I was recently emailed by a researcher at the DEP about street flooding in Jamaica, Queens and its likely connection to a long-gone waterway known as One Mile Pond. It is a pond so obscure that it did not make the cut into the Hidden Waters book and I could not find too many sources online for its location and name.
The clue offered to me was that this pond was located upstream from Baisley Pond. A quick comparison of historical maps led me to St. Albans Memorial Park, an 11-acre expanse of green space built atop the former One Mile Pond.
Where it Flowed
The earliest illustration of One Mile Pond that I’ve found is from James Pugh Kirkwood’s 1867 book Brooklyn Water Works and Sewers: A Descriptive Memoir, which has maps of the pond from 1861.
The book shows One Mile Pond dammed at Merrick Road with its stream continuing to Jamaica Pond, the reservoir known today as Baisley Pond. Some of the major roads in this area are still there today. The outline of Baisley Pond is roughly the same today, its only major changes being the covering of its tributary and outflow streams. It is today the centerpiece of Baisley Pond Park.
In the 1873 F. W. Beers atlas of Queens County, it appears as Mill Pond in the center of the map. The pond appears to have had three feeder streams collecting into it. The water exited the pond in a southwest direction, widening again at Bailey Pond. From there, Cornell Creek took the water to Jamaica Bay.
As its name suggests, the pond was manmade, used to power a mill. That it was located on Merrick Boulevard made sense, as this was and still is, a major road connecting downtown Jamaica with communities on Long Island’s south shore.
By 1901 when Belcher-Hyde made its atlas of the area, the corner of Merrick and Linden (then Central Avenue) boulevards still showed its three feeder streams with the pond site owned by Brooklyn Water Works. This agency used to own nearly all of the ponds and reservoirs on the southern side of Long Island between Brookyln nad Massapequa. As the population of Brooklyn grew, this supply was not enough to quench its thirst. In 1898, Brooklyn residents voted to join New York City and tap into its Catskill-Delaware aqueduct.
As It Was
Going back to Kirkwood’s book, it has perhaps the most detailed map of the pond showing its heavily wooded shoreline and the mill on Merrick Road that dammed this pond in 1861. In the coming decades this pond has suffered neglect and in 1892 a Brooklyn Daily Eagle investigation described it as “a foul looking pool fringed with a growth of weeds, layers of mud and gutters.” The pond had lost its usefulness and gradually filled up with mud until it was no longer visible. It was acquired by the Parks Department in 1914. One Mile Pond Park was renamed St. Albans Memorial Park in 1931, effectively erasing the pond from the map.
Pond Site Today
At the southeast corner of St. Albans Park by Merrick Boulevard there appears to be a thickly wooded depression in the park. This is where water flowed out of the pond that is today the park’s great lawn. On my visit to the park, no traces of the stream appeared in this corner. The park is within the borders of the Addisleigh Park Historic District, an early suburb for the city’s black middle class in the first half of the 20th century. The neighborhood was once the residence of nearly a dozen jazz greats, baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, and blues singer James Brown.
Homes within this district are protected from alteration by restrictive covenants and the landmarks designation. Forgotten-NY toured here in 2002. Why was I contacted by the DEP about One Mile Pond? Because nature has a way of reclaiming what was hers. Where ponds and creeks once flowed, high water tables and street flooding serve as reminders of these ghost streams. Seeking to tame these aquatic spirits, many of the culverts and sewers follow the courses of the former streams.
On a Related Note:
When I’m not blogging about hidden waterways, I write about local history on Forgotten-NY. Earlier this week I profiled East River Park.