The Tea Garden may not be familiar to the current generation, but the charming spot nestled behind the Forest Hills Inn and Jade Eatery & Lounge at 1 Station Square will make a comeback as early as later this year.
Passersby last week witnessed the filming of Fidelio, a film about the life of director Stanley Kubrick. The abandoned Tudor-style garden was resurrected as a scene from 1957 Munich. The Kubrick film, Paths of Glory, was filmed in Bavaria, which is where Kubrick met the love of his life, Christiane Harlan.
Between the Tea Garden’s century-old trees and in front of a sign that read “Hofbrauhaus Munchen,” couples socialized, toasted, and danced the waltz. Nineteen year-old actor and songwriter, Elijah Vance played a German actor in the carnival, and stated,
“The Tea Garden made me feel as if I was in 1920s Germany,” said 19-year-old actor Elijah Vance.
Prior to filming, the Tea Garden was weeded, and cracked and missing flagstone tiles were replaced. Red-and-yellow potted Mums graced the perimeter of the defunct brick fountain, which was embellished with a multi-level traditional stone fountain.
Tree pits were also outlined with flowers and mulch. Blue-and-white balloons and wooden barrels contributed to the scene’s authenticity.
Local residents got a taste of the Forest Hills space that once hosted festive gatherings prior to the 1960s, and began to recognize the Tea Garden’s potential for a creative reuse project.
The Tea Garden dates to the opening of the Forest Hills Inn in 1912. The July 12, 1924, edition of The Forest Hills Bulletin read, “The Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn is a veritable fairyland, when lighted with Japanese lanterns, with the trickling fountain heard in the background, and a new moon shining overhead. There is no more delightful place in Greater New York for one to spend the dinner hour.”
For the past seven years, Jade Eatery & Lounge has held a lease at the Forest Hills Inn, and their party room overlooks the Tea Garden. Manager Raymond Taylor, who maintains a collection of Forest Hills memorabilia, has long been a proponent of an authentic restoration of the abandoned space.
The garden likely fell into disrepair when the Inn underwent a residential conversion in the late 1960s. Early features such as the cascading fountain and pool have vanished. A pergola that replaced a more traditional model is now dotted with rust.
“Fidelio’s filming is a great way to break the ice and show the community that progress is about to begin,” Taylor said. “We will be making a large investment to completely restore the Tea Garden to its original appearance with the proper materials, since it has to be done right the first time.”
Scaffolding is now being erected behind the Forest Hills Inn to restore the terra-cotta roof tiles. Upon completion this fall, Jade will work with their architect and contractors, who conducted restoration work throughout the Forest Hills Gardens.
“Some of our grandparents were married here, and we’ll bring that back,” said Taylor. “We’re also open for negotiations with the Inn and our neighbors for using it as a private community space.”
Some neighbors are worried that the Garden would be poorly monitored, but Taylor assured the community that they will not be excluded from future plans.
“Residents of 20 Continental Avenue sat in on the film shoot, since I wanted them to have a face and voice in the process,” he said.
Luicina Gaiser’s parents, Frederic Harry Gais,er III and Julianne McCaffrey, were married on August 31, 1963, at Our Lady of Mercy Church. A grand reception followed at the Tea Garden.
“To me as a child, and even still, it was a lost garden or dreamland,” she said. “There is a quiet peace and serenity that breathes life in this garden that can't be stifled by having been forgotten. My only hope is that the restoration be done with great care.”