Backus’ Pond, Queens

This 500 foot by 350 foot kettle pond is mentioned in Vincent Seyfried’s The Story of Corona, an extensively researched book about the neighborhood. It was located in a natural depression near the present-day corner of 98th Street and 31st Avenue, just north of Northern Boulevard.

Above, from the DoITT NYCityMap, a 1924 and a 1996 aerial of the pond’s site.

The pond’s likely namesake was the Backus family, prominent landowners with roots going back to the Dutch colonial period. Their most prized possession was Whitepot, a sizable parcel that was developed into Forest Hills after 1910.

A block to the west is Jackson Mill Road, a former trolley route that connected the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn with North Beach, an amusement park located on the present-day site of LaGuardia Airport. The route operated between 1894 and 1949, running through an open field known as Trains Meadows. Even as the numbered grid ate away at the open expanse, Jackson Mill Road was preserved on the map, even after the last trolley ran the route. Its namesake was located near the entrance to the airport, a gristmill from the colonial period that operated until 1870.

With the arrival of trolleys and expansion of Northern Boulevard, the once-pristine pond became a dumping ground for trash and sewage. Local residents rallied to have the pond buried and despite delays relating to the ownership of the pond, in 1917 it was connected to the city’s sewers and gradually drained.

backus 4

By the end of the following decade, Backus Pond was completely gone and its former surface was filled with housing. No trace of the pond remains, but there is an outdoor swimming pool located a block to the south of the pond’s site. The city-operated Fisher Pool is open to the public during the summer free of charge.

backus 3

Located at the corner of 98th Street and 32nd Avenue, the pool is named after local civic activist Edward Fisher. Among his lasting contributions to the East Elmhurst landscape was his successful effort to prevent the Astoria Expressway from slicing through the neighborhood.

Fisher died in 1970, the same year that the city purchased land for the pool that would carry his name. The pool is the result of strong community lobbying for recreational facilities in the neighborhood. In a way, one watering hole was replaced by another.

For more information on the history of this neighborhood, visit the Corona-East Elmhurst Historic Preservation Society.

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