UNTIL mid-century, mid-Queens was still rather sparsely settled and was a place of wide open spaces. This photo from 1947 shows Kissena Boulevard looking south from Rose Avenue at the western edge of Kissena Park. If you use your imagination when looking at this modern-day view, things have not really changed all that much. Kissena Park is still on the left side of the picture, but relatively new housing is on the right, or west, side of the road, which has been widened somewhat over the years.
Kissena Boulevard evolved in the 19th Century from a rural route, Jamaica Road, that connected Queens’ two largest towns, Flushing and Jamaica , but ran through rural farms and fields to do so. Presently, the route runs past flocks of high-rise apartment houses but also the open fields of Kissena Park and the fairly expansive Queens College campus, which still contains a number of buildings left over from when it was the grounds of the Parental Home. Kissena Park lies on the former plant nursery grounds of Samuel Bowne Parsons, and does, in fact, contain the last remnants of their plant businesses. A natural body of water fed by springs connecting to the Flushing River was named Kissena by Parsons, and is likely the only Chippewa (a Michigan tribe) place name in New York State. Parsons, a native American enthusiast, used the Chippewa term for “cool water” or simply “it is cold.”
If you jumped in the H.G. Wells time machine again and moved back another 70 years, you would have seen a railroad and steam engines. In the early 1870s, Scottish immigrant and department store magnate Alexander T. Stewart purchased plots of land from local farmers and built the Central Railroad of Long Island as a means to connect western Queens with a new development of his, Garden City.
The railroad was a financial failure and survived for just a few years, yet the railroad, built over 140 years ago, still survives…after a fashion… as Kissena Corridor Park, which matches its fate with that of the High Line on the west side of Manhattan.
For much more on Kissena Boulevard, FNY has you covered.
As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.
There’s one patch of residences between 151street and Kissena Boulevard, between Peck Avenue and 56th Avenue that seems to be carved out of Kissena Park. Wonder how that community came to be with park on all sides.
It may have been the opposite, the houses first the park later. There’s a group of houses showing in the 1926 Belcher Hyde map on 151st and 152nd. Below that was the bed of Mill Creek a tributary of Flushing Creek that ran to a mill at Kessina Lake. The houses may have ben built on the most stable ground at the time.
Hi Kevin. The “Central Railroad of Long Island” link seems to be misdirected.
I lived just off Kissena, at the corner of Union St. and Franklin Ave., between 1973 and 1978. My wife and I had our first child there, so we frequently pushed the baby carriage along Kissena Blvd. with our son. By then the area in the photo was very built up and Kissena Corridor Park was developed beyond the unimproved state that existed in 1947. A major bus route, Q25/34, operated through the area connecting College Point. Flushing, and Jamaica. It was known as “the Orange Bus” because its operator, Queens Transit Corp., painted its vehicles in an orange and white livery, almost like a Creamsicle. Queens Transit’s routes became part of MTA Bus Company in 2005.