Jackson Heights is a unique neighborhood in the history and development of New York City. Some of the city's first co-ops and large private gardens were introduced by the Queensboro Corporation in the 1920s. It was an era of architectural experiment and a bold attempt to create a model "garden city."
Jeffrey A. Saunders of the The Jackson Heights Garden City Society, Inc., has written an extensive guide to the neighborhood's design, The Jackson Heights Garden City Trail, and the following is an excerpt of ten gems from Saunders exhaustive efforts. Consider them ten vantage points to start your own tour of historic Jackson Heights and its garden co-ops and architecture.
76th Street, 35th – 34th Avenues
The Dover 34-35 76 Street Philip Birnbaum / ’48 / Moderne
Anglo-American Garden Homes 34-52…34-28 76 Street
Crescent L. Varrone / 1926 / Neo-Georgian
The Dover [across st.] has a unique movie marquee style of awning, an original symbol of modernity. It invited residents to step into their movie dreams by living here. Streamlined terraces are integrated into the design, contributing to the building's horizontal profile. They add texture, shadow and depth. They do not jut out, dominating the façade. The Varrone Anglo-American Garden Homes [this side] have a mirror-image blockfront facing 75th Street, with rear gardens, a shared alley, and coordinated garages styled as garden bldgs. Front gardens, unbroken by driveways, allow a unified, charming softness. Rear alleys in Jackson Heights are also intended as protected space for children to play under neighbors' watchful eyes.
37th Avenue, 65th – 64th Streets
Metropolitan Life Houses 37 Avenue, 64 – 65 Streets /1922
Andrew J. Thomas & D. Everette Waid / Neo-Romanesque
Metropolitan Houses forms a two-square block garden oasis. 40% of the land was set aside for private parks enclosed by ten buildings. The "Met Houses" are a model of enlightened housing reform. Two block-long private parks are visible from 37th Avenue, behind original iron gates. Design principles and ideals tested here became characteristic of Jackson Heights, where they were developed into a planned garden city.
79th Street, 37th – Roosevelt Avenues
Anglo-American Garden Homes 37-14…37-58 79 St.
(Dreisler Homes) Benjamin Dreisler, Jr / ‘26-7 / Neo-Gothic
Laburnum Court 37-15…37-31 79 Street
George H. Wells / 1921-22 / Neo-Georgian
Garden Lane Apartments 37-41, 35-45 79 – 80 Street
(Hamilton Court) H. Hamilton / 1925 / Neo-Tudor
Sunchester Gardens 37-51, 37-55 79 – 80 Street
(Hamilton Court) H. Hamilton / 1925-26 / Neo-Tudor
The Dreisler Anglo-American Garden Homes [this side] have a mirror-image blockfront on 78 St. Sweeping terra-cotta tile roofs in different shapes define these homes. Both the façade design and front gardens sweep across the full length of each group of homes, unifying them in style and greenery. Deep front gardens are interrupted only by entry paths, with driveways to the rear alley banished to the far ends. Laburnum Court and Hamilton Court [across st.] are through-block garden apartment bldgs. enclosing large private parks. Laburnum Court also has large, open front gardens that are among the most spacious in Jackson Heights. The Hamilton Court buildings have connecting brick gateways built with rough limestone blocks. Within its tree-shaded private park elements of an elaborate naturalistic fountain of stone can still be seen.
80th Street, 37th – 35th Avenues
The Greystones 35-55…35-15 80 Street (Originally, The
George H. Wells / 1916-18 / Neo-Tudor Garden Apts.)
On this block the garden city plan of Jackson Heights. began to take shape. The Greystones – originally called The Garden Apartments – had a change of name in the early 1920s. The original name had come into the public domain by its wide use to describe this new garden building type, perfected in Jackson Heights. Later garden apartment buildings face each other across a private park within a single block. The Greystones face each other across a street and have a private park behind each blockfront. Alternating pyramidal and drum capitals atop cast-stone entry columns show Egyptian influence. Green painted window sash and 4-over-1 windows are original. Over entrances, the original four panes of glass in the upper sash have a violet tint.
37th Avenue, 77th – 78th Streets
Retail buildings (north side)
– 37 Ave., corner 76 Street S.Goldstone / 1940 / Moderne
– 37 Ave., corner 77 Street S. Klein / 1946 / Moderne
– 37 Ave., 77 – 78 St. Lenz & Berger / 1937 / Neo-Georgian
– 37 Ave., corner 78 St. Oscar I. Silverstone / 1941 / Moderne
Jewish Center of Jackson Heights Synagogue (south side)
37-06 77 St., 37 Ave. Herbert L. Mandel / 2000 / Moderne
Public School NO. 69 77-02 37 Avenue (south side)
C. B. J. Snyder / 1922-24 / Neo-Tudor
Second bldg. & Plaza 77 St., 37 Ave. Urbahn Assoc. / ‘93
Low retail buildings give this part of 37th Avenue a small-scale "Main Street" character. They are thoughtful, handsome, even picturesque limestone and brick designs. Watching over the corner of 78 Street is an elaborate eagle motif. The Jewish Center is a finely balanced blend of streamlined curves and volumes. Public School No. 69 is by the master architect of American public education, C. B. J. Snyder. A second building and plaza [around corner, 77 St.] skillfully transforms elements of the original.
