Formation of Meadow Lake, Queens

The city’s largest freshwater lake offers enough details in its design and history to allow for multiple posts. Having previously focused on the Aquacade that stood at Meadow Lake, and the history of Jewel Avenue Bridge, I turn to its northwest corner, where Horse Brook had its confluence with Flushing Creek.

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On the above image, the red triangle shows the location of my parents’ home, which will be built atop the filled Horse Brook stream bed in 1950.

In the time between this 1937 photo and the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair, the transformation of the wetlands along Flushing Creek into Flushing Meadows is one of the most unrecognizable landscape alterations in the city in the past century. Around Meadow Lake, it includes a few rejected proposals worth remembering.

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Formation of Meadow Lake

The largest freshwater lake in the city covers 95 acres within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In contrast to the park’s central core that was an ash landfill prior to its acquisition by the city, the site of Meadow Lake was a salt marsh where Horse Brook flowed into Flushing Creek.

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The 1937 image above shows Meadow Lake assuming its present-day shape just before construction commenced on exhibits for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. There is so much to see in this photo, so here’s an explanatory tour back in time. Continue reading

Strong’s Causeway, Queens

On last Sunday’s bike tour of Flushing Creek, I passed beneath the Long Island Expressway overpass crossing this stream, with the overpass itself in the shadow of Van Wyck Expressway above it. An egret flies above the murky green water of the channelized creek.

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There has been a crossing of Flushing Creek at this location since the early 19th century, connecting two of Queens’ earliest towns. The highway overpass above is the most recent successor to an old crossing known as Strong’s Causeway. Continue reading

Shady Lake, Queens

The corner of Corona Avenue and 108th Street has the most famous Italian Ice vendor in the city. Most of its customers do not know that a century ago there was a pond on this location used primarily for ice harvesting.

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Looking at a 1902 atlas from the New York Public Library, we see Corona Avenue running past this pond and Central Avenue (present-day 108th street) ending at the pond. As a reference, the triangular block later designated as Moore Park has been marked. Continue reading

Coe’s Mill, Queens

 

The street behind Forest Hills Cooperative Houses skews off the grid by a few degrees and was part of the ancient North Hempstead Plank Road. Reflecting its history, the one-block road is named Colonial Avenue. For nearly three centuries, the road traversed a small island in the middle of Horse Brook. On the island were a gristmill and a hotel. 

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In 1930, the Long Island Expressway obliterated all traces of the mill and its island, which was no wider than the highway. So much of early Queens history is associated with this mill, perhaps even the reason why today we speak English instead of Dutch. Continue reading

Linden Park, Queens

Although it is only 3.08 acres in size, a park in the Corona neighborhood of Queens has the distinction of being one of a few in the city that predates Central Park. Known officially since 2005 as Park of the Americas, it opened to the public in 1854 as Linden Park, sharing its name with a pond that lay in its center.

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Where park goers once ice skated and admired the fish, today’s youths play ball in view of Public School 16. Continue reading

The World’s Capitol in Flushing

In October 2014, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declared a slogan for her jurisdiction: The World’s Borough. The phrase catches several global things about Queens, its diversity of cultures, the site of two World’s Fairs, and the famous Unisphere globe. In 1946, the site of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair was a candidate for the permanent headquarters of the United Nations.

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Had the plan succeeded, it would have left quite an impact on the development of Queens. Continue reading