will undergo a restoration as a theater.

Throughout much of the 20th century and into the 21st century, most neighborhoods citywide had at least one movie theater, which granted its distinction and harbored a sense of community, while bonding generations in an inviting ambiance with a diverse film selection.

In relatively recent times, single screens were converted into multiplexes, but with DVDs, rent increases, Movies On Demand and Netflix, theater chains and independent operators must engage in proactive and creative planning to stay afloat.

Flashing back to 1941, the United L.I. Theatres Company also included the Trylon, St. Albans, Laurelton, Island, Cambria and the Linden, and was advertised as “Long Island’s most progressive theatre group.”

Main Street Playhouse’s grand opening featured “Escape” starring Norma Shearer and Robert Taylor, screened from the self-titled bestseller by Ethel Vance, in addition to featuring “Wyoming” starring Wallace Beery.

In 1948, it was operated by Interboro Circuit, Inc. and became independently operated in the late 1970s. In 1985 the theater was twinned, followed by being quaded and sixplexed in 1998.

On the day of its grand opening in 1941, readers of the Long Island Daily Press learned that the “Main Street Playhouse is equipped with every up-to-the-minute improvement to make it one of the finest in the city.”

Main Street Playhouse auditorium, 1941.

The original seating capacity featured 450 seats on the main floor and 150 in the loge. The lighting system was considered to be a chief feature.

It read, “Indirect, fluorescent lights designed to eliminate eye strain have been installed throughout the theatre. These lights, first introduced at the (1939) World’s Fair, shed a soft glow from tubing concealed in cloves and in the dome of the auditorium, making for beauty an effectiveness.”

Fluorescent carpeting covered the auditorium and illuminated in the dark, and patrons sat comfortably in deep cushioned chairs in rows spaced at 34 inches apart, rather than the customary 30.

Pabst air conditioning and innovative artesian wells cooling the air in the summer contributed to comfort.

A versatile experience was a guarantee. “The inside of the building is decorated in a modernistic style, with an emphasis on the club lounge fitted out for the added comfort of patrons even to the serving of coffee and cookies,” readers learned.

The theater was the destination of Kew Gardens Hills, which was a new neighborhood consisting of garden apartments, rowhouses and mom and pop shops, and its proximity to Flushing Meadows was an asset. It read, “The new Main Street Playhouse is readily accessible from all parts of Queens and western Nassau counties.”

Irving J. Stein was a well-respected manager, and a team of usherettes included Beatrice Margulies, Mary Davis, matron Edris Tully, Lenore Cohn, Edith Borst, Katherine Cardello, Stella Purdoski and Pauline Emanuel. The publication read, “All have been well-schooled in the motto of the Main Street Playhouse – ‘Always at Your Service.’”

Main Street Playhouse staff, 1941.

A changing theater program on Wednesdays and Sundays was the management’s policy. It stated, “There will be a careful selection of pictures with special attention given to films for children to conform with standards set up by child welfare organizations.”

Four days after the grand opening was a Technicolor film Sunday featuring “The Thief of Bagdad” starring Conrad Veidt, John Justin, June Duprez and Rex Ingram.

Fast-forwarding to the present, patrons reminisce and express many sentiments.

“Its closing will be a loss to the old neighborhood,” said Moshav Zippori, Israel resident Mitch Pilcer, whose family lived in Kew Gardens Hills for 50 years and he relocated a few years ago after his parents passed away.

He reminisced, “Main Street was the center of our world when we were kids and the movie theater was where us kids hung out. I remember when Batman and Robin showed up in the Batmobile when the ‘Batman’ movie opened in the 1960s. We would wait on long lines when they had features for kids on weekends.”

“It’s been here forever, and I’m upset that it’s closing,” said Danny Heisler of Kew Gardens. “Let’s find a way to make it a historical landmark, which can likely be made one with a politician’s help. I have memories of superhero and ‘Star Wars’ movies. We would save money by going to the matinee.”

Hollis Hills resident Sharon Moriber was raised in Kew Gardens Hills in the 1980s. She explained how the theater holds tradition for many.

“My parents took me to the movies on Main Street, and then as a teenager, my friends and I saw countless movies from ‘Dirty Dancing’ to ‘Top Gun.’ We could walk there and get something to eat next door. I also had my first date in college there, and now my children enjoy it too. It’s an iconic place and I’m sad it’s closing. I can’t imagine anything else being there.”

She asked, “Why are they closing it? Do they need a fundraiser?”

“I’m very sorry to see a neighborhood staple going away,” said Rhoda Dubin of Kew Gardens Hills, who’s been a Queens resident since her marriage in 1981.

“It really was nice for my husband Mark and I to be able to walk there so close to home. We would also go for ice cream very close by. These are special memories, since I’m a widow now.”

Eyeing the future, Kenneth Stiefel of Kew Gardens Hills, said “I am up for a dinner theater, but in this neighborhood, they would have to offer kosher food.” He recalls consistently patronizing the theater as a child.

“They were cheap, so it was a great outing for a couple of friends to go on a Sunday. I saw ‘Toy Story 2’ with my mom and ‘Toy Story’ with my friend. My friend and I would see horror movies there recently. We saw ‘Lego Movie 2’ and they restarted it when we got there five minutes late. I also remember waiting in line in the cold to see ‘Rugrats in Paris’ with my dad and sister.”

When Kew Gardens Hills resident Meira E. Schneider-Atik sees the theater, she mostly has recollections of dates with her husband prior to and during their marriage.

“We had our first movie date there and saw ‘Shrek.’ During our Shanah Rishonah, I missed the Oscars telecast so that we could see ‘The Pianist.’ I also insisted that my husband see the second ‘Harry Potter’ movie with me and the live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast.’” She continued, “I can’t remember this neighborhood without this landmark.” Hoping for its revival, she said, “Perhaps if it’s serviced in any way needed, it might draw people.”

