Today my idea was to walk from Jamaica Estates, one of two ritzy (or mostly ritzy, in comparison to where I’ve lived) areas in northern Jamaica, all the way home to Little Neck. When I was bicycling all over Queens between about 1993 and 2007 (I have recently gotten back into bicycling) I passed through Jamaica Estates a few times, and its partner neighborhood to the east, Holliswood, a very few times: I saw little of Jamaica Estates because I found it relatively uninteresting: I was seeking grittier fare as far as explorations went at the time, and I rarely went into Holliswood because it’s unmercifully hilly. Since I do most urban exploring on foot these days, I no longer have to be really concerned about not being able to tackle steep hills on a bike, which I couldn’t do even when much younger. Thus, Jamaica Hills and Holliswood are more attainable for me on foot than they ever were when I was on a bike!
As you can see from my map I did not follow a route “as the crow flies” but one that I knew would be more interesting based on previous trips. That’s usually my method, in any case.
The 179th Street entrances/exits have protective canopies bove the staircases. The MTA has recently returned to this feature in new station reconstructions on the R train 4th Avenue Line stations that have been recently rebuilt.
In my car-free life, attaining the end of the F train at 179th and Hillside, the entrance to Jamaica Estates, is a little problematical especially on the weekends. On this particular Saturday I had to:
–LIRR to Woodside.
–Take #7 east to Junction Boulevard. (no local eastbound service)
–Take #7 in reverse, back to 74th Street. As a courtesy, if the MTA is doing trackwork on the local tracks, they will route the train to the local 74th Street anyway for its transfer to the buses and the Queens Boulevard IND. Not this weekend, though, since the 74th Street platforms themselves are being worked on.
–No express eastbound service on the Queens Boulevard Line, so the E, F and R are running local on the same track. Mr. Loser, of course, duly waited for an E and then an R to arrive before the F. This wait was approximately 15 minutes.
–Local stops all the way out to 179th.
I have to tell you, 179th Street is among the blandest, most uninteresting stations in the system from a design standpoint. Endless corridors of wall and walkway titles. The lengthy corridor, which connects the concourse with the Midland Parkway exit, is typical of IND design which extended from 1932 to 1950, when this station was built.
179th Street concourse. Most F train stations running along Hillside Avenue up to 169th Street opened in April 1937. After that World War II acted as a vacuum cleaner for local and national resources, but after the war, the newly unified NYC Transit Authority opened 179th Street in December 1950; the next new station, Grand Street serving 6th Avenue Line trains entering/exiting the Manhattan Bridge, opened in November 1967. (I’m not counting the stations on the Rockaway Peninsula that became part of TA operations in 1956-1958, though the Mott Ave terminal, opening in the latter year, can be considered new.)
There were plans to extend what would be called the Hillside Avenue Line out to Little Neck Parkway and indeed, both Little Neck Parkway and Hillside Avenue at Braddock were given extra traffic lanes that would accommodate buses and cars that would be coming into the area had a subway been built to those far-flung locales. But the subway never expanded that far.
One of the only hints of decor at this station are interlocking bands of orange and blue (New York Mets colors?) on the tiled walls. As archived photos in NYC Subways show, there used to be a “regular” blue or purple color band with a black border, typical of IND design. The new color bands were added during a 1990s renovation.
Because subway train cars are “parked” here on weekends these decorative elements are only seen from the extreme west end of the station.
A trained eye is necessary to notice, but semi-decorative IND grillwork can be seen in the corridor.
Houses on the south side of Hillside Avenue at Midland Parkway. The area features a wide ethic mix that supports both a Caribbean roti vendor and a few doors down, the Radhi Sari Bazaar.
Ascending into the sunlight I was met by the handsome entrance gate to Jamaica Estates on Midland Parkway and Hillside Avenue. A World War II memorial of JE residents is directly beneath it.
