Discover Classical New York: Jackson Heights Walking Tour – Saturday June 2, 2012

By Gay Giordano

Francis Morrone

Photo 1: Francis Morrone begins the tour of Jackson Heights.

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.”

Multicultural signPhotos 2a, 2b, 2c: Census tracts show Jackson Heights as one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the country.

Jackson Height view c. 1930Photo 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.

MacDougallPhoto 4: Edward MacDougall, president of the Queensboro Corporation, is considered solely responsible for the development of Jackson Heights.

Queensboro Corp buildingPhotos 5a, 5b: The building where the offices of the Queensboro Corporation were housed (present day) and in 1942.

Vintage ads

Photos 6a, 6b: Vintage ads luring people to the neighborhood.

Jackson Heights map

Photo 7: The 1993 map of the Jackson Heights Historic District.

The TowersTowers griffinsTowers gardenPhotos 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.

Washington Plaza

Photo 9: Washington Plaza with its cascading court fountains.

Chateau 1923Chateau group shotPhotos 10a, 10b: The Chateau, built in 1923, with its distinctive slate roofs and gardens; group shot of the tour participants.

Community Church

Photos 11a, 11b: The Community Church, attended by Alfred Mosher Butts, the inventor of Scrabble; a mostly out-of-work architect, he designed the uninspired adjoining building.

Golf CoursePhoto 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.


Photo 13: In winter the tennis courts were flooded for ice-skating.

Victory Gardens

Photo 14: WWI Victory Gardens were set up to help feed the soldiers.

Image 16Image 17Image 18Image 19Image 20Image 21Photos 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.

Photos 22 a--dPhotos 21a, 21b, 21c, 21d: Details of a neighborhood: Karaoke bar in the 1950’s; an array of Indian bracelets for sale; an acupuncturist’s office ad; looking north on 82nd Street in 1934.

Contemporary photos by Gay Giordano; historic photos from various online sources.

3 Responses to Discover Classical New York: Jackson Heights Walking Tour – Saturday June 2, 2012

  1. Pat Duffy says:

    If another walking tour of Jackson heights is scheduled, please let me know when it is and where to meet and cost.
    Thank you

    Reply »
  2. Melanie Rees says:

    We are visiting Jackson Heights from the UK in October 2015. Could you please let us know if any walking tours are due to take place at that time? Thank you.

    Reply »
  3. Thanks for your comments Pat Duffy and Melanie Rees. The ICAA doesn’t have any upcoming tours planned in Jackson Heights, but do keep an eye on our website, for details on any walking tours and other programs as they are confirmed.

    Reply »

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