Examining its current status, Fresh Meadows resident Zayde Joe said, “Sadly, some people in the neighborhood don’t really care.” In the interim, she said, “Perhaps they can convert it to a temporary shul for Rabbi Friedman.”

If Main Street Cinemas underwent restoration to reveal its outstanding Art Deco interior features and became a mixed-use movie/dinner theater with performance opportunities, the theater could once again raise its curtains and become a versatile, large-scale draw for the immediate and Queenswide community.

Perlman: Rediscovering local postal treasures

Exploring the mail chutes you’ve always wondered about

By Michael Perlman

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An ornate Cutler mail chute at 42 W 48th St.

Most people have passed decorative brass, bronze or stainless-steel mail chute systems in the lobbies and floors of office buildings and some residential buildings, but sometimes they are not given much thought.

Mail chutes have an impressive history that dates to the 1880s and are prized for their diverse stylistic craftsmanship, with inscriptions of the manufacturer in distinctive typography.

Most predate the 1970s.

Mail chute with unusual medieval typography, 48 W 48th St.

As for younger generations, sometimes they scratch their heads.

Many mail chutes have been decommissioned and are now a conversation piece, but some remain in operation as a lobby letter box, or in fewer cases they remain in full operation throughout a building.

Mail chutes were an innovative work to ensure ease and rapidity, and it became an American success story in no time.

It all began in Rochester, NY, where it was invented by James Goold Cutler in 1883 and installed in the Elwood Building.

Art Deco Cutler mail chute in harmony with elevators, 71 W 47th St.

The patent indicated that the lobby mail chute needs to consist “of metal, distinctly marked US Letter Box” and the “door must open on hinges on one side, with the bottom of the door not less than 2’6’’ above the floor.”

Initially, mail chutes were largely installed in public buildings and railways, and the metal and glass shafts made their way throughout ceilings and floors.

James Goold Cutler, who was born in Albany in 1848 and passed away in Rochester in 1927, lived a diverse life.

He received his education at The Albany Academy and is remembered as a mail chute pioneer, an architect of prominent buildings, an entrepreneur and the 48th mayor of Rochester, where he served between 1904 and 1907.

In 1927, a bequest of $2,500,000 to the University of Rochester was made in his will, in addition to bequests including St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Rochester, hospitals, the Social Welfare League of Rochester, Hillside Home for Children and the YMCA and YWCA.

He was philanthropic in character.

A Council adopted a memorial which read, “Mr. Cutler was always a most interested observer of public affairs, and his kindly nature and keen insight into the needs of the citizens early attracted him to and fitted him for rendering marked public service.”

A Rochester report dated 1888 read, “In the present age of multi-storied buildings, no builder or owner of such an edifice has all the needful and convenient appliances until the Cutler US Mail Chute is in use therein — a device necessary for the businessman as the elevator.”

The skyscraper was being born, and mail chutes were a means of large-scale efficiency.

As of 1905, the Cutler Manufacturing Co. installed an estimated 1,600 mail chutes worldwide.

An excerpt from the 1909 edition of Hendrick’s Commercial Register stated, “Our business has grown with and has been an essential feature of the development of the tall building. From the Produce Exchange, seven stories, in 1885 to the Metropolitan Tower, forty-one stories, in 1908, all the important buildings, making steps in this advance, are built around Cutler Mail Chutes. Without the elevator, this growth would have been impossible, without the mail chute thousands of business men would have been too far from the Post Office.”

James Goold Cutler, Jan. 1, 1895.

In Forest Hills, a mail chute’s style reflects the architecture and period of the buildings, ranging from Art Deco to Mid-Century Modern.

Elsewhere, more elaborate styles include Beaux-Arts, Medieval, and Art Nouveau.

Eye-catching examples can still be found citywide in numerous destinations including the Diamond District, the Flatiron Building, Woolworth Building, the St. Regis, Empire State Building, Fred F. French Building and the Chrysler Building.

The Cutler Manufacturing Co. would team up with notable architects including Cass Gilbert, Daniel Burnham and Shreve, Lamb & Harmon.

Some significant Forest Hills apartment buildings that feature mail chutes throughout are The Leslie at 150 Greenway Terrace (1942), Booth Plaza at 67-76 Booth Street (1949), Park Crest Terrace at 101-06 67th Drive (1949), The Park Briar at 110-45 Queens Boulevard (1951), Birchwood Towers consisting of The Kyoto, The Toledo and The Bel Air on 66th Road to 67th Avenue between 102nd Street and Yellowstone Boulevard (1964), Lane Towers at 107-40 Queens Boulevard (1965) and Cord Meyer Office Building at 108-18 Queens Boulevard (1969).

Another site is a commercial-turned residential building, Lefrak Tower, renamed The Contour at 97-45 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park (1962).

In relation to Booth Plaza’s Capitol mail chute system, Gloria Piraino, a resident of the building, said, “I love those old mail chutes, and in our building, they still work.”

Capitol model at Booth Plaza. (Photo: Gloria Piraino)

Tammy Jacobi, board president of The Park Briar explained, “The ambiance of the hallway looks so special with the Art Deco Capitol mail chute, which meets the criteria of the Art Deco lobby. A lot of visitors have admired it.”

She pointed out that its bronze color receives treatment twice per year in conjunction with all other brass elements in the lobby.

Capitol mail chute at The Park Briar.

At The Leslie, the lobby’s Cutler mail chute depicts a rare Art Deco style eagle, but unfortunately its eyes and beak is covered with a sticker, although the etched detail is making its way through.

In addition, the fine quality surface is covered with layers of paint. Residents have expressed interest in seeing its detail restored.

