Ten-lane, pedal to the metal Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens … once a country lane dominated by horses and carriages? It’s true. And, the evidence is still there in plain view.
Look closely at this 1915 Hammond map of the Middle Village area of Queens, compare it to a present city map, and you will see that the course of today’s Woodhaven Boulevard was then known as Trotting Course Lane. Forest Park and St. Johns Cemetery are among the present sites that were there way back in 1915.
Undoubtedly Trotting Course Lane received its name in the 1800s when horses were the prime mode of transportation, although subway historian Joe Brennan has infomed me that Trotting Course Lane was probably so-called because it led to the Union Course, an important race course for trotting races, which was north of Atlantic Ave. between Trotting Course Lane and the “city line” of Brooklyn.
In the mid-1930s, the city changed the name of the road from Trotting Course Lane to Woodhaven Boulevard, and its character changed dramatically with the rise of the automobile. Its path was straightened and it gained additional lanes until it became the near-freeway it is today, with ten busy lanes of traffic.
But pieces of old Trotting Course Lane are still there…
On this 1998 Hagstrom map of the area I have circled the two small pieces of Trotting Course Lane that are still there. The heavy yellow line is the present Woodhaven Boulevard; Trotting Course Lane follows the original course of the old road before it was straightened and widened.
Here’s the short piece of Trotting Course Lane off Margaret Place. In the background looms Forest Park Crescent Cooperatives.
Wander a little north and you find a fenced off section. Keep going…it’s only for the cars.
You stumble on some long-unused train tracks. These are part of the Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Branch, which stopped running in 1962. In 2012, there has been some talk about reactivating the route if a convention center and casino is built in Ozone Park. But take it to the bank — NIMBYism is one of the strongest forces in NYC and such a reactivation will never take place.
But Trotting Course Lane will continue to be a reminder of the rural, bucolic nature of the Queens of 100 years ago.
5/1/1999 revised 5/24/12