Jamaica Estates, built on the northern edge of the former Town of Jamaica in the 1905-1907 period, occupies about 500 acres between Home Lawn Street, Hillside Avenue, 188th Street and Union Turnpike. In the 1930s, it was neatly cut into two sections by the construction of the Grand Central Parkway right through it. When construction, consisting initially of Tudor-style homes on large plots (as large as 60’x105′), began Jamaica Estates was surrounded by open farms and fields, dotted by small towns and connected by wagon and farm-to-market roads, many of which developed into the pedal-to-the-metal boulevards we know today.
The project was conceived by former NYS lieutenant governor Timothy Woodruff and railroad builder Michael Degnon, who, among many other projects, constructed the Steinway Tunnels which today connect the #7 train with Manhattan and Queens. In Forgotten NY, Degnon is a familiar figure, mentioned on my Queens railroad spurs page; and, don’t miss Sam Berliner’s exhaustively comprehensive page on Sunnyside’s Degnon Terminal. Degnon is in repose at Calvary Cemetery.
Map of northern Jamaica Estates, 1909. Today, St. John’s University occupies the left side of the map west of Fresh Meadow Lane, which has evolved into Utopia Parkway. Otherwise the overall street plan is still in place, with bending roads lined by trees. Only one or two homes initially occupied the wide spaces between streets. The dotted line on the bottom is the old Flushing-Jamaica town line; the Grand Central Parkway runs on it today. On the right is Brushville Road, today’s 188th Street.
Southern Jamaica Estates, 1909. Once again the overall layout is in place and most of the streets, named to give an association with Britain as was done in many planned communities like Forest Hills Gardens and Prospect Park South, have kept those names today. On top, Doncaster Boulevard was eliminated by the GCP.
Note notation: “Res. of M.J. Degnon.”
Degnon’s estate between Midland Parkway and Edgerton Boulevard at Wexford Terrace was acquired in 1923 by the Passionists, a Roman Catholic religious institute founded in 1725, to build a large retreat house; retreats are periods of religious study and reflection. “The Passionists serve as preachers, retreat givers, pastors, educators and in many other ministries in the Church.” [The Passionists]. Degnon’s estate house stood until 1950 when it was demolished when the retreat house was expanded. The property also includes a parish church attended by area residents.
Degnon, a devout Catholic himself, constructed Jamaica Estates’ sewer and utilities systems and laid out its street pattern.
The Mary Louis Academy, Wexford terrace west of Edgerton, is a private Catholic college prep school for young women founded in 1936 by Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and their Mother Superior Mary Louis, who personally selected the hilltop venue for the school. Nuns teaching at the academy reside in the Spanish Colonial building on Edgerton Boulevard to the rear of the school.
Unfortunately Jamaica Estates is not a Landmarked district. As a result, you have situations like this on either side of Wexford Terrace and Midland Parkway, a classic turreted Tudor on one side, and some ugly residential objects on the other.
Another spacious Tudor on a wide plot on Edgerton Boulevard and Dalny Road, since 1987 the home of Arunachala Ashrama, dedicated to the teachings of the Buddhist Sri Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat. An ashram is the Buddhist equivalent of a Christian retreat, a place devoted to reflection and study.
If you enjoy Tudor style architecture, Jamaica Estates is a neighborhood for you to walk through. After several on Edgerton, here’s another excellent example on Dalny Rd and Wareham Place.
This mansion, large even by Jamaica Estates standards, at Midland Parkway and Henley Road was the residence of developer Frederick Christ (pronounced “krist”) Trump from 1951 until his death in 1999. Fred Trump (1905-1999) began building middle-class houses in Queens during the 1920s and built Trump Market at Jamaica Avenue and 78th Avenue in the 1930s; he sold it to King Kullen shortly after he opened it, and there is still a supermarket on the site, which is marked by a plaque placed there by the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society. Trump Village, the project for which he is best known in Coney Island, was constructed in 1963. He married Mary McLeod in 1936 and had four children, Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald, Robert and Fred Jr., who passed away in 1981. One of his many philanthropic efforts helped fund a pavilion in Jamaica Hospital that bears Fred and Mary Trump’s names.
Directly to the rear of Fred Trump’s Midland Parkway mansion is his original Jamaica Estates residence on Wareham Place south of Henley, in which he and his family lived for four years in the late 1940s before the larger house was constructed.