It is rare to have a Cutler mail chute installed in Forest Hills, since residential buildings that were erected later on in the 1940s to the 1960s more frequently have a Capitol mail chute, although the prospect of having a mail chute is few and far between.

An original framed notification on the Cutler mail chute near the elevator along the floors is dated Dec. 23, 1937, predating The Leslie’s completion.

An excerpt reads, “U.S. Mail Cutler Mailing System – Mail letters one at a time. Do not fold or attempt to crowd large or bulky letters into the chute.”

For the collections category, it states “Collection schedule card posted on receiving box in ground floor.”

“Air mail may be deposited in this chute. For any specific information consult post office,” it continued.

Vandalism and theft was seemingly rare.

It says, “$1,000 fine or three years imprisonment is the penalty for defacing this box or the chute attached thereto, or tampering with lock or contents.” Residents were advised to “mail early.”

Despite the few manufacturers that followed, the Cutler Co. is regarded as the king of mail chutes.

Cutler mail chute in need of restoration at The Leslie. (Photo: Alan Tullio)

A 1955 Capitol Mail Chute Corporation catalog reads, “This corporation is part of an organization of skilled bronze manufacturers who have been doing distinctive aluminum and bronze metal work since its inception in 1905, and mail chutes since 1931.”

As decades passed, the size of mail increased, and mail chutes would increasingly become clogged.

Brass details would sometimes be obscured with paint rather than polished, and in other cases the systems were removed for profit rather than valuing historic artistry.

Perlman: A Discovery Elicits Rego Park & Forest Hills Memories

While longtime Rego Park resident and history buff Carl Godlewski was helping his neighbors organize their family’s apartment, he unearthed a time capsule from 1955… a small yellow-gold address and phone book, where each page spotlighted among the best Rego Park businesses, and fewer Forest Hills businesses as of that year. It also featured 1955 and 1956 calendars. All businesses were located in tasteful storefronts, often Colonial or Art Deco, with attractive window displays.

Sometimes while cleaning out a residence, treasures can be found in an attic, basement, cabinet, or in this case, in a desk, hidden behind a drawer! It is important to consider not tossing possessions, but thinking of how it can benefit someone else or a community. He decided to donate his unique find to this columnist’s collection of local memorabilia, to further document and preserve cultural, commercial, and architectural history.

Godlewski explained, “I came across a lot of treasures dating from 1950s and 1960s Queens. It was amazing to see these snapshots in time, and learning about the stores that used to be in our area. It’s important to remember where Queens came from, and these keepsakes help with preserving our past.”

The booklet, published by Fox Advertising Co. at 166-05 Highland Avenue in Jamaica, read, “Welcome & best wishes. This phone index and directory was compiled with one thought in mind – Your convenience. You will find here a complete shopping guide to your immediate community. Listing the finest shops, services, churches and synagogues. Also a list of reputable business houses that are ready at all times to serve and assist you with the finest merchandise at most reasonable prices. Cultivate their friendship – It’s to your advantage.”

Field Drug, operated under Harry Berliner, Ph. G. was located at 94-04 63rd Drive, and offered a free pickup and delivery of prescriptions, if a resident would call IL 9-5326. In addition, this shop catered to baby needs, vitamins, and cosmetics, as well as a board of health station. Sperry & Hutchinson green stamps were free with each purchase.

Maisonette, whose slogan was “Hairstylists of Distinction” and featured an Art Deco logo, was once located at 96-39 Queens Boulevard. It was the end of an era when this longtime business closed around 2008.

There were a number of establishments for the arts, entertainment, and recreation. Among them was the Duo-Art Academy of Music and Dance at 107-50 Queens Boulevard, where patrons called BO 3-8585. This center offered training in all instruments, voice, and Dalcroze Eurhythmics for children 3 years and up, and a free loan of instruments up to 2 months. Dance courses included ballet, modern, tap, acrobatics, and teenage socials. As for the adult social dance scene, courses consisted of mambo, tango, merengue, foxtrot, and the waltz, with 10 one-hour class lessons for $10. On site was a large ballroom with a stage that could accommodate 235 guests, as well as a smaller social space for 45 guests. A catering service was offered. This center was ideal for meetings, dances, Bar Mitzvahs, and weddings, and discounts were offered to organizations on annual contracts.

For decades, one of the most popular dining and dancing entertainment venues was The Boulevard at 94-05 Queens Boulevard, formerly known as Boulevard Tavern. It opened circa 1929 and was in full swing through the 1960s. Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, and Sweet Sixteens were advertised as their specialty. Barbara Ann Vallely recalled, “My dad Howard Banks worked there for many years. They would have up and coming singers perform. I remember him bringing home signed photos of Connie Francis and Tony Bennett. It was more than a restaurant, but a nightclub that also catered weddings, including Martin Landau’s wedding reception in 1957.” Other performers were Patti Page and Buddy Hackett. “My parents, Jack and Eunice Selenow, had their 25th anniversary in 1960 at The Boulevard,” said Victor Selenow. “JFK did a swing through Queens during his 1960 presidential campaign, and made a speech at The Boulevard,” added Monte Kaplan.

“We always went to Shelly’s for the rye bread and sponge and marble cakes,” said Jeffrey Cymbler, who was a patron with his family in the 1960s. This was considered Rego Park’s finest bakery at 94-06 63rd Drive. “Everything in the baking line” was their slogan. Residents can still sense the taste of their classic Charlotte Russe.

Into the 1990s was Barbizon Studio, a go-to spot at 101-01 Queens Boulevard that is much missed. An engaging slogan read, “Our beautiful photographs and satisfied customers are our best advertisement.” Their specialty was children’s portraits, and other services included 3D, weddings, adults, restorations, photo supplies, custom finishing, and photostats. Patrons would walk along a wooden floor, spot a collage of frames lining their walls, and be greeted by amiable owners.

