By Gay Giordano
On Saturday a group of ICAA members and staff joined historian and 2012 Arthur Ross Award winner, Francis Morrone, for a walking tour through the Jackson Heights historic district. Jackson Heights is believed to be the first garden community built in the United States as part of the international garden city movement at the turn of the 20th century. We were treated to a meandering walk past quaint homes and beautiful gardens as Francis enlightened us about a neighborhood not many New Yorkers would have considered visiting before! We encourage you to do so, and if you wish to read up on this lovely historic garden neighborhood, we suggest you stop by Espresso 77 (owned by 2 architects!) at 35-57 77th Street in Jackson Heights, where they sell the now-out-of-print book, “Jackson Heights, A Garden in the City.”
Photo 3: The Queensboro Corporation, founded in 1909, began to accumulate tracts of land that would eventually total 325 acres. They were willing to develop it over a period of years as an investment. By 1925 Jackson Heights was the largest community in the world of cooperatively owned garden apartment homes under a single management.
Photos 8a, 8b, 8c: The Towers, an iconic Andrew Jackson Thomas complex, with its gardens, exposures and courtyard. Andrew J. Thomas, a self-taught architect, invented the term “garden apartment,” an urban-suburban multiple-dwelling style of living; he was a crusader for “beauty, light and air” and was the first to build apartments with a little court and some trees. In Jackson Heights Thomas established that the true unit of planning is the city block rather than the individual building and that no more than 50% of the land should be built on. Having grown up in a Lower East Side tenement, his goal was to make homes that felt airy and well circulated – his buildings had a minimum of 2 exposures in each apartment, affording more light and air than any building on Park Avenue to this day.
Photo 12: As the neighborhood grew, numerous clubs and civic organizations formed, building many sports venues, including a golf course that had 6 holes and took over 8 city blocks and was the only community golf course in America.
Photos 15 – 20: Details of masonry and the unusual rooftops. The Pan American Expo in Buffalo, NY was very influential – Spanish/Mediterranean style housing became very popular in the U.S. partly as a result of this expo.
Contemporary photos by Gay Giordano; historic photos from various online sources.