14th Road and 119th Street was the location of an undeclared landmark in College Point, Queens for 127 years before most of Queens was even settled. Flessel’s was there when Queens was double its current size including all of Nassau County and before it was a part of New York City. It was built during the Ulysses S. Grant administration and was there before the Brooklyn Bridge connected Long Island to New York City.
But Flessel’s didn’t make it into the 21st Century.
I had long known about Flessel’s, even before I moved to Queens a number of years ago, from its description in Willensky and White’s AIA Guide To New York City in 1989 and always admired its out-of-time quality. After moving to Queens, I had always talked about getting up to Flessel’s for a drink or a meal.
But it never happened. Flessel’s closed for good in December 1998, and recently, the property was sold, and the building was demolished.
From Peter Zaremba’s article in Time Out New York, April 22, 1999:
If you entered the bar through the front doors, instead of the through the former ladies’ entrance at the side, you mounted a wooden porch where horses had once been tethered (left). Inside, you could order a tall glass of Dinkel Acker and steady yourself against the solid onyx bar rail, polished by the hands of more than a century’s worth of tipplers.
As a breeze from the gently turning ceiling fan cooled your head, you could admire the beveled glass behind the bar and listen to the sound of footsteps on the solid wooden floors or the clack of colliding billiard balls.
Here is a view of the side porch and former “ladies’ entrance.”
Closer view of the side porch.
If this was Flessel’s, why is there a letter “W” on the base of the porch columns?
The building that later became Flessel’s Restaurant was originally built by Joseph Witzel, a College Point landowner who also built a long-gone amusement park called Point View Island in Whitestone. Probably the only reminder of Joseph Witzel’s former holdings in the area is the “W” on the columns of Flessel’s Restaurant.
While Flessel’s dates from the 1870s, its newer neon sign was a golden oldie in its own right, having hung from the side of the building since the 1930s.
College Point, at one time, was a fashionable summer resort and still has a number of Victorian-era buildings as reminder of those forgotten days.
Over the years, the building changed hands. It has been used as both a hotel, bar and restaurant throughout its long history. It has been known as Witzel’s, Eifel’s and then, Flessel’s over the years. German food and drink was a specialty as a rule.
Side view of Flessel’s. Oak trees that were almost as old as the building itself were chopped down, a precursor to the razing of Flessel’s itself.
Incredibly, Flessel’s was never named a landmark by New York City, which would have saved it from extinction. Local preservationist Paul Graziano said in an interview with the Whitestone Times in June 1999:
“It’s a perfect example of a building that should have been landmarked 30 years ago but because of the politics in Queens, it never was.” Flessel’s “is truly, along with the Poppenhusen [Institute], the heart of the College Point community. If you talk to anybody in that town, not only will they know it, they probably had their wedding there.”
There are now a group of nondescript houses where there once was Flessel’s.
Peter Zaremba in Time Out New York, April 22-29, 1999
Brian Lockhart in the Whitestone Times, June 24, 1999
Willensky and White, AIA Guide To New York City, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988
7/22/1999; revised 6/12/12