Another very engaging name is Talent Shop at 92-04 63rd Drive. An ad read, “Ladies! The smartest…. most glamorous fashions on the Island are located right in your own neighborhood.” Everyone felt like a star!

A perfect dating and family fun establishment was Rego Park Lanes at 96-42 Queens Boulevard, when bowling alleys were cornerstones of Americana. It also offered a restaurant and lounge, famous for Italian and American dishes. Visualize a 70-foot bar with television, a novelty in the 1950s, and most of all, 16 streamlined bowling alleys. Owners and staff often became an extended family for patrons, so today’s longtime residents may recall host Leon Fox and manager Bill Beck.

Another cornerstone of Americana was the classic Jewish deli, which today is few and far between. At 94-19 63rd Drive was Dav-Eds, the “Celebrity Delicatessen and Restaurant,” which offered kosher catering and hot and cold canapes, a specialty, luncheons and dinners, as well as home-cooked food to take out. Nearby was a kosher meat and poultry market known as Koslow’s at 97-22 Queens Boulevard. It was indeed “Where quality reigns supreme” and efficiency was key with a free delivery service by calling either TWining 7-0543 or 0544. Afterall, their slogan was “You ring – We bring.”

A needle, thread, and button became the basis of the name Goldin’s, an intelligent logo. Situated at 97-02 Queens Boulevard, it was advertised as “The home of the educated needle” and “Queens finest men’s store. Brands included G.G.G., Eagle, Austin Leeds, Hammonton Park, Worsted-Tex, Alligator, Forstmann, McGregor, Mark Cross, and Dobbs Hats. Patrons could view a distinctive collection of furnishings and sportswear and visit a style corner for men. Hours of operation were 10 AM to 10 PM. Similar in spirit was the Knitting Studio at 63-55 Booth Street, which offered free expert instructions and individual styling, with a complete selection of quality yarn.

A buzz around town was Philip Birnbaum’s award-winning mid-century modern Metropolitan Industrial Bank Building, which earned a 1st prize architectural award by the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1952. Its anchor tenant was its namesake at 99-01 Queens Boulevard, which in 1955, was Commercial State Bank & Trust Company of New York, which operated 9 offices. Among the several mom and pop shops on the same block was Margo Chapeaux at 99-03, an exclusive millinery at moderate prices, with individually styled hats made to order.

“Where carpentry is still an art” was the slogan of Wohl Brothers at 92-10 63rd Drive. They specialized in cabinets, carpenters, contractors, unpainted furniture, formica, fixtures, painting, and staining. To continue your decorating needs, Kass Seigal at 97-09 Queens Boulevard was a unique service for the traditional, modern, or contemporary setting, and merchandise included fine furniture, draperies, and accessories.

Simple pleasures begin at childhood with pets and biking around town. At 98-08 Queens Boulevard, Queensway Aquarium & Pet Shop sold tropical and goldfish, exotic plants, and dog and cat supplies, as well as birds including canaries and parakeets. The popular Bill’s Bicycle Store at 63-52 Alderton Street offered new and refurbished bicycles, including Raleigh, Rudge, and Schwinn, as well as accessories and bikes for rent.

Sometimes shops take their names from their surroundings such as Walden Terrace. At 97-09 64th Avenue, Walden Food Center offered appetizing, dairy, and groceries under Marvin Uleis, proprietor. Joseph Miller managed the kosher M. & S. Meat & Poultry, and Sam Baclanic managed the fruits and vegetables.

Cleaning could not be beat! Leeds Cleaners offered same day service at 91-42 63rd Drive under Allen Dresser and Elliott Gitlin, and another popular shop was Jade Chinese Hand Laundry at 97-05 Queens Boulevard.

For every occasion, The Flower Basket at 96-08 Queens Boulevard was ready to serve the community. This exclusive shop was also located in the lobby of 535 5th Avenue and at the Chanin Building. An ad stated, “We deliver and telegraph everywhere.”

Ruhling: The Woman who takes History to Heart

As a historian, Heather Nicole Lonks Minty is used to telling stories.

Other people’s.

So that’s where we start.

We’re in England, where in 1909 two suffragettes, identified as a Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, find a novel way to draw attention to the cause.

They mail themselves to the prime minister at No. 10 Downing St. so they can advocate, in person, for the right to vote. (The postal charge is 3 pence, and the “human letters” are unceremoniously returned when the recipient refuses to sign for them.)

Heather starts a new job next month.

“A delivery boy had to actually walk them there,” Heather says, smiling at their audacity and cleverness. “During the mailbox bombing and arson campaign of 1912 through 1914, one woman used to hide explosive devices in her wheelchair.”

In the United States, the women were not so militant. In 1917, they merely chained themselves to the fence around the White House to get President Woodrow Wilson’s attention.

Heather, a tall woman with glamorous gold-rimmed spectacles, tells these and other stories about everyday people to make history come alive.

Whether you’re talking about women picketing to get the right to vote or young men protesting the draft, the stories resonate because “it could be you or someone in your family,” she says.

That’s why she finds walking tours so thrilling: You get to stand in a space where history took place.

As far as Heather’s own history, it starts in Flushing, where she was born 32 years ago and where she spent most of her childhood and young adulthood.

At LIU Post, she earned a bachelor’s degree in TV and radio (she loves watching historical documentaries, and her thesis was a video walking tour of the Civil War draft riots) then proceeded to earn a master’s in public history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

“Public history is all about getting history to the public,” she says. “These days, there are many engaging ways to tell stories that are not just exhibitions in museums.”

After returning to New York, she landed a job at the New-York Historical Society, a move that would change her own history in ways she never imagined.

