A walk through the neighborhoods of the northern part of Queens, College Point, Whitestone, even Bayside, will reward the urban enthusiast with glimpses of the small Long Island North Shore towns they used to be. There are town centers at 14th Avenue and 150th Street in Whitestone, along College Point Boulevard between 14th and 18th Avenue, and Bell Boulevard between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue. The spaces between these town centers, once meadows or farmland, have been filled with block after block of one and two-family homes and seem to have been thoroughly “folded” into a uniform Queens fabric: definitely not the dense, urban feel of a Soho or a Park Slope, but not the thoroughly suburban atmosphere of a Levittown or Hicksville. The two “northeasternmost” of Queens’ neighborhoods, Douglaston and Little Neck, however, have a different tone: they somehow seem carved out of the rather exclusive, monied precincts of the Nassau County townships immediately to the east, Great Neck and Manhasset. Both neighborhoods are served by a short shopping strip along Northern Boulevard, and the area’s hilly topography doesn’t lend itself to block upon block of similar-looking ranch houses.
For centuries before the mid-1600s the Matinecock Indians, a branch of the Algonquin, had lived on the peninsula where Douglaston Manor is today as well as lands to the south and east, including today’s Little Neck (a “neck” here meaning a plot of land. The term is also seen in adjoining Great Neck as well as Gravesend Neck in Brooklyn.) Little Neck Bay’s wealth of seafood, including the huge oysters that grew here then, sustained the tribe. In the 1600s, European settlers also turned their attention to the area, not only for the clams but for the harbor, which offered easy access to water traffic. The British and Dutch soon had bartered, or some say swindled, the Matinecocks out of much of their ancestral lands, except for a small portion called Madnan’s Neck (possibly named for settler Ann Heatherton, “Mad Nan” although it could also have been shortened from the Indian name for the area, Menhaden-ock, “place of fish.”) In 1656, Thomas Hicks — of the Hicks family that eventually founded Hicksville — forcibly drove out the “last of the Matinecock” in the Battle of Madnan’s Neck at today’s Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway.
There are a pair of very short, hidden lanes on the north side of Northern Boulevard between Marathon and Little Neck Parkways. Cornell Lane, which is marked by the Department of Transportation, is the longer of the two and is lined by a set of cozy one-family homes. The lane was formerly a part of the Cornell family’s Little Neck holdings. Possibly, the lane is named for Henry Benjamin Cornell, a member of Zion Church, who is buried in its churchyard. A lost lane called Wright’s Lane formerly intersected Cornell Lane, but no trace of it remains today.
Five generations of the Cornell family made their homes in Little Neck. They were descended from Quaker Richard Cornell, who had come to Flushing from Rhode Island in 1643 and had received a land grant from the Dutch West India Company.
A Cornell farmhouse still stands on Little Neck Parkway just north of the Long Island Expressway.
Samuel Cornell, born 1702, raised produce for Manhattan markets sending it by barge from the north end of the Old House Landing Road, now Little Neck Parkway. A descendant of Samuel Cornell was Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University.
Although modern development and renovations have come to Cornell Lane you can still see some small, unaltered cottages. Some still have the original one-digit house numbers.
I love Fall. I love the cooler weather, the autumn foliage, pumpkins and Indian corn. To me, it’s not a season of death, but of new purpose. After a hot summer, everyone seems renewed in the fall, ready to start Big Things. We open new seasons at the theater, the opera, on television; it’s an exciting time of year, culminating in the holidays. January and February, well, that’s another story. But we’re not there yet, it’s still the middle of Fall, and that means peak leaf changing season. And what better place to see nature’s amazing palate of colors than in a park? In this case, Queens’ second largest park?
Ally Pond Park borders Douglaston on the east and Bayside on the west. Little Neck Bay stretches gloriously to the north, and Union Turnpike cuts the park off on the south. This part of Queens sits on a terminal moraine formed by the Laurentide glacier thousands of years ago. The ice deposited boulders and dug creeks and ponds. Today, the park encompasses fresh water ponds and natural springs, as well as salt marshes from Little Neck Bay, forming a very diverse biosphere, one of the great highlights of the park. (more…)
Nearly 20 ForgottenFans enjoyed Forgotten New York’s Little Neck-Douglaston tour this past weekend. Unusually for recent tours, this