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Forgotten memorial uncovered in time for Vets Day

Thursday is Veterans Day, which was first recognized by Congress 95 years ago and has been a national holiday since 1938. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans, whether they are still with us or not.
If you know someone who has served, thank them for their service. Or better still, ask them where they served and what it was like. You’ll hear some very interesting stories.
I bring some exciting news about a newly discovered memorial in Woodhaven, one that’s been sitting in plain view for many years.
To begin, let’s review the memorials that we all know about, starting with the large granite monument and plaque dedicated to the young men who lost their lives in World War I in the front yard of American Legion Post 118 on 91st Street and 89th Avenue.
This large monument once sat in Forest Park where Memorial Day parades used to conclude, but it was moved to the American Legion when the new post was built in the early 40s.
A second Woodhaven monument, Lieutenant Clinton L. Whiting Square, is on 84th Street and 91st Avenue and is sometimes referred to locally as “The Rock.” Erected in the late 1920s, it memorializes a local lad who died in World War I.
The third monument sits on Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue and was erected in the early 1950s to honor local youth killed in World War II. For many years, this was an important stop for Memorial Day parades. A 21-gun salute was often performed at this location.
A fourth monument, brass plaques with the names of young men from the parish who died in both World Wars, sits inside the back lobby of St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
A fifth monument sits just to the east of the trees along Forest Park Drive. Private First Class Lawrence Strack Memorial Pond was named after the first local youth killed in Vietnam. At the time it was dedicated, the pond had been converted to ballfields.
A sixth monument is a location we’re all familiar with, but might not realize it was dedicated to the war dead. Victory Field was built and dedicated to “the unknown soldier of World War I.”
The next three memorials had been lost to history until the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society (WCHS) discovered them. The first was the Memorial Trees of Woodhaven, which run along Forest Park Drive from Park Lane South past Oak Ridge and towards the Forest Park Carousel.
These trees were planted for local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Families used to decorate them on Memorial Day, a tribute that the WCHS revived in 2015. In 2017, the City of New York co-named the road through the park as “Forest Park Memorial Drive” in honor of the trees.
The next rediscovered memorial was the triangle at Rockaway Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue dedicated to Father Lawrence Lynch, the tough Irish chaplain who heroically served in World War II and lost his life at the Battle of Okinawa while comforting and giving Last Rites to a dying soldier.
The triangle was dedicated in 1949, but over time the sign disappeared and people forgot about it until WCHS uncovered it and brought it to everyone’s attention. Seventy years after it was originally dedicated, the triangle was rededicated to Father Lynch in 2019.
And now we have one more memorial that has been long forgotten and sitting mostly unrecognized for decades.
Legion Square is an area of Woodhaven at Rockaway Boulevard and Elderts Lane surrounded by homes and stores, with a grass-covered triangle in the middle. It was dedicated for American Legion Post 118 in June 1930.
At one time, there were three cannons on the triangle. For many years, Flag Day ceremonies were held here and many Memorial Day parades started at this beautiful spot.
So well regarded was the location that it was selected as one spot for a Welcome to Woodhaven sign, as well as a sign proclaiming it as “The Gateway to Queens.”
The triangle itself is still there and well maintained by the Parks Department. They even have a small sign identifying it as Legion Triangle, but you really need to look closely to see it. We can improve on that.

Puzzles sale raises money for Tea Garden

A walk along Greenway Terrace in Forest Hills Gardens will reveal an ornate gate, and if you peek inside you will discover the Tea Garden, a hidden gem that opened in 1912 next to the Forest Hills Inn.
“The Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn is a veritable fairyland,” read a 1924 edition of the Forest Hills Bulletin. “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.”
The Tea Garden’s use dwindled when the inn underwent a residential conversion in the late 1960s, causing it to fall into a state of disarray. Today, the Tea Garden is part of Jade Eatery & Lounge at One Station Square.
“I’m dedicating all my efforts to bring the old memories back by setting up the water fountain in the center, and redoing the landscape as well as the patio,” said Jade owner Kumar.
To aid in the restoration effort, Ozone Park resident Ronald Gentile agreed to contribute over 130 puzzles, which this columnist is selling at $20 each. Larger donations are welcome.
“I’m thrilled that these puzzles, which have been left behind by a tenant and would otherwise have ended up in a recycling bin, are being given new homes and playing a role in this community’s improvement,” said Gentile.
Shortly after, Julie Marie decided to donate nearly 10 puzzles.
“If many people contribute a small amount to improve the community, it will have a large impact,” she said. The history and architecture of the Tea Garden and surrounding area is an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. It’s like an oasis in the middle of the busy hustle of Queens.”
The Tea Garden once featured rocking chairs and a “ring for tea” stand, which were later replaced with tables and umbrellas. It was also the site of 4th of July celebrations, plays by The Gardens Players such as “Prunella” in 1922, and wedding receptions into the 1960s.
The restoration would ideally include repairing the central brick fountain, painting the pergola, restoring the cascading wall fountain, repairing stonework and flagstone, adding greenery, and replicating the tea stand complete with a bell.
“I wasn’t nursing a burning desire for puzzles, but when I saw Perlman’s fundraiser, I remembered that I like to do puzzles,” said Jack Quinn, one of the first people to make a purchase. “They all were so high-quality and different than anything I would see in stores, so I selected 13 puzzles.
“I’m going to mail a puzzle to each of my aunts and uncles and people I know that are homebound,” he added. “I’m so glad to help raise money for the Tea Garden and also brighten the lives of people I know.”
The Tea Garden motivated Bill Zen to become a volunteer.
“The puzzle idea is an interesting one to get the ball rolling initially,” he said. “As I pass the Tea Garden I stop often, look through the chained gates, and it’s hard not to go back in time in your mind to when it must have been amazing.”
“As a public-private partnership between the community, the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, the Forest Hills Inn, and the owner of Jade, it could be phenomenal,” Zen added. “You could see neighbors enjoying the public grounds early in the day, and contributing a small donation to a trust to maintain the grounds like a living museum.”
Forest Hills residents Nelly Lester Manzo and her husband Gaby recently spent the afternoon at Jade Eatery. She purchased five puzzles.
“I could just envision a little Garden of Eden,” she said. “It gave a bit of nourishment to our soul. I didn’t think twice when I heard about the Tea Garden fundraiser.”
It was a first-time visit for Corona resident Hope Stephens recently made her first visit to Jade.
“It was good to see some of the masonry and the original gate with the Forest Hills logo intact,” she said. “The Tea Garden could be a lovely venue for all kinds of small gatherings.”

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