It was there that she met Chris Minty, a “cute” Scotsman fascinated with U.S. history who had a fellowship with the museum.

“We actually were in London at the same time, both frequenting the same research libraries when I was in college, and I did take some day trips to Scotland, but our paths never crossed,” she says.

They were introduced at a staff meeting, but Heather wasn’t impressed enough to pay much attention to him.

It was Tinder that kindled their romance.

“I swiped right, but I still didn’t recognize him,” she says, adding that the people on fellowships like Chris had separate work areas so she never saw him. “He sent me a message saying he thought we worked in the same building.”

Heather thought it was a pickup line until she verified the information.

On Nov. 4, 2014 – Heather, ever the historian, remembers the exact date – they met for coffee.

“Our love of history connected us,” she says. “We spent five hours talking – it’s probably the longest coffee date known to man.”

Their relationship deepened their appreciation not only for each other but also for their respective areas of study.

“He opened my eyes to parts of American history I had never seen before,” Heather says.

Although they had been dating only a couple of weeks, Chris traveled all the way from Morningside Heights to Flushing to have Thanksgiving dinner with Heather and her parents.

“The holiday, of course, is not celebrated in Scotland, so he really didn’t know what he was getting into,” she says. “My mother sent him home with so much food – and he discovered corn bread.”

Heather makes history come alive.

They married and moved themselves and their voluminous collection of history books to Boston, where Chris had been offered a job.

Heather took a position with the Boston Athenaeum and later worked for the Boston Arts Academy Foundation then Respond, whose mission is to end domestic violence.

At the end of 2020, during the pandemic, they returned to New York to be closer to Heather’s family.

Heather was working for Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit that focuses on New York City’s and state’s finances and services, when their daughter, Isla, was born.

(For the record, the only reason Isla, who is 6 months old, has not visited a museum yet is because of covid restrictions.)

Next month, after taking a short break in her career, Heather’s starting a new job as the development director of an institute in New Jersey whose mission is gender equality, which syncs with her keen interest in women’s rights.

“Having a daughter makes this even more exciting because instead of fighting only for myself now, I’m fighting for her and her generation,” she says. “That makes it easier for me to leave her and go back to work.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at [email protected];  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,  astoriacharacters.com.

Perlman: Celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s 200th Birthday

By Michael Perlman

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Most recently at the Church-in-the-Gardens Community House, local residents among scholars celebrated the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., “the father of American landscape architecture.” His other titles are social critic, journalist, and public administrator. Guests gave a champagne toast to Olmsted’s legacy and enjoyed a cake bearing his photo. This event was coordinated by the Forest Hills Gardens Foundation, and furthermore, Olmsted’s anniversary is being celebrated in parks and communities countrywide.

Olmsted was born on April 26, 1822, in Hartford, Ct., and passed away on August 28, 1903, in Belmont, MA. Among his most significant accomplishments are the landscapes of Central Park, Riverside Park and Drive, Prospect Park, Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Long Island, Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway, Morningside Park, Downing Park in Newburgh, the U.S. Capitol, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. His son, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr, designed Forest Hills Gardens, along with principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury.

“Frederick Law Olmsted was a Renaissance man,” Justin Martin, a Forest Hills Gardens resident and author of “Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted,” a definitive biography, said. He delivered a slideshow presentation and engaged his audience of over 50 attendees with his encyclopedic style approach.

Martin explained an early experience that would shape Olmsted’s achievements. “When he was growing up in Hartford, his family was in the habit of taking horseback excursions into the countryside. He would sit up in front with his father on a saddle. For hours on end, his family would travel through the countryside, in silent contemplation of nature.”

When Olmsted was 14, he dropped out of school and began seeking a profession. A solid one was being a surveyor, but he did not take it seriously. Martin explained, “pretending to learn the profession, he was in the habit of sneaking off, going hiking, and wandering around in the woods.” Then his father decided that it was time for his son to settle down. Martin continued, “he arranged for him to move to NYC and get a job at a milkshake firm, but he hated the 9-to-5 hours.”

Olmsted also explored farming. “It made sense, since 70 percent of the population in this era was involved in agriculture. He bounced around from state to state and farm to farm, before encountering a very attractive situation in Staten Island,” Martin said.

That is the site of Olmsted’s farmhouse at 4515 Hylan Boulevard and farm, which was home from 1848 to 1855. Tosomock Farm is where he began experimenting with landscaping and agricultural techniques, resulting in improvements that influenced his later countrywide designs. Today this rare survivor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is awaiting significant restoration. Martin serves on the board of an organization committed to restoring it. He said, “we are also hoping to open it as a museum dedicated to agriculture and its most famous resident.”

Olmsted pointed out that England was in the seat of scientific farming, and he could learn some agricultural best practices that he could bring home to Staten Island. His father always had a soft spot for farming. Back at Tosomock Farm, he encountered George Putnam, who later published “Walks and Talks of an American Farmer,” Olmsted’s book, which chronicles his England walking tour.

In autumn 1852, Olmsted as a farmer, set off to the south, spoke everywhere, and produced a superb series of dispatches that placed the new New York Times on the map. Martin said, “He recently visited model farms of England and had his own operation in Staten Island and paid people to work for him, in contrast to slavery. He found the south to be an image of surpassing natural beauty.” After leaving Staten Island, he relocated to Manhattan and acquired a position as an editor and writer for Putnam’s Monthly.

After the Crash of 1857, he was jobless. He continued, “Olmsted was forced to take a modest job, where he was to drain swamps on a scruffy piece of land, very prosaically named for its position in the middle of NYC, called Central Park. He was to clear this piece of land for someone else’s design.” The original plan for Central Park dates to 1858. The amateurish design was eventually scrapped.

