Neighborhood History

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From the big bang to last month, a comprehensive view of the neighborhood's history will be presented below.

Pre Jackson Heights[edit]

Long before the Jackson Heights neighborhood was imagined the area was inhabited by Native Americans and then European farmers.

Early History[edit]

The Jackson Heights neighborhood name derives from Jackson Avenue, the former name for Northern Boulevard, a major thoroughfare through the neighborhood. John C. Jackson built the road across what is now Jackson Heights in 1859. The Jackson Avenue name is retained by a short stretch between Queens Plaza and Queens–Midtown Tunnel in Long Island City. The land area on which Jackson Heights was initially built was not particularly high, but the name "heights" was used to indicate exclusivity. Until 1916, the area was called Trains Meadow, but as there were very few trains in the area it is suspected that it was corrupted from "drain".

The first land purchase of was completed in 1910, and Edward A. MacDougall's Queensboro Corporation had bought about by 1914.[5] At that time the area could most easily be reached via a ferry or the Manhattan or Brooklyn bridges. Access improved with the opening of the [Queensboro Bridge] in 1909, with the elevated IRT Flushing Line — the present-day 7 train - began in 1917, making Jackson Heights just 20 minutes from Manhattan. The Fifth Avenue Coach Company double-decker coaches began servicing the neighborhood in 1922.


Jackson Heights was a planned development laid out by the Queensboro Corporation beginning in about 1916, and residents came after the arrival of the Flushing Line into Jackson Heights in 1917. The community was initially planned as a place for middle- to upper-middle income workers from Manhattan to raise their families.[6] The Queensboro Corporation coined the name "garden apartment" to convey the concept of apartments surrounded by a green environment. The apartments, built around private parks during this time, contributed to Jackson Heights' being the first garden city community built in the United States, as part of the international garden city movement at the turn of the 20th century.[6]

Most of the buildings in Jackson Heights are the Queensboro Corporation apartments, built within a few blocks of the Flushing Line, which are typically five or six stories tall and are located between Northern Boulevard and 37th Avenue as part of that planned community.[7] Targeted toward the middle class, the Queensboro Corporation based the new apartments off of similar ones in Berlin. These new apartments were to share garden spaces, have ornate exteriors and features such as fireplaces, parquet floors, sun rooms, and built-in bathtubs with showers; and be cooperatively owned. In addition, the corporation divided the land into blocks and building lots, as well as installed streets, sidewalks, power, water, and sewage lines. Land for churches was provided, as well. Occupancy was limited to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Jews, Blacks, and perhaps Greeks and Italians were excluded.

The Laurel[edit]

The Laurel apartment building on 82nd Street at Northern Boulevard was the first of the Queensboro Corporation buildings in Jackson Heights, completed in 1914 with a small courtyard. The Greystones on either side of 80th Street between 37th and 35th Avenues were completed in 1918 with a design by architect George H. Wells. There was leftover unused space, which was converted to parks, gardens, and recreational areas, including a golf course; much of this leftover space, including the golf course, no longer exists.Template:Sfn This was followed by the 1919 construction of the Andrew J. Thomas-designed Linden Court, a 10-building complex between 84th Street, 85th Streets, 37th Avenue, and Roosevelt Avenue.Template:Sfn[8] The two sets of 5 buildings each, separated by a gated garden with linden trees and two pathways, included parking spaces with single-story garages accessed via narrow driveways, the first Jackson Heights development to do so; gaps at regular intervals in the perimeter wall; a layout that provided light and ventilation to the apartments, as well as fostered a sense of belonging to a community;Template:Sfn the area's first co-op;Template:Sfn and now-prevalent private gardens surrounded by the building blocks.Template:Sfn

Hampton Gardens, Château, and the Towers[edit]

The Hampton Gardens, the Château, and the Towers followed in the 1920s.[9] The Château and the Towers, both co-ops on 34th Avenue, had large, airy apartments and were served by elevators. The elegant Château cooperative apartment complex, with twelve buildings surrounding a shared garden, was built in the French Renaissance style and have slate mansard roofs pierced by dormer windows, and diaperwork brick walls.Template:Sfn At first purely decorative, the shared gardens in later developments included paved spaces where people could meet or sit. The Queensboro Corporation started the Ivy Court, Cedar Court, and Spanish Gardens projects, all designed by Thomas, in 1924.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and First Infomercial[edit]

The Queensboro Corporation advertised their apartments from 1922 on.[9] On August 28, 1922, the Queensboro Corporation paid $50 to the WEAF radio station to broadcast a ten-minute sales pitch for apartments in Jackson Heights, in what may have been the first "infomercial", opening with a few words about Nathaniel Hawthorne before promoting the corporation's Nathaniel Hawthorne apartments.

