by Kevin Walsh

“Who is Cord Meyer?” I yanked the correct “question” out of my hat as the developer who renamed Newtown, at what is hoped to be the first annual “Queens Jeopardy” put on by the Woodhaven Historical Society at historic Neir’s tavern the evening of December 13, 2016.

Newtown, founded in the mid-1600s after its colonists had fled from Native American attacks further west in Maspeth — and building literally a “new town,” mocks NYC’s preservationists, who seemingly prefer to recognize only buildings and artifacts in Manhattan and prefer to lavish designations and titles on buildings in that borough while ignoring the amazing treasures in what are considered the outer boroughs. In Queens, along with Jamaica and Flushing, Newtown (renamed ‘Elmhurst’ by developer Cord Meyer in the 1890s) retains several edifices and locales that existed in the first decades after its founding.

Directly across Broadway and 51st Avenue from Old St. James Church (constructed in 1732!) 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 razed the structure in 2012, maintaining that it is too small to meet the needs of the burgeoning area population.

The Elmhurst Library Branch, located on Broadway in the “historic center” of the community, was one of 1,689 free libraries built nationwide between 1883 and 1929 with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie. The Elmhurst branch was opened to the public in 1906 as one of the first Carnegie libraries. The Georgia Revival-style building carried a $46,000 price tag and boasted turn-of-the-century architectural features such as eye windows, balustrades and cornices, most of which have been removed over the years.

The new Elmhurst Library opened in mid-2016 after a lengthy 4-year stint in “limbo” that consisted of a bookmobile in the rear of the Old St. James parking lot.

Photo taken during ForgottenTour #39 in Elmhurst in 2010, which was a joint effort with the Newtown Historical Society.


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