Olmsted would team up with his senior partner, landscape architect Calvert Vaux, who explained that in his native country of England if one wishes to have the best design, hold a public competition. “There were 33 contestants, and 32 rated somewhere between a B minus and a flat F, but the Olmsted and Vaux design received an A+,” Martin explained. It was a massive undertaking. “As each section would open to the public, people from various backgrounds were mixing and mingling in the park,” Martin said. In Olmsted’s generation, people came of age in the 1840s and were very committed to social justice. As for landscape architecture, Olmsted finally found a worthy means of addressing a generational mandate via social justice, and he described Central Park as “A democratic development of the highest significance.”

During the Civil War, Olmsted made his way to Washington D.C. and headed the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a predecessor to the American Red Cross. “This organization supplied immeasurable aid to wounded soldiers,” said Martin. He oversaw the creation and operation of field hospitals and medical boats and established quarantine procedures.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, communities countrywide began clamoring for parks to be built. He explained, “Communities wanted their ‘Central Park.’ It was like a dam bursting. The natural team to turn to was Olmsted & Vaux, and they produced a series of masterpieces across the country. Their sophomore initiative was Prospect Park.”

Olmsted, with his stepson John Charles working in the firm, designed masterpieces including a park system for Boston known as the Emerald Necklace, Cherokee Park in KY, and the grounds for the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1895, Olmsted’s final major commission was the Biltmore Estate. “The client was George Washington Vanderbilt II, the wealthiest person on earth,” said Martin. That was when his son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. collaborated on this project, serving as an apprenticeship. “He urged him to review and train yourself, and if you don’t get it now, you never will,” continued Martin.

A few years later, Olmsted passed away, and sons John Charles and Flo, Jr. stepped into a ready-made profession. They coined a landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Brothers, and followed in their father’s footsteps by designing 20th-century countrywide masterpieces encompassing parks and private estates. Flo, Jr. became the firm’s public face. Martin said, “They refined and refurbished their father’s parks. Parks are like living artwork that are never really completed.” With the advent of automobiles, they repurposed horse-drawn carriage roads. They also focused on new areas that were unexplored by their father, such as corporate campuses.

Whereas Olmsted Sr. produced a manifesto calling for a national park service, Flo, Jr. helped shape its mission statement. His excerpt read, “Promoting public recreation and public interest through the use and enjoyment by the people of natural scenery and objects of interest.” Flo, Jr. was involved in the design of national parks including Acadia, The Everglades, and the Great Smoky Mountains, which included creating pathways to scenic overlooks and enabling hiking. Martin said, “The Olmsted Brothers was much more involved with urban planning for cities and their future direction. Flo, Jr. would draw up plans for Utica, Detroit, Rochester, and New Haven, and famously be involved in the McMillan Commission, which was an effort to beautify public spaces in Washington, D.C., known as the National Mall.”

In 1908, the Russell Sage Foundation embarked upon its first major project to create a model community in Queens, it was natural to turn to Flo, Jr. Martin said, “For the Forest Hills Gardens, he would closely apply his father’s design principles, such as intense attention to detail and a real commitment to nature and democratic spaces.”

Martin explained, “As you travel through our neighborhood, bear in mind that with Olmsted and his grand 19th-century designs, you can draw a direct line to Forest Hills Gardens, designed by his son.” Bruce Eaton, Forest Hills Gardens Foundation president, presented a Forest Hills Gardens video drawing the eye on outstanding characteristics and featured vintage and recent photos of the earliest planned English garden community. He pinpointed a lasting impact of the Olmsted’s, such as curved streets and shared green spaces. He also cited Martin’s article for “Cottage Living” in 2007, where he explained, “While Flo designed Central Park for a much larger geography, Flo, Jr. incorporated small parks into the Gardens. He believed that the larger the park, the more likely that visitors would not connect and move about behind a veil of urban anonymity.”

Some communal spaces are Station Square, the Tea Garden, Greenway Terrace and Flagpole Green, Olivia Park, and Hawthorne Park. The clip also featured the irregularity of intersections, so visitors will not know what to anticipate. In some cases, homes do not face a main artery. Curved streets with Tudor and Arts & Crafts homes, appealing vistas, and diverse monumental trees and plants are everlasting trademarks that reflect the Olmsteds’ legacy.

To contribute to the archives, contact [email protected]

The Tea Garden Restoration Committee At Work

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Since last fall, the Tea Garden, nestled behind an ornate gate bearing Forest Hills Gardens’ logo on Greenway Terrace, and accessible through Jade Eatery’s party room, has been subject to a series of fundraising history tours, led by this columnist.

Over a week ago, the Tea Garden Restoration Committee, comprised of industry professionals including an architect and designers, local residents, and Jade owner Kumar, toured this long-forgotten treasure, where architectural and landscaping features meriting restoration and replication were pinpointed.

Step back to May 1912The iconic Tudor-style Forest Hills Inn once featured several elegant social spaces including a Tea Garden designed by Forest Hills Gardens principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury, in partnership with the prominent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. An August 1923 ad read, “an excellently appointed American Plan Hotel, catering to a discriminating transient and permanent clientele.”

It also referenced “exquisite cuisine, most attractive rates, dining room accommodations for motorists, and afternoon tea in the English Tea Garden.”

The Windsor Room, which was the inn’s main dining area, is today known as Jade Eatery, and the Tea Room which overlooked the Tea Garden, would later become the Terrace Room, adorned with murals for private dining, prior to becoming a commercial space.

Since October, a fundraiser has been underway, where the community is purchasing diverse high-quality jigsaw puzzles, donated by Ronald Gentile followed by Julie Marie, and continue to be available at $25. This will finance small yet very meaningful restoration projects, to enable the community to participate as visionaries. One such project is the replication of an 11-foot moderately ornate “Ring For Tea” stand, complete with an antique bell and cord, and a hand-painted sign bearing a teacup logo to be produced by Noble Signs. The stand is already in production by Flushing Iron Weld and principal Nelson Santander, after this columnist discovered a postcard depicting rocking chairs in front of the stand. Committee member Bea Hunt drafted the initial blueprint by applying her engineering skills.

