Having moved to Flushing in 1993 I have witnessed, to my continuing disgust, the demolition of what was formerly Flushing’s great east-west residential thoroughfare, Sanford Avenue; year by year, more and more of its charming 19th and early 20th Century structures falls victim to overdevelopers’ relentless thirst for multi-family dwellings that, since they’re built on the cheap, are ugly as garbage. Even higher-end dwellings these days are built to offend everyone but their owners, who are blind to what they are perpetraing on the landscape. Just a little of old Sanford remains – I tried to capture a couple classic building before they, too, succumb.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Sanford Avenue between 149th Place and 150th Street. The church was founded in 1894 as a parochial mission of St. George’s Church on Main Street, with the construction of the first church on this site completed in 1899. After the first church burned down in a fire in November 1924, the handsome ashlar-walled church seen today was completed in 1926 with stones taken from the Church of Heavenly Rest in Manhattan.
A look at St. John’s front entrance, and a memorial dedicated June 6, 1925 to a Lydia Lee Lawrence Eccles, who was likely the wife of, or was related to, St. John’s first rector, Rev. George W. Eccles. Lydia was a member of the Lawrences, a prominent colonial-era family prominent in Queens landholding and politics. Two private Lawrence family cemeteries remain, one on 20th Road in northern Astoria and another on 216th Street by the railroad tracks in Bayside.
The Eccles family at one time owned the so-called Kabriski Mansion (named for a latterday owner) on Ash Avenue between 147th and 149th Streets.
The mansion, probably built in the late 1840s, dates back to eastern Flushing’s development as a bedroom community as the Long Island Rail Road was extended east. At the time Flushing was still dominated by the horticultural industry and the land was owned mostly by the Samuel Parsons family and by Nathan Sanford, the Chancellor of New York State. Sanford Avenue was developed in the 1830s-1870s with grand mansions and estates, some of which were summer-only. Charles Pearl built the Italianate house on a 5-acre tract facing today’s Sanford Avenue and 149th Street.
Beginning in the 1880s Flushing began to be more greatly populated, and by the 1910s the mansionís then-owner, the Reverend George Eccles, sold off much of the 5-acre property and moved the house approximately 150 feet to its present location. The buildings developed on the sold-off property are still there for the most part, giving Ash Avenue an aura rather unlike its surrounding blocks.
On Sanford Avenue, 1909 meets 2009 as a beautiful blue and white classic with a lush front lawn holds fast against the tide. A similar building was torn down around 2000 to make way for the object at right. Plenty of concrete in front to park your cars and even more garage space on the ground floor!
Returning to St. John’s, the parish house is on the corner of Sanford and 150th Street. Notice the bluestone pavement from the curb to the front walk. This sort of thing dates back to the days when the street was not paved and dirt and mud was shaken off on the way to the house. Some streets in eastern Flushing still have a stone that carriage passengers alit on so their shoes would not touch the mud; it’s likely present-day residents have no idea why it is there.
A battered arrowhead sign at 150th is a reminder of the days when this was a major conduit to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. It can still be so employed today. As a rule, arrowheads pointed to bridges, while bullet (round) signs pointed to tunnels.
[2011: likely fell off the pole]
The Beplat Hardware sign at 150th and Roosevelt indicates its 75th anniversary sign from its founding in 1910 to 1985. It has come under new ownership since, but there has been a hardware store here for 99 years and counting as of 2009.
Meanwhile, a second arrowhead has survived on 150th just north of Northern Boulevard.
Photographed June 2009; page completed July 13, 2009