Past and present fast food
The Orange Hut at Broadway and 54th Street still carries the outlines and contours of its former life as a White Tower hamburger chain restaurant. The last White Tower closed in Toledo, OH in June 2008; the chain originated in 1926, its origins detailed in a 2007 book.
The interior of the Orange Hut still contains some hints of its origins, such as swivel stools adjoining a counter. photo: Hugh Merwin, GothamistWhite Castle, you say? That’s the original hamburger chain restaurant, founded in Wichita, KA in 1921 by restaurateur Billy Ingram. In those days, the cleanliness of meat products was still in question due to the unsanitary practices described by Upton Sinclair’s expose/novel, The Jungle: so great pains were taken to give the impression of spotlessness, with gleaming white restaurants and servers dressed in white. New Jersey’s entries in the ‘White’ hamburger restaurant vein, White Manna of Hackensack and its cousin, White Mana (with one ‘n’) in Jersey City, are still going strong.
The White Castle at Bell Boulevard and Northern Boulevard in Bayside is the oldest White Castle in the Northeast and possibly, the oldest one in the country, though the original building has been rebuilt somewhat larger. Your webmaster stays away from ‘sliders’; they repeat.
A detour on 54th Street for a couple of blocks will get you to the colonial-era Moore-Jackson Cemetery. (More on Moore presently)
The heavy, concrete cladded trestle at Broadway and Northern Boulevard carries Amtrak trains to and from Penn Station via the Hell Gate railroad bridge to the Bronx and then points northeast along NY, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to Boston; service is also southbound via Penn Station to Newark, Philly, Washington DC and points south.
The trestle is part of one of the most amazing transportation projects ever built: the tunneling of the Hudson River; the construction of the cavernous original Penn Station, bulldozed from 1963-1966; and the Hell Gate Bridge, completed in 1916, a relative golden age of railroading in NYC.
Soaring costs of materials and labor and the fecklessness of the public and the politicians who represent it have made such sweeping mass transit projects impossible in the 21st Century.
The concrete cladding on these overpasses has begun to crumble.
Christ Lutheran Church, 58th Street north of Broadway. In a neighborhood of low-rise buildings, the copper-green steeple is a local landmark.
Quick Brown Fox Triangle, at Broadway and 34th Avenue, is named for a typography exercise: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is an English sentence that uses all 26 letters in the alphabet. Can you think of others, in English or another language? No cursing please.
Former Parks czar Henry Stern must have been particularly fond of the phrase, since it pops up a second time in a pocket park in Maspeth.
As we move into the 60s, Broadway features some attached houses with enclosed porches constructed in the 1920s. In the 1990s and 2000s, some local homeowners despoiled them with faux chrome and fake Italianate railings. One person has made their home a bunker with fake stone and barred windows. A person’s home is their castle.
@ 64th Street. Broadway has become a used tire hotbed by pure coincidence.
A cluster of businesses, including some with hand-lettered or stenciled signs, can be found near the 65th Street station.
LEFT: This may be a Bicentennial vent, or, perhaps, the red, white and blue dates only as far back to the 9/11/01 aftermath.
I have discussed former street names on this page and here, at the 65th Street IND Queens Blvd. Line station, we have tangible evidence: 65th Street’s former name, Rowan Street, is tiled on the wall. (65th has also been called 12th Street in the past). Subway and el stations built in the 1910s through 1930s in Queens often display the street’s former names, perhaps as a benefit to local oldtimers who might have been still referring to the old names.
East of the subway station Broadway is bridged over both the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which connects the Grand Central Parkway to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and the freight line, the New York Connecting Railroad, which runs between the Oak Point Yards in Hunts Point, Bronx, over the Hell Gate Bridge to the Fresh Pond Yards. The pedestrian plaza is necessarily treeless as it is built on the trestle.
70-05 Broadway has an ornate entrance (I can’t identify the style) and four griffins at its two courtyard entrances. These griffins are more leonine than usual; the mythical creature was part lion, part eagle and part dragon.
Nearing the Flushing el on Roosevelt Avenue, western Jackson Heights’ South Asian flavor becomes more apparent.
