Forest Hills Gardens, a ritzy community on the south side of the LIRR main line tracks roughly between Continental Avenue, Union Turnpike, the LIRR and Greenway South, was one of America’s first planned developments. It was begun in 1908 and its English green style setting is the work of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of the co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks. Its well-kept buildings are mostly in a Georgian or Tudor style, laid out along mostly narrow streets that defy the surrounding Queens grid.
In 1909 Cord Meyer, the developer of nearby Elmhurst, sold 100 acres south of the Long Island Rail Road to the Russell Sage Foundation, which commenced to piece together a nearly self-contained community, Forest Hills Gardens, from sixteen former truck farms throughout the 1910s and 1920s. Winding streets, Tudor brick buildings (many designed by Grosvenor Atterbury), and short, cast-iron streetlamps and street signs make the development completely unique in New York City. The Gardens, and the surrounding neighborhood, were called Forest Hills for nearby Forest Park.
The Gardens’ wrought iron lampposts are singular, but not quite unique to NYC — Tudor City, teh 1920s development at the east end of 42nd Street near the United Nations, employed this design as well. In Tudor City’s case, though, only one original has been retained.
This one, at Ascan Avenue and Seasongood Road, is unique in the Gardens, as it has had a fire alarm indicator lamp attached to its apex. Until a few years ago, the lamp was a large, cylindrical orange cover over an incandescent bulb, but in the last few years it has had the smaller “top hat” indicator affixed which doubles as the photocell, the device that turns on the lamp when the sun sets or it gets sufficiently dark during a storm.
Note the design, which appears on most of the lamps: a sundial flanked by two potted trees.
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