Established in 1909 as America's earliest planned garden community, Tudor and Arts & Crafts homes on winding streets featuring lush landscapes add up to a predominant preservation success story, thanks to restrictive covenants administered by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation.
Principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury and urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. would generally be content, despite the few features that have vanished.
On Village Green, situated along Greenway Terrace, one comes upon a pea gravel pedestal with four holes. Affixed to the top was once the “Sun Dial.” The pathways which extend from the pedestal are symbolic of the sun’s rays providing contrast from the lawn.
Back in 1915, it was boasted by The Newtown Register as “a very attractive feature which was depended upon as giving the correct time when the sun shines.”
Olivia Park offers a most intimate setting, but a tranquil and functional feature once known as the Fountain of Piping Pan has long vanished. In 1915, The Sun published, “The presiding genius of the fountain is a small nude boy in plaster playing a pipe and the water tumbles over the stones at his feet down into a miniature lake, where the birds may disport themselves as in one of nature’s own sylvan retreats.”
On July 4, 1915, with a local branch of the Audubon Society on scene, the fountain, designed by Beatrix Forbes-Robinson Hale, was dedicated to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who was kindly regarded for her passion to birds.
Also part of her acclaim was her establishment of the Russell Sage Foundation, which sought to improve the social and living conditions in the United States.
Her vision was realized as this park often served as a natural amphitheater, where Irmgard, Baroness von Rottenthal performed interpretative dances at the ceremony to the sounds of Grieg and Tchaikovsky.
At 8 Greenway Terrace stands an Old English single-story Forest Hills Flower Shop with an adjoining greenhouse that opened in the 1920s as florist and landscape contractors, but shuttered around 1998.
“The florist John J. Loguercio ran the shop for many years, and would employ some of the local teens as delivery boys, including one that became an M.D. Andre, who now owns Forest Hills Flowers & Blossoms on Metropolitan Avenue, began working for John,” recalled Forest Hills native Maria Swanson.
“It was a beautiful spot with climbing roses and window displays,” added Kew Gardens resident Eileen Mahoney, who was raised at 14 Greenway Terrace. “Everyone in the neighborhood had him provide flowers for their weddings. Neighborhood Christmas trees and wreathes were purchased there.”
“It saddens me that some of these unique features have disappeared,” said Swanson, who recalled concrete slabs in front of the Forest Hills Inn, which consisted of Forest Hills’ Celebrity Walk.
On site were entertainers’ handprints and footprints. They included Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr. and likely Buddy Hackett, The Beatles, The Marx Bros, Betty Davis, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne.
“They were possibly removed in the late 1970s,” she continued.
Former Forest Hills resident Steven Grimando was on scene at the time the slabs were salvaged during a construction project.
“They were framed in wood and placed on dollies, two at a time,” he said. “Under the Forest Hills Inn, there’s a ramp with doors, and the slabs were then placed deep within a series of catacombs.”
As the Inn was a center of a classy social life prior to its residential conversion in 1967, the Tea Garden, nestled behind the Inn was in full swing. Opened in 1912, it was once the site of afternoon teas, weddings, dances, and productions by The Gardens Players that took inspiration from the natural setting.
Guests would dine to the Inn Trio’s performance of Nevin’s “A Day in Venice” and Dvorak’s “Humoresque.” Today, behind an ornate gate on Greenway Terrace stands majestic trees and a defunct central brick fountain, but the cascading wall fountain has vanished. Now plans are underway to restore the Tea Garden.
On a stroll among forgotten spots, locals can stop at presumably the last pea gravel mailbox post on Ascan Avenue and Greenway South, which bears a 1938 inscription. The mounted miniature mailbox is long gone, but to its right is a more familiar 1950s-era blue mailbox.
And a couple of concrete eagles have mysteriously gone missing from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which was designed as America’s first tennis stadium in 1923 by architect Kenneth Murchison and built by The Foundation Company.
Bea Hunt, former vice president of the West Side Tennis Club, noticed the pair in photos through the 1950s, but then examined a Rolling Stones concert photo marked July 2, 1966, where the eagles were missing.
“Today there are 11 concrete eagles at the upper façade overlooking the amphitheater, but originally an eagle stood on each pedestal at the lower ends of the horseshoe,” she said.