Nature caused the monumental trees to flourish and produce a natural Gothic archway, but cast a toll on decorative features. The cascading fountain and pool amidst an arched wall that featured iguana sculptures high above have vanished. Turtles once swam below, and rocks and colorful rhododendrons were alongside the perimeters. The “Ring For Tea” stand and rocking chairs were replaced with tables and umbrellas but also vanished. Later additions include a no longer operational tiered central brick fountain and cracked flagstone and a rusty pergola. The original series of graceful pergolas featured colorful floral planting areas. However, after moments of exploration, the magic of what was and could be resurrected becomes evident.

In 1967, the Forest Hills Inn underwent conversion into apartments and is a co-op since the 1980s. In 1977, the U.S. Open relocated from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to Flushing Meadows, and with the change of inn’s occupancy and fewer celebrities, the Tea Garden was gradually forgotten.

The Tea Garden occasionally became the town center for community-wide events, such as a stop for the annual 4th of July Festival. In 1915, a local publication read, “Ice cream and cake was served all the children in the Tea Garden, and in the evening a pre-Revolutionary pageant was followed by dancing in the Station Square to the music of the 7th Regiment Band.”

Dogs even felt at home in the Tea Garden, such as on a Saturday afternoon fete for Boston Terriers. In July 1915, The New York Sun stated, “It will be in the nature of a classified match for trophies and ribbons, with Vinton Breese as a judge. The unclassified specials are the judge’s cup, for best bred by exhibitor; Inn cup, for best in the show; Cord Meyer cup, for best of the opposite sex to Inn cup winner, and trophies from Mrs. A.S. Whitesell for the best local dog and the best dog from NYC.” There were over 100 entries, with a very large crowd of spectators.

“The Gardens Chapter of the Women’s Club of Forest Hills Gardens is to hold a flower show at the Forest Hills Tea Garden, Wednesday, June 21,” read another early 20th century article. Some proceeds benefited the $500 playground fund. Another special event was a Strawberry Festival held by the St. Luke’s Women’s Guild on June 10, 1922, from 2 to 6 PM. Homemade ice cream was served with strawberries, as well as lemonade, and garden hats were sold. The Tea Garden also hosted early productions by The Garden Players, such as “Prunella” in 1921, prioritizing its natural setting. Another was Rostand’s “The Romancers” on June 9, 1916, at 8:15 PM for $1.

The July 12, 1924 edition of The Forest Hills Bulletin read, “The Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn is a veritable fairyland when lighted with Japanese lanterns, with the trickling fountain heard in the background, and a new moon shining overhead. There is no more delightful place in Greater New York for one to spend the dinner hour.” Every evening during the warmer months between 6:30 and 9 PM, a delectable dinner was served, to the music of the Inn Trio, featuring selections such as Dvorak’s “Humoresque,” Nevin’s “A Day in Venice,” Godard’s “Canzonetta,” and Albeniz’s “A Night In Seville.” On September 19, 1924, the Forest Hills Choral Club held a reception and dance in honor of its new conductor, Alfred Boyce.

“The Enchanted Gardens – Coolest and most delightful spot on Long Island” read a 1924 ad featuring couples in elegant attire, dining with tablecloths and dancing under a forested scene. At the time, M. Lawrence Meade was the Forest Hills Inn general manager. Special buffet lunches were served from 12 to 2:30 during tournaments, as the inn had its own tennis courts, accessible through a long-gone landscaped arched entryway from the Tea Garden, predating the Forest Hills Inn Apartments annex at 20 Continental Avenue. The inn was open for dinner daily, and dancing was held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings with no cover charge.

In a circa mid-1950s brochure, the Tea Garden was referred to as the Patio-Garden, and its glory continued. It offered “a bubbling fountain, candlelight, large umbrellas, and tall trees” with “violin strings in the spring and summer.”

The Tea Garden was the center stage for ceremonial events. The wedding reception of Luicina Gaiser’s parents, Frederic Harry Gaiser III and Julianne McCaffrey, was held on August 31, 1963, in the Tea Garden and former Garden Room of the Forest Hills Inn. A memoir read, “Were led down the walk about a block to the Garden, where there was an orchestra and tables and trees, and waiters serving tidbits and drinks. Stayed there for about an hour and a half. Fun prevailed. Pictures of wedding party and parents taken.” Luicina reflected, “As a child and to date, it was a lost garden or dreamland. There is a quiet peace that breathes life in this garden, that can’t be stifled by having been forgotten.”

For Eve Galvez, Forest Hills has always been a place that she could call home, and now her wish came true. She feels fortunate for the Tea Garden, a distinctive destination that could once again become a community asset. She said, “The Tea Garden is a beautiful space that has been abandoned for so long, but was once a place that created lasting memories. Our goal is to bring that to the present day with the help of industry professionals and residents. I am excited for this project, and hope to help in any way that I can.”

Francesca Victoria feels it is a stereotype that New Yorkers are always looking towards the future in favor of glass skyscrapers. She explained, “I believe that most are interested in preserving the past, and especially beautiful landscapes within their communities. Seeing so many people come together to stand up for a local landmark, and speak out not just for its preservation, but for its continued use for the community, gives hope for Forest Hills’ future. Most people are familiar with Station Square and the Forest Hills Inn, and I’m sure that most people have peeked behind that gate at least once or twice and wondered what it was and if it has any current use.” She ponders as to how it was once so well-known but is now much forgotten among inhabitants. “I hope this campaign will not only preserve the Tea Garden but spread historical awareness.”