78th Street, 37th – 35th Avenues
The Jackson 35-50 78 Street
Julius Z. Fishkin / 1937 / Neo-Georgian
The Berkeley 35-24 78 Street
Joshua Tabatchnik / 1936-37 / Neo-Georgian
Hampton Court 35-55…35-15 78 - 79 Street
George H. Wells / 1919-21 / Neo-Georgian
The Jackson [across st., left] and a sister bldg. on 77 St. enclose a large private garden. The ground floor has Palladian style windows and wrought iron balconettes. A striking cast-stone entry is in the garden courtyard. The Berkeley [across st., right] has a cantilevered structural canopy and strong Moderne influence, seen in unique curved brickwork. It is 1 of 3 Berkeley buildings. around this block that enclose a private park. Hampton Court [this side] is a through-block garden apartment development enclosing a large private park. It is the only such design with differing facades on each blockfront. Alfred M. Butts, inventor of the game Scrabble® lived at 35-26 79 St.
37th Avenue, 79th – 80th Streets
Queensboro Building (NO. 2) 78-13 37 Avenue
Andrew J. Thomas / 1947 / Neo-Georgian (79 St. crnr.)
Robert Morris 37 Avenue, 79 – 80 Street (south side)
Edward A. Adelsohn / 1929 / Neo-Georgian
Verona Court 37 Avenue, 79 – 80 Street (north side)
Edward A. Adelsohn / 1929 / Neo-Romanesque
Ravenna Court 37 Avenue, 80 – 81 Street (north side)
Rogers & Haneman / 1928-29 / Neo-Romanesque
The Queensboro Building [across ave., 79 St.] was the second HQ bldg. built here by the founders of Jackson Heights Garden City. It is the last designed by Andrew J. Thomas. The white painted brick is original. Verona Ct. [across ave.] has intricate brickwork and 36 graceful balconettes. Pendices and towers on top have loggias and tile. Ravenna Ct. [across ave., 80 St.] has tan brick patterns in various shades. The Robert Morris [this side] has dark brick in a variety of shades, crowned by over-scaled copper pediments and stone balustrades.
34th Avenue, 80th – 81st Streets
The Towers 34 Avenue, 80 – 81 Streets
Andrew J. Thomas / 1923-25 / Neo-Romanesque
The Chateau 34 Avenue, 80 – 81 Streets
Andrew J. Thomas / 1922–23 / Neo-French Renaissance
34th Avenue Garden Median 34 Avenue, 69 – 90 Streets
Original: Queensboro Corporation / c.1925
New: M. Zargarelahi, NYC Dept. Transportation / 1996
The Towers and The Chateau represent the zenith of full-block architectural imagery in Jackson Heights. The Towers [across avenue] are 8 buildings, guarded by griffins and connected by lush gardens surging around them, enclosing a private park. The Chateau [this side] is 12 buildings, tied together by gardens and connecting entry gates to a sumptuous private park. From the 34th Avenue Median are our longest garden city views: two blocks north and south through The Towers and Chateau parks, and three-fourths of a mile east and west along a thoroughfare of trees.
84th Street, 35th – 34th Avenues
Anglo-American Garden Homes 34-11…34-51 84 Street
(Tappan NO. 5) Robert Tappan / 1927 / Neo-Georgian
Anglo-American Garden Homes 34-16…34-52 84 Street
(Plymouth Homes) Pierce L Kieswetter / 1928-9 / Neo-Tudor
Ivy Court Garden Apts. 34-10 84 Street, 34-09 83 Street
Andrew J. Thomas / 1924 / Neo-Romanesque
The Anglo-American Garden Homes of Tappan No. 5 [this side] are unified by slate on roofs, dormers, entrys, and garages. Plymouth Homes [across st.] are a complex assemblage of brick, cast-stone, stucco, and 1/2 - timbers. They are unified by cedar shingles on roofs, dormers and entrys. A cadence of trees, gardens, and entry paths – unbroken by driveways – unifies and softens this entire block. Ivy Court Garden Apartments [corner] is really two U-shaped buildings set around an expansive garden. It is distinguished by the terra-cotta tile of its loggias, towers and rosettes. Barrel vaults on both side streets lead to the garden and apartment entries.
85th Street, 37th – Roosevelt Avenues
Linden Court Garden Apts. 85 – 84 St., 37 – Roosevelt Ave.
Andrew J. Thomas / 1919-21 / Neo-Romanesque
Cambridge Ct. Garden Apts. 85 – 86 St, 37 – Roosevelt Ave.
George H. Wells (Olmsted Bros., park) / 1922 / Neo-Georgian
Linden Court [this side] was radical: the first through-block design, first enclosed private park, first garages, first detached buildings, and first co-op plan of ownership. If this had not sold well, Jackson Heights. would have been built very differently. Cambridge Court is a through-block plan with a large private park designed by the eminent firm of Olmsted Brothers. Elements of the park remain, though now divided into individual backyards. In 1989 a rapacious owner punched a driveway through one building to a parking lot paved over part of the Olmsted park, and built tortured concrete switchback ramps.
This page is courtesy and copyright (c) of Jeffrey A. Saunders, reprinted with permission from The Jackson Heights Garden City Trail, published by The Jackson Heights Garden City Society, Inc.