79-00 Queens Boulevard
Brodsky, Hopf & Adler
In 1962, Adelson Industries announced the purchase of a plot of land in Elmhurst to build an
ambitious $2 million project: the Pan American Motor Inn. Upon opening, the seven- story luxury hotel had 216 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a health club and, a dining facility for 250 people. Its location was strategic, as it was the nearest major hotel facility to the planned 1964 New York World’s Fair and Shea Stadium, which alos openned in 1964. Designed by New York City architectural firm Brodsky, Hopf and Adler, it received critical praise, including an award from the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1963.
Adelson Industries’s initial plan for the Pan American Motor Inn was for it to be the first of a chain along the Eastern Seaboard, but the motel never achieved superstar status in Queens as they had hoped. After a succession of buyers, it never made a profit. In 2014, the city turned it into a homeless shelter, just like its former competitor down the block, once called the Mets Motel and later the Metro Motel.
1735, addition built in 1772
Built in 1735 at what became the southwest corner of 51st Avenue and Broadway, St. James Church is the oldest surviving building in Elmhurst, and the City’s second oldest religious building that is still standing. Chartered by King George III, it is a remarkable Colonial-era mission church that still retains its early 18th-century rectangular box-like form, wood shingle siding, round-arched windows, and heavy timber framing. In 1772, the building was lengthened and the main entry moved from the south side to the Broadway façade.
Prominent citizens associated with the parish included the Reverend Benjamin Moore, a president of Kings College (later Columbia College), and the Reverend Samuel Seabury, Jr., the first American Episcopal Bishop. It was also a place of worship for British officers and men during the Revolution.
In 1848, after a period of growth, the parish built a larger church a block away and Old Saint James Church became a chapel and later a parish hall. It was renovated and altered over the years, until 2004 when it was restored to its late 19th-century appearance. Old St. James Church is a NYC Individual Landmark and listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
1832, main building – 1858 Fellowship Hall
Founded by Dutch settlers, the original building for this church was a small, octagonal wooden structure with a high-pitched roof, constructed in 1731. It was in use for almost one hundred years, and served as an armory for the British during the Revolutionary War. Demolished in 1831, it was replaced by the present Georgian-style sanctuary in 1832, incorporating the cornerstone of the preceding church into the new one’s foundation. The bell tower contains the bell from the original 1731 church building. The Greek Revival-style Fellowship Hall was built in 1858. Originally located closer to the street, it was moved in 1906 to line up with the church building and connected to it by a covered passageway. In 1954, a small wing was added to the rear of the Fellowship Hall to house offices and classrooms. The flat roofed porch on the church and the columned portico on the Fellowship Hall were both added after the original construction, although the exact dates are not known. Adjoining the Church building to the north is a small cemetery filled with simple tombstones dating from the early years of the church’s history. The Reformed Church of Elmhurst is a NYC Individual Landmark and listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
87-04 to 87-20 Elmhurst Avenue, 1912
Judge Street, 1904
Corner of Hampton St. and 43rd Avenue, 1897
Cord Meyer Development Company
Throughout the 20th century, the Cord Meyer Development Company played a significant role in Queens development. Led by Cord Meyer Jr., the Meyer brothers originally focused development in Elmhurst in 1893, when they purchased a farm in Newtown from Samuel Lord, co- founder of Lord & Taylor. They renamed the area Elmhurst, laid out subdivisions and streets, installed sewers and established trolley connections.
Some of Cord Meyer’s developments still survive in Elmhurst, like a row of Colonial houses with distinctive green terra-cotta tile roofs built in 1912 on the south side of Elmhurst Avenue, between Hampton and Ithaca Streets, and a group of brick English-style townhouses built in 1904 on Judge Street, between Whitney and Elmhurst Avenues.
Besides resdiential construction, Meyer also developed commercial properties for residents. The first storefront opened in 1897, and one original Meyer-built shop remains extant at the corner of Hampton Street and 43rd Avenue.