A nice pair on Croydon Road. The DOT’s sign replacement program has not yet come to Jamaica Estates east of Edgerton Boulevard, despite the presence of many sun-faded signs. Croydon, originally, is a London, UK borough.
I was drawn to Charlecote Ridge and its collection of Tudors. It’s the only street in NYC titled “Ridge” even though it’s not on an especially high hill. The street is named for England’s Charlecote Park, a preserve near Stratford-on-Avon, the hometown of William Shakespeare. The name always reminds me of “chocolate” or even “chalicothere,” a large extinct mammal from the Pleistocene Era.
The arch bridge on Homelawn Street and the Grand Central Parkway serves as a portal in or out of the north and south sections of Jamaica Estates. The GCP was constructed from 1931 to 1936 and runs from the Triboro Bridge east, south and east again to the Nassau County line, where it changes its name to the Northern State Parkway. The 1930s were not too late for parkway and expressway builders like Robert Moses to place decorative elements on their roads and so, the GCP features several decorative archways taking it over local streets in its elevated sections.
One aspect of Queens has always been a sticking point for someone with (mild!) OCD, like me. If you’re traveling north, you’re on Homelawn Street when you pass under the Grand Central Parkway, but you’re on Utopia Parkway when you come out the other side! Where is the line that divides the two routes? To me, that line should be either the north or south service roads, but to the city, the unmarked line is directly under the center of the overpass.
Another route a few miles to the east behaves the same way: when Bell Boulevard passes under the GCP, it becomes Spencer Avenue. However, there’s a dead end section of Spencer Avenue just past the parkway. The Department of Transportation places no signs that indicate precisely where Bell Boulevard ends and Spencer Avenue begins.
And that bugs me. Just a little…
Utopia Parkway is a major north-south Queens route, running from the East River in Whitestone south to Grand Central Parkway in Jamaica Estates, where it becomes Homelawn Street. It’s named for a real estate development that never panned out, and overlays part of an older route, Fresh Meadow Lane.
The Utopia Land Company planned to construct an expansive cooperative community for Jewish residents of the Lower East Side on fifty acres of land east of 164th Street between the communities of Jamaica and Flushing. The land was obtained for development in 1905, at which time the company acquired a $9,000 mortgage to grade streets and divide the land into lots.
When the Utopia Land Company found itself unable to secure additional funding, the project was swiftly abandoned. While the dream of the development faded, the project’s name was remembered, providing a name for Utopia Parkway… NYC Parks
At Utopia Parkway and Kildare Road, one of the tallest stacks of stoplights I’ve seen. When I was a kid, i was disappointed to see that in scenarios like this, the extra lights weren’t different colors, like blue or orange, not realizing some control the main road, others the turn lane.
The main entrance to St. John’s University is at Utopia and Kildare, and traffic can no doubt get bust at times during the week. Normally, I’d go into a spiel about the SJU campus and its history in Queens, but last year, FNY correspondent Sergey Kadinsky did just that.
Despite what Adrienne Onofri assures us in Walking Queens that you can simply stroll onto the SJU campus and start waving a camera, I have never tried it (though I have stumbled around the Queensboro College campus a few miles west.
I expect to hear the familiar “can I help you?” that a black-jacketed unshaven webmaster will often experience when entering places where he shouldn’t be.
Remember, Jamaica Estates was never given LPC protection. This house at 81-23 Utopia is so audacious in its aggressive Modernism, I can only chuckle and say, “good one!”
I went east on Union Turnpike. This main route evolved from a short road in Glendale called Union Avenue. As it was built east and gained length in the early 20th Century, it was renamed Union Turnpike, but it was never a traditional turnpike, e.g. a toll road in which a pike, or lengthy barrier, was turned when a toll was paid to allow through traffic.
I have much more as well as a vintage photo from 1932 on this page.
This large building on the south side of Utopia and Union Turnpike (one of the few intersections in NYC where both streets begin with “U”; another would be Union Street and Utica Avenue in Brownsville) was once home to a Barnes and Noble. I did an interesting joint appearance here a few years ago with editor Brian Berger and artist Miru Kim, when the anthology New York Calling, to which I contributed, came out.