OP-ED: I Have Seen the Future and It’s in Queens

By Vincent Kish

On October 17, 1965, I took the bus to Flushing Meadows to attend the last day of the New York World’s Fair. As was my usual pattern, I went straight to the pavilions in the Industrial Area. First stop was Coca-Cola for a mini world tour including stops in Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro, then to Travelers Insurance for a walk through history at “The Triumph of Man” exhibit.

The Better Living pavilion seemed pretty lame, but they had a number of free samples, including a new grapefruit soda, “Wink.” Then I went to Bell Telephone for a tour through communications history, “From Drumbeat to Telestar,” and to beep away at the many new models of push button phones and, a real treat in pre-video game days, to play electronic tic-tac-toe against a computer.

Equitable Life Assurance had an outdoor exhibit that included a giant tabulator which tracked population growth in the U.S. In what I found to be a little creepy, their signage indicated that on average, a baby is born every seven-and-a-half seconds, a person dies every 18-and-a-half seconds, therefore the population grows by one person every 11 seconds. As best as I can recall, on that day the total was up to about 193,000,000.

For good luck, I tossed a penny into one of the fountains at The Pool of Industry. There was an urban legend going around that some kid had run away from home and was living at The Fair, fishing coins out of the fountains at night for food money. If so, his income source was about to dry up and it was time for him to return home.

I then walked directly to the Transportation Area, skipping the International and the Federal and State Areas, in which I had no interest, and the Amusement Area, for which I had insufficient funds.

The line at The Ford Rotunda was long, and I didn’t want to spend an hour waiting around just to see some animatronic dinosaurs. So I settled for looking at fiberglass versions at “Dinoland” at the Sinclair Exhibit.

At the Transportation and Travel Building, there was a guy demonstrating The Wonder Knife, a blade so sharp it could cut tomato slices thin enough to see through. When I forked over my two dollars, he assured me that the knife would never need sharpening. Although I sensed he was a huckster at heart, he proved to be quite a prognosticator. My mother would use that knife almost daily for the next 50 years, as would I for the last seven, and counting.

My favorite spot of all was General Motors. Everything about the Futurama Ride was cool, from the comfortable contour seats, the haunting lighting and atmosphere, to the hypnotic narration provided by actor Alexander Scourby.

And although this was my 14th visit, the exhibits were still captivating, although far from realistic as it turned out. The only thing they got right was lunar exploration, then just four years away. But they overplayed their hand by including things like regular commuter spaceship landings. There are still no farms in the desert or underwater vacation resorts, or weather stations beneath the Antarctic ice. And predictions for the City of Tomorrow, a tomorrow already long in the past, seemed to have been based less upon science or urban planning than on viewing episodes of The Jetsons. There are no roadways in the sky, high speed buses, or underground freight conveyor belts. And the only times I’ve been on moving sidewalks have been at airports, and, ironically, at Freedomland in the Bronx in 1962. But, accurate or otherwise, it was all great fun. And like so many other things at The Fair, it did much to warm my 13-year-old heart.

Later that afternoon, I was saddened to see that a number of visitors were beginning to vandalize the grounds, including digging up flowers. I really didn’t want to see or remember things like that happening at this special place. It was time to leave. On the bus ride home I proudly wore my GM “I Have Seen the Future” button. It was one of dozens of souvenirs I had collected over two years including maps, guidebooks, 45 RPM records, Unispheres, a Ford Pavilion badge indicating that I was from England (I was a big Beatles fan), and an autographed (paw print) photo of Lady Greyhound. I still have it all. When my time comes, I’ll leave the collection to my grandchildren. But, I predict, that day is far away, off somewhere in the future.

Community leaders celebrate Women’s History Month

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Queens residents came together at C Restaurant and Lounge in Kew Gardens to celebrate and honor women’s achievements.

Rahana Rampershad, co-founder of WE RULE, and Rose Deonarine, founder of ReadySetRose, collaborated to make the event “I am Every Woman, We are Every Woman” a safe space for women in the community to network, celebrate other women’s milestones and self-reflect on their own journeys.

Both hailing from Richmond Hill, Rampershad and Deonarine’s respective organizations focus on highlighting stories of female founders and inspiring and educating the masses, which is what motivated them to localize those missions through the event.

“The goal of our event was to inspire and encourage each other to be better versions of ourselves. The name itself ‘I’m every woman, we are every woman’ and the lyrics by Whitney Houston represent that we as women are the embodiment of so many beings,” Deonarine said. “So when we say that phrase, it’s to be inclusive of all the other women in the room.”

“We did not want it to be about us or government officials, we wanted to make sure it was very inclusive. Everybody had a little piece to play in the room,” Rampershad said.

“There were people at the event that we met for the first time, and they were the first ones to message us and ask when the next event was,” she continued. “It was very powerful.”

Ebony Young, Queens deputy borough president; Vjola Isufaj, chief of staff for Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar; and Mone’t Schultz, deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson showed their support at the event.

Jyoti Bindra, owner and manager of Vikhyat USA in Richmond Hill, was presented with a citation from Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s office to honor her contributions to the community during the height of the pandemic.

While the main specialty of Vikhyat USA is providing customers with customized Indian attire, Bindra and the shop’s 70-year-old seamstress worked together to sew masks and distribute them around the U.S. for free during a time where they were in high demand.

“It was so encouraging for her, and it brought her to tears,” Deonarine said of Bindra. “She runs this business with her mom and they depend on it for survival, and yet she did this out of the goodness of her heart and possibly saved lives. That’s why we had this event in March, to celebrate women, whose rights have been oppressed for several years. We’re finally getting our voices heard and we have a long way to go, but on that day we just wanted to celebrate us.”

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