By the late 1920s, there was a shift in constrcution from the single-family row house to five and six story apartment buildings in Elmhurst. The Cord Meyer Company responded to this trend by building, in 1928, the Hasting Court Apartments (40-40 Elbertson St) and Alida Court (87-15 Britton Ave).
Named after the construction company that initially developed the neighborhood, Rego Park is an enclave of art deco architecture that dates back to 1925. As the neighborhood houses a great number of historic buildings, Michael Perlman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council is working to preserve the area’s rich history through conducting research and interviews, as well as mapping out potential historic districts. As the area is considerably underserved by preservation protections, this group is campaigning to gain landmark designations for a number of sites.
78-03 19th Road
The oldest building in New York City still used as a private residence, this Dutch Colonial Farmhouse was built circa 1729 by Abraham Lent, grandson of Abraham Riker, using local stone and roughhewn timber. The locally prominent Riker family was the namesake of nearby Rikers Island. The property contains a small cemetery containing the graves of family members, as well as that of Williams James MacNeven, an Irish patriot and pioneering physician who had stayed with the Riker family before his death. Portions of the farmhouse were damaged by fire in 1955, but the property was fully restored by the current owner Marion Duckworth Smith and her late husband, Michael Smith.The Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead is an Individual Landmark and listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
104-04 Ditmars Boulevard
This approximately 1,000-ton boulder, a neighborhood icon, currently sits in the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel’s parking lot, but was once surrounded by empty land. It was a popular playing ground for children and inspired such affection that neighbors have rallied against its removal on multiple occasions. The Giant Rock was brought to its present location (probably from southern Westchester) by an ice sheet approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.
75-20 Astoria Boulevard
Alexander D. Crossett & Associates, Aymar Embury II consulting architect
This 400,000-square-foot complex was built to house offices, state-of-the-art laboratories (occupied by 140 research scientists), extensive manufacturing facilities (staffed by 2,000 workers), a 500-car parking garage and a public recreation field. Founded in 1875 as the J. Bulova Company, the firm achieved fame both for its innovative timepiece designs and marketing campaigns. In the 1920s it produced some of the earliest radio advertisements, and in 1941 aired what is considered the first television commercial. Bulova also affiliated itself with the burgeoning aerospace industry, offering Charles Lindbergh a prize for his pioneering trans-Atlantic flight and sending watches to the Moon with NASA astronauts. Inspired by the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, DC, this limestone-clad building’s style is a bit old fashioned for its time of construction. Its Stripped Classical design more closely resembles buildings from the 1930s, such as the New York City Building from the 1939 World’s Fair, also designed by Embury. Nevertheless, it won the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Building Award in 1953.
23-11 97th Street, Malcolm X Place
Malcolm X, civil rights leader and former figurehead of the Nation of Islam, lived in this bungalow with his family from 1959 to 1965. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, by the 1940s he was living in Boston, where he was arrested for robbery and sent to prison. During his incarceration, Little was introduced to the religious and political movement known as the Nation of Islam (NOI), and corresponded regularly with its leader Elijah Muhammad. Before his release in 1952, Malcolm joined the NOI and changed his name to “Malcolm X”. In 1960, Malcolm established Nation of Islam Temple 7B at 105-01 Northern Boulevard, just blocks from the original Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center. It is now the Masjid Nuriddin & Clara Muhammad School. In March of 1964, Malcolm X publicly announced his break from the NOI, and in April, flew to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at the start of his Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). He thereafter became known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. Upon his return he expressed that seeing Muslims of all races and backgrounds interacting as equals led him to see Islam as a means by which racial problems could be overcome. After his break with the organization, the NOI began eviction proceedings to remove Malcolm X and his family from the house on 97th Street, although Malcolm Little was the signature on the deed. On February 14, 1965, the home was set ablaze by Molotov cocktails. The family escaped the fire and was given refuge by neighborhood residents. One week later, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm was assassinated while making a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Malcolm X’s presence is still felt in the community and he is a revered local figure. In 2005, the street in front of the house was renamed Malcolm X Place.