THE ANDREW JACKSON, Jackson Heights

by Kevin Walsh

If you stopped a Jackson Heights resident on the street and asked them which “Jackson” Jackson Heights is named for, if they had any guess at all they would probably say 7th President Andrew Jackson, “Old Hickory,” the War of 1812 hero general, whose Presidency is now under scrutiny because of his support for slavery and treatment of Native Americans. As a matter of fact the late Parks Commissioner Henry Stern named a park at the west end of Jackson Avenue “Old Hickory Playground.”

The owners of the large apartment building at 35-20 Leverich Street also bought into the Andrew Jackson theory, lending his name to it. However, Andrew Jackson has nothing to do with Jackson Heights.

Jackson Heights is a large neighborhood as they go in Queens, running from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway east to the Grand Central Parkway, which also forms its northern border, to Roosevelt Avenue and its #7 train on the south. The main drag bisecting it is Northern Boulevard, which, west of Queens Plaza at the Sunnyside Yards, is called Jackson Avenue southwest to Vernon Boulevard.

The story of Jackson Avenue begins in 1857, when John C. Jackson formed the Hunter’s Point, Newtown and Flushing Turnpike Company to lay out a new road connecting the 34th Street Ferry across Trains Meadow (now Jackson Heights) to Flushing Bay. The turnpike was complete by 1859, and toll gates, fences and mile markers were placed at intervals: the only road in Queens so marked. Ocean Parkway, constructed in Brooklyn by Olmsted and Vaux during the same period, also featured milestones. From the start, it was called Jackson Avenue.

When NYC annexed the western part of Queens County in 1898, it took over the Jackson road and eliminated the tolls, and by 1920, the road east of Queens Plaza was renamed Northern Boulevard. Under a variety of names, and as NY 25A, it now extends out to Orient Point on the North Fork of Long Island.

In a borough largely ignored by NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the magnificent garden apartments of Jackson Heights are a happy exception. Today’s Jackson Heights is a neighborhood of handsome six-story co-operative apartments, most of which surround a central garden. They appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, beginning in 1914 when the entire area was not much more than a swampy meadow. The Queensboro Corporation and developer Edward MacDougall built now-landmarked housing along today’s 82nd Street, and named it for Jackson Avenue, whose name was changed to Northern Boulevard east of Queens Plaza in about 1920.

Leverich family cemetery

Meanwhile, Leverich Street was named for William Leverich, who emigrated to Newtown in 1663 from England. He built his homestead in 1670 and it stood until 1909. The Leverich family burying grounds are still in place, accessible from an alley on 35th Avenue. No tombstones remain.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

8/17/20

8 comments

Angelina Petrovic August 17, 2020 - 6:05 pm

Interesting- I wonder if a plaque could be erected remembering the deceased buried there. The Leverich family members deserve respect and some thing to appreciate their lives. The Good Cemetarians of Tampa, FL clean gravestones of Veterans and their project has been awarded in Washington D.C. (thegoodcemetarian.org)Since no stones are visible for these souls, a plaque would be wonderful.

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Peter August 17, 2020 - 6:08 pm

“When NYC annexed the western part of Queens County in 1898, it took over the Jackson road and eliminated the tolls”

You can be sure THAT would never happen today.

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Andy August 18, 2020 - 10:56 pm

The addition of “Heights” to Jackson’s name to replace Trains Meadow was an attempt by the Queensboro Corporation to market Jackson Heights as an upscale community. There are some small hills in the area, such as along Northern Boulevard from 76th to 83rd Street, but the neighborhood does not have high slopes like Washington Heights. Ads for Jackson Height homes and apartments noted that “social and business references were required.” In the vernacular of the time, that meant that Jews and other minorities were not welcome to live in Jackson Heights. The diversity of today’s Jackson Heights would certainly be shocking to the early residents of that community.
The IRT’s Queensboro subway line, today’s #7, was most responsible for the development of Jackson Heights after World War I. It opened in 1917. In additional, Jackson Heights achieved a bit of additional panache when the Fifth Avenue Coach Company created a new route to connect Manhattan and Jackson Heights in 1925. The route was aimed partly at female shoppers who could avoid crowds and standing on trains while carrying packages. Fifth Avenue buses charged ten cents, versus the five cent subway fare, and did not permit standees. The bus route is still running today, as the #Q32 line, without a premium fare.

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Susan Taylor August 21, 2020 - 8:51 am

Andy, you are so right about the restrictions for Jews and other minorities. My family moved to Jackson Heights in the the 1920’s. My grandfather built a beautiful 2 story brick house on 78th St, off of Roosevelt Ave. My mom and uncles grew up there after moving from Manhattan to the “suburbs”. After WWII my parents moved into the same house with my grandparents, who added an extension onto the house so both families could live there. I grew up in that house until I married. I then moved to the Berkley apartments where I lived until 1991. My mom’s cousin and her husband tried to purchase an apartment in the Queensborough Corporation buildings, and were told “they would not be comfortable there”. The word Jewish was never mentioned, but certainly implied. This happened in the 1970’s, so just know that the prejudice still existed back then and probably still does.

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David DiMattina August 19, 2020 - 9:16 am

Yet Vaux Street was allowed to be fenced in and blocked off to traffic by a private business. Its a shame Vaux and Olmstead are so forgotten and disrespected.

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Bob Marshall August 19, 2020 - 2:06 pm

I delivered newspapers in that area in the late 40’s

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Andy August 22, 2020 - 10:05 am

One additional piece of information about the Jackson Heights should be mentioned. When the neighborhood was being developed around World War I, the comprehensive all-Queens street system was not yet implemented, so an earlier set of street numbers unique to Woodside and Jackson Heights was used. 82nd Street, for example, was originally 25th Street. By 1930, the current street numbers had been adapted.
Look at the two BMT subway maps attached here. On the 1924 map, linked below, today’s 82nd St. Station is called “25th St.-Jackson Hts.”
https://s3.amazonaws.com/nycsubway.org/images/maps/bmt_1924.pdf
On the 1931 map, linked below, the station is now the current 82nd St. moniker.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/nycsubway.org/images/maps/bmt_1931.pdf
Maps are from http://www.nycsubway.org. Note that the BMT and IRT both operated joint services on the Flushing (#7) line and Astoria Line between 1923 and 1949, as stipulated in the original Dual Contracts agreements that financed the building of the Flushing and Astoria elevated routes.

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Miggie Warms August 22, 2020 - 12:47 pm

I always thought that the Jackson for whom Jackson Avenue was named was the owner of a large plot of land called Jackson Farm, which had comprised a large portion of the neighborhood (as it exists now or the portion around Jackson Avenue – now called “Northern Boulevard” except for a short stretch in Long Island City.) I never thought it had anything to do with President Andrew Jackson.)

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