The Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road station, newly polished and refurbished, looks like no other station in the railroad’s voluminous list of stations, with its distictive Tudor-style ticket offices with shaped glass and unique luminaires. Its position overlooking Burns Street seems perfect to give a speech, and that’s exactly what former President Teddy Roosevelt did here in 1917. The platform overlooks a country-village type setting at the heart of Forest Hills Gardens; one practically expects to see Patrick McGoohan, in his black “Number Six” suit he wore in the classic British 1967 science-fiction show The Prisoner, running away from “The Village’s” robot weather balloons that served as the village’s guardians.
The station’s design goes back to 1911 and, as it was built in tandem with Forest Hills Gardens, it was always meant to be the perfect complement to the neighborhood. It continues to be directly connected to the development via ornamental walkways.
The Forest Hills station’s lighting and signage are marvelously detailed, from the “dashing Dan” on the lamp to the stylized “FH” on the wrought iron signposts.
For rail architecture buffs, the Forest Hills station is a destination in itself. The design is English tudor accented with red brick, red tile windows, casement-style windows and benches and platform lighting unique to the station. Some of these highlights were installed after a late-1990s renovation.
The station is not a major one and many trains deadhead past it. If the LIRR put this much effort into stations like Nostrand Avenue and East New York, well, that’d be a way to run a railroad.
Further down the LIRR, at Lefferts Boulevard between Austin and Grenfell Streets, is the 1909 Kew Gardens station building. The station house is a handsome, venerable ridge-roofed building, but of even greater interest is the span that takes Lefferts over the tracks: it’s lined on both sides with commercial buildings. A complicated engineering solution encompasses three separate bridges on Lefferts: one for the roadway, and two on each side that support the buildings. According to Kew Gardens: Urban Village in the Big City author and PBS-TV host Barry Lewis, the store’s bridges actually run through the buildings’ roofs, with the storefronts hung from the bridges like a curtain on a rod. The engineering principle is similar to that of the circa-1565 Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence, Italy. The Lefferts Blvd. bridge had assumed its present condition by 1930.
It was in the vicinity of the station that the infamous Kitty Genovese murder – in which 38 witnesses by some accounts failed to step in — was committed in 1964.