Note the novel method of simply pasting movie posters on the marquee of the Eagle Theatre on 37th Road — will it catch on? Also look closely at the sign — does the “G” look a little different from the other letters? It should, since it’s a late addition: it used to be the Earle Theatre, and after several years as a porno palace (like the now-demolished Polk and still-standing Fair on Astoria Boulevard) it now shows Bollywood fare as well as Hindi-language non-musicals. The Fair has also begun to run Indian films.
I shouldn’t like this arrangement on the triangle formed by Broadway and 37th Road, with its metal covering over a likely brickworked interior — but I do anyway. I originally thought the man on the watch ad was Naveen Andrews, who plays Sayid Jarrah on the ABC TV sci-fi drama Lost, but it is an Indian personality (fill me in on which). Andrews is of Indian/British extraction, while his character is Iraqi.
ANSWER: Abhishek Bachchan. Thanks ForgottenFan Neil Antman.
Compare, to the building with the watch ad, the hulking new bus terminal constructed in the early 2000s connecting several bus routes, the Flushing #7 line, and the Queens Blvd. IND E, F, G, R, V lines. It’s very rare for a new building constructed with a modest budge to be at all admirable. RIGHT: “New York “7th Day Adventist Chinese Church” according to the sign. This is a pleasant-looking new building complete with clock tower.
Castellated SPI, a tutoring service, at Broadway and 76th. Across the street, 9 Heroes/Vietnam Veterans Plaza, at the triangle formed by Broadway, 76th and 41st Avenue, honors several Elmhurst residents who gave their lives in the Vietnam War. Acording to Parks, the “9 Heroes” theme recalls a theme shown on French tapestries displayed in the Cloisters in upper Manhattan:
The “Nine Heroes Tapestries” were created around 1385 by French artist Nicolas Bataille. Woven into the fabric are representations of nine legendary heroes. The hangings portray three Hebrew heroes (Joshua, David, Judas), three Christian heroes (Maccabeus, Charlemagne, Arthur, Godfrey of Boullion), and three classical heroes (Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar). Bataille drew inspiration from a well-known 14th-century poem by Jacques de Longuyon whose main character was braver than the nine great heroes.
The Vietnam Veterans Triangle retains the nine heroes theme and is a memorial to nine servicemen from Elmhurst who died in the Vietnam War (1964-1975). Jean-Claude Esnault was the first Elmhurst soldier to die in the war. The remaining eight men, Irwin Lewis Hoffman, Carlos Ugarte, Eduardo Paul Branes, David Bruce Tucker, Jeffrey Perez, Bruce Levy, Uldis Jack Malmanis, and Carlos Alberto Pedrosa, were all decorated soldiers from the neighborhood. The nine men and all the casualties of the war in Vietnam are commemorated on a cone-shaped monument that serves as the base of a flagpole located in the center of the park. Above the commemorative panels adorning the monument is a frieze of horses with flag & sword emblems. Below the flagpole is a band of stars and American eagles. Shrubs and rose bushes planted in a circular pattern surround the memorial, as do several benches.
A pair of playgrounds are named for local figures from recent and over-a-century ago history. “O’Connor’s Tail” and the Frank D. O’Connor playground are named for a local district attorney who successfully defended musician Manny Balestrero against a robbery charge in a case later dramatized by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1956 film The Wrong Man, with Henry Fonda playing Balestrero and Sir Anthony Quayle as O’Connor. The movie was shot on location in Elmhurst.
RIGHT: Clement Clarke Moore Homestead Park, Broadway and 78th Street. Captain Samuel Moore was an early Newtown settler; his father, Rev. John Moore, had arranged the purchase of much of Newtown from local Indian tribes. The reverend’s great-great-great-grandson, Clement Clarke Moore, the purported author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” lived on his family’s ancestral property in Newtown as a youth; he later taught at the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, Manhattan, much of which is still standing today. Christina has the entire Moore story in FNY’s Woodside page.
Where the LIRR passes over Broadway at Whitney Avenue is the site of a former LIRR station, demolished in 1985. On nearby Claremont Terrace (off Dongan Avenue) stood, until 2006, the remnants of the Lord Estate, where entrepreneur and British iimmigrant Samuel Lord, of Lord and Taylor fame, constructed four houses for each of his daughters.
The stretch of Broadway between Corona and 51st Avenue is particularly rich in iconic buildings, a couple of which go back almost to the founding of Newtown in the colonial era. One is definitely endangered, as we’ll see.
The Reformed Dutch Church of Newtown was first built in 1831 and enlarged in 1851 with stained glass added in 1874. It replaced an older structure built between 1733-1735. On the Corona Avenue side is a graveyard with ancient stones, one of which remains of a Dutch colonial settler. Today it serves a predominately Asian-American congregation. Here’s a full report on the building by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which approved landmarking in 1966.
From FNY’s Elmhurst page:
One of the first religious buildings in Newtown was the old St. James Episcopal Church at Broadway and 51st Avenue. It is a relic of colonial rule, having been chartered by George III and erected in 1734: it is Elmhurst’s oldest remaining building. It formerly supported a clock tower that a storm blew down in the 1880s. Last used as a church in 1848, it is now a community center and Sunday school, although the over-265-year-old building is in need of much repair. A ‘new’ St. James, built in 1848 and designed by Minard Lefever, burnt down in the 1970s; its replacement is an [A-frame brick structure at Broadway and the SW corner of Corona Avenue.]
Jim Driscoll of the Queens Historical Society describes the church thusly on the Preserve and Protect website:
The ancient unadorned building located at the corner of 51st Avenue and Broadway is the original St. James Episcopal Church of Newtown (now Elmhurst). According to Riker’s Annals of Newtown, the frame for the building was raised in 1735. When the first service was held is not clear but the pews were not installed until 1740. The family names of the people who were assigned those first pews reads like a who’s who of Queens colonial history: Moores, Sacketts, Alsops, Blackwells, Hazards and Halletts.
At the time of its construction, the church was officially a chapel of the Grace Episcopal Church in Jamaica. Both Newtown and Flushing were part of the Jamaica parish. The Newtown congregation was given the right to have its own parish and hire its own minister in 1761 but for some unknown reason it failed to do so at the time. It wasn’t until 1809 that St. James permanently became a separate parish.
With the start of the Revolution, many of the congregation members who were patriots fled Newtown. The Reverend Joshua Bloomer would continue to conduct Anglican services at the church swearing allegiance to the king. He would minister to the remaining congregants: Tories and British army officers stationed in Queens. Some old newspaper articles claim that such well known British leaders as Lord Cornwallis attended services at St. James. However, the 19th century histories of Queens by Riker and Munsel make no mention of this.
The building looked different in the 19th century. Most significantly, there was a large square tower topped by a steeple and spire attached to the rear of the building. Also, although very little information about this appears to exist, there was a small cemetery directly behind the church. A 1908 City History Club walking tour guide for old Newtown mentions a badly maintained graveyard in back of old St. James, which indicates that it still existed at this late date.
There’s much more — check that link. The cemetery referred to in the back of the church is a badly paved parking lot — are there any remaining remains?
Directly across Broadway from Old St. James is the Elmhurst Branch of Queens Public library, built in 1908 and one of a number of libraries in NYC funded by steel magnate/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The Queens Library is planning to raze the structure, maintaining that it is too small to meet the needs of the burgeoning area population. The NY Landmarks Conservancy has petitioned for its survival.
Broadway and Justice Avenue. A perusal of the photographs in the aforementioned Vincent Seyfried’s comprehensive Elmhurst history time, Elmhurst: From Town Seat to Mega-Suburb, will reveal an utterly different scene in this spot as late as the 1930s, with the Newtown Town Hall, local firehouse, and station for the now-demolished LIRR White Line all demolished since, and a high-rise apartment building now holding down the spot. Old maps reveal Justice Avenue, which once ran alongside Horse Brook and the White Line, as one of the aboriginal roads in Newtown.
Broadway comes to an end at Queens Boulevard, where travelers can travel on it west to the Queensboro Bridge or east and south to Jamaica; or, perhaps, straight ahead on Grand Avenue to Maspeth and Williamsburg.