English Gables, Ravenna Court, and Georgian Court[edit]

Built in 1928, the English Gables line 82nd Street. There are two developments, called English Gables I and II; were meant to provide a gateway to the neighborhood for commercial traffic and for passengers from the 82nd Street – Jackson Heights station. A year later, the Robert Morris Apartments, on 37th Avenue between 79th and 80th Streets, were constructed. Named after Robert Morris, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, the apartments have ample green spaces, original high ceilings, and fireplaces. During the Depression two new buildings were built: Ravenna Court on 37th Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets, built in 1929; and Georgian Court three blocks east, between 83rd and 84th Streets, in 1930.

Developer Tricks[edit]

The Queensboro Corporation began to build on land that until then had been kept open for community use. The tennis courts, community garden, and the golf course — located between 76th and 78th Streets and 34th and 37th Avenues — all were built upon during the 1940s and 1950s. The corporation also began erecting traditional six-story apartment buildings. (Dunolly Gardens, the last garden apartment complex that Thomas built, was an exception, a modernistic building completed in 1939. The corner windows, considered very innovative in the 1930s, gave the apartments a more spacious feeling.) After the 1940s, Jackson Heights' real estate was diversified, and more apartment buildings and cooperatives were built with elevators; some new transportation infrastructure were also built.

Holmes Airport[edit]

Built and operated primarily during the 1930s, Holmes Airport, the city's first commercial airport, was located just north of Northern Boulevard. With the opening of City Airport (today's LaGuardia Airport ) Holmes closed.

Today the former airport land is used for several purposes. The northern portion of Holmes Airport's land was developed into the Bulova watch factory site. This portion of the old airport currently comprises the former factory, now office space, a Home Depot, and Bed Bath and Beyond. Also occupying the former airport space is the Jackson Heights Shopping Center, the Lexington School School and Center for the Deaf, and Moser Park. Residential housing comprises the majority of the former airport.

Ethnic Change[edit]

By 1930, about 44,500 people lived in Jackson heights, an increase from 3,800 residents in 1910. The neighborhood was primarily white with Jews and people people of color excluded. Diversity first arrived via Gay residents working in Broadway theaters. Jews were allowed to move in by the 1940s and blacks by 1968.[5] Beginning in the 1960s, an influx of newly immigrated residents came into Jackson Heights, at the same time white flight had some residents leaving for suburbs.[7] Hispanic immigrants moved in by the 1970s.[5]

Historic Landmarking[edit]

City Historic District

Most of the original development area, comprising the garden city apartment buildings, was made a National Register Historic District and a New York State Historic Register District. The Jackson Heights New York State and National Register Districts range from 93rd Street through 69th Street between Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. Some property fronting on Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue, as well as some "cut-outs", are not inside the Register Districts. The national historic district called the Jackson Heights Historic District, includes 2,203 contributing buildings, 19 contributing sites, and three contributing objects. Among the landmarked buildings, over 200 original Queensboro Corporation apartment buildings still exist in Jackson Heights.[12] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.[13]

About half of the neighborhood—a rectangle stretching roughly from 76th Street to 88th Street and from Roosevelt Avenue almost up to Northern Boulevard—was designated as a New York City Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on October 19, 1993.Template:Sfn It comprises large apartment buildings with private communal gardens, as well as many groupings of private homes and many stores on the streets surrounding Roosevelt Avenue.[14][15] Unlike the State and National Districts, the local designation comes with aesthetic protections.

In addition to the Jackson Heights Historic District, the Leverich Homestead and Cemetery and United States Post Office are historic places of interest.

Related Wiki Pages[edit]