Jackson Heights, Queens

Jackson Heights is an early-20th-century neighborhood in central Queens, composed of low-rise garden apartments and houses as well as institutional and commercial buildings. It was the first and remains the largest garden-apartment community in the United States— the product of both the early 20th-century model tenement and the Garden City movements.

Jackson Heights was designated as a New York City Historic District in 1993, and an extension of those boundaries, which would meet those of the 1998 National Register Historic District, is currently being sought. This would include buildings that, due to the restrictions placed upon them by the Queensboro Corporation, possess the same quality design, materials and scale of the earliest buildings creating historic Jackson Heights.

To learn more about Jackson Heights click here

La Mesa Verde Designation Request

The La Mesa Verde Apartments were built by the Open Stairs Dwelling Company (OSDC) and designed by Henry Atterbury Smith.  The OSDC acquired the land from the Queensboro Corporation, the developer of Jackson Heights, and completed the La Mesa Verde Apartments in 1926, making them contemporary with the already designated Jackson Heights Historic District.  Smith also designed (the already designated) East River Homes (also known as the Shively Sanitary Apartments and the Cherokee Flats) in 1912.  The La Mesa Verde Apartments are similar in concept to the East River Homes.

The complex is made up of six detached buildings, connected by sky-bridges, located between 90th and 91st Streets, between 35th and 34th Avenues.  The buildings are set at an angle to the street grid, and form a saw-tooth pattern down both blocks.  They enclose a large internal garden courtyard, similar to the garden apartments built by the Queensboro Corporation.  There are no interior hallways at the La Mesa Verde; all apartments are reached directly from the open stairs.  There is only one elevator for these six-story buildings.  Tenants on higher floors ride the elevator up to the roof, then walk across the sky-bridges to their buildings, and then walk down the stairs to their apartment.

At the La Mesa Verde Smith was influenced any ancient pueblo architecture of the American Southwest.  Pueblo buildings of similar height, with their flat roofs and ladder-like stairs were his primary inspiration.  There were practical advantages to this: “Think of having your own cottage outside door, although living on the fifth or sixth floor.  Open stairs make possible elevator apartments with no smells from the basement and absolutely no stair odors from other people’s apartments.” (quote from Queensboro Magazine)

Here are some comments about the importance of these buildings from Columbia Professor Richard Plunz:

In the 1920s the work of Henry Atterbury Smith, who had pioneered an earlier generation of philanthropic housing including the open stair tenement, paralleled (Andrew) Thomas’ and (Henry) Wright’s housing research.  His work was far more exploratory, however.  In 1917 Smith set a precedent with the first theoretical work proposing that building geometry could deviate from the geometry of the New York gridiron.  He suggested that buildings did not have to be oriented along lot lines and argued that other geometries, based on purely functional considerations such as light and view, might be superimposed on the gridiron.  (page 174)

Smith’s Mesa Verde housing was more radical.  The project, which was completed in 1926, assimilated many of his ideas of the previous decade.  (page 176)

By 1926 the Mesa Verde was as radical an alternative to traditional housing as anything realized in the Netherlands and Germany  (page 180)

  1.  History of Housing in New York City,   Richard Plunz, page 174-180 (that includes original photos of the La Mesa Verde Apartments)
  2. Jackson Heights – A Garden in the City,   Daniel Karatzas  pages 79-81
  3. Robert A.M. Stern, “The New York Apartment House”  Via  Volume #4  1980  page 83
  4. Queensboro Magazine  November 1925  page 642


70–35 Broadway;
S. L. Malkind;

This six story apartment building has its primary entrance on Broadway, making it the only structure in the historic area located on that thoroughfare. Hillcrest Court is on an unusual triangular lot and features five towers, each connected by a recessed wing located in the middle of the building. Highlights include brickwork that simulates quoins and colonnaded loggias that top the Broadway towers.


73–12 35th Avenue;
Sylvan Breine;

Washington Plaza consists of seven buildings: six, six story apartment buildings and a single-story gatehouse. These Art Deco buildings are red brick and feature decorative geometric banding and round-cornered fire escapes. The most intriguing part of this apartment complex is Washington Plaza Park, designed by the architect in 1941. The .54-acre park begins behind the gatehouse, where a path divides to surround a cascading pool before leading to a separate pool at the top of the complex. Stepped paths surround each pool and are accompanied by many gardens. Some of the plantings found in the park include silver birch, flowering crabapple and white dogwood trees, rhododendrons, red and pink azalea, roses, forsythia, pink mountain laurel and hydrangea. There is also an herb garden of basil, parsley, chive, dill and rosemary.


33–11 to 33–46 and 33–12 to 33–48 70th Street;
Arthur E. Allen;

Homestead Hall consists of 19 two- and three-story attached brick garden residences. These Neo-Tudor dwellings feature multi-story slate roofs, half-timbering, stucco with brick and stone insets, and chimneys topped with pots. These houses along 70th Street evoke an intimate garden feel with the most closely spaced sidewalk trees in the area. Each residence has a patio tucked behind a deep front garden and possesses a rear garden as well.


34–30 to 34–52 75th Street;
J. Case & Peter Schreiner;

The Spanish Tower Homes include 10 three- and four-story detached tan brick houses. The first floors of these dwellings have no windows and instead feature French doors that open on to wrought-iron balconettes. Some windows on upper floors have original wood shutters, and the corner houses feature fourth-floor loggias. These houses have shared driveways with detached garages in the rear.


76–09 34th Avenue;
Joshua Tabatchnik;

Named for the former golf course on which it stands, this six-story apartment building has a distinct roof line featuring battlements and ramparts. Semicircular towers flank the main entrance on 34th Avenue. Garden areas that were designed as part of Fairway Hall include the front and side courtyards, sidewalk tree plantings, and a grass-covered curb median.


35–13 to 35–55 76th Street and 35–14 to 35–56 77th Street;
George H. Wells;

Hawthorne Court is an extensive complex made up of 14 five-story buildings set back-to-back. The buildings have red brick façades set in Flemish bond with white stone trim and lintels with keystones. The architect George H. Wells incorporated projecting entrances in the design of these apartments, a hallmark of his work. The entries have short stoops and alternate between Doric column details or flat pilasters with wooden doors surrounded by leaded-glass transoms and sidelights. Each entry is topped with an iron ballustrade.


35–25 77th Street;
Joshua Tabatchnik;

The Berkeley Apartments is an example of the later development that occurred in Jackson Heights. The single large building has two light courts that break up the massive structure. The Neo-Georgian building imposes on half of the block and features brickwork resembling quoins, brick bandcourses, pilasters capped with stone and brick pediments, and brick parapets topped with stone urns. Joshua Tabatchnik also designed Berkeley Gardens, which are similar and located around the corner on 35th Avenue.


35–16 to 35–56 79th Street and 35–15 to 35–55 78th Street;
George H. Wells;

Hampton Court is one of Jackson Heights’ earlier garden-apartment complexes. The 11 buildings occupy almost the entire block and enclose a garden at the center. Additionally, there was a garden at each end of the block originally. These buildings, like many of George H. Wells’s designs, are Neo-Georgian in style and are red brick laid in Flemish bond with white trim. The facades and entries differ between 78th and 79th Streets.