There are some engaging sidewalk signs on Union Turnpike, like this one for a crepe shop.
Odd choice for a font on an awning sign, especially for a grocery. The font is almost the same as the one used on many editions of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, predicated on Toffler’s idea that humans are having difficulty keeping up with the sheer pace of technological change. This font is usually employed in a science or sci-fi context.
Interesting stucco exterior for an Italian trattoria, or casual restaurant, at 178th Street.
This repair shop on Union Turnpike just east of 179th is a cornucopia of signage that includes the classic former Philips logo of the Dutch electronics/healthcare/lighting company.
The Congregation Bet-El Sephardic Center of Jamaica Estates, in a private home converted into an Orthodox synagogue at 180th Street and Union Turnpike. Services are held in both Russian and Hebrew.
I’ve begun noticing mailboxes because their histories can be seen embossed on their surfaces. Both the blue ones used by the public and the olive ones used by mail carriers show their dates of installation, and some even list the manufacturer. The olive relay mailbox was made by a company called Jebco which is located in Warrenton, Georgia.
There’s a website for everything, and here’s one dedicated to Jebco mailboxes.
If you’re an infrastructure buff the information is fascinating…
Warrenton has a population of about 2,000 people. It has one real red light and one blinking red light, each on opposite ends of town from each other.
And it’s not really near anything, either. Augusta, Ga., is a good hour’s drive away, Macon and Athens are more like 90 minutes, and Atlanta is a good two hours.
But even though you’ve never heard of Warrenton, I can bet that wherever you live in the United States, there’s a little bit of Warrenton in your community.
You know those blue metal mailboxes the Postal Service has on street corners and outside buildings? The ones where you pull down the little metal handle on the flap and throw your letter inside? Think for a second about the last one you passed, either coming or going from work, or while you were out grocery shopping, or even when you walked past the Post Office yesterday…
Jebco is a manufacturing plant in Warrenton — been there since the 1950s — that basically makes things out of sheet metal. At different times, they’ve made just about everything you can imagine being made out of sheet metal, including metal cash boxes, what had to be the world’s sturdiest (and heaviest) office furniture (my parents’ house was filled with Jebco factory rejects that would likely have protected us from, say, a nuclear attack), and most recently, parts for barbecue grills.
But the thing that was Jebco’s bread and butter for many, many years were those blue mailboxes, made under contract for the U.S. Postal Service — 750,000 of them churned out in Warrenton, according to Jebco’s own online estimate.
Those 750,000 mailboxes from tiny Warrenton, Ga., are now all over America. [I Love Jebco Mailboxes]
The name of this Jamaica Estates street never fails to amuse, even though the comic sometimes did. Needless to say the name has nothing to do with Chevy Chase, the comedian. There’s also a Glen Campbell Road in Philly that has nothing to do with Glen Campbell.
Hillcrest branch, Queens Library. The name refers to a small residential area of Queens wedged between 73rd Avenue and Union Turnpike between Fresh Meadows and Jamaica Estates.
188th Street is a main north-south route in Fresh Meadows and Jamaica Estates. Between the Grand Central Parkway and Hillside Avenue, when it enjoys two-lane traffic, it is subnamed Saul Weprin Street in honor of the longtime State Assemblyman from 1971 to his death in 1994. His sons David and Mark have also entered politics serving in the State Assembly and NYC Council. David Weprin’s Jamaica Estates office can be seen in the Chevy Chase Street photo above.
After Saul Weprin’s death in 1994, it was decided that a stretch along 188th would honor him but there was an argument over whether it would be Saul Weprin Boulevard or Street. The Streeters eventually won out. The signs were installed under NYC’s former protocol for street honorifics with blue and white signs (resembling the street signs in the Bronx from 1964-1984). Modern honorifics have the honoree on the same green sign (as in Jewel Avenue/Harry Von Arsdale Jr. Avenue, making it maddeningly tough to read) or the honoree is on a separate sign, but in regulation green and white.
That’s it for now. Next time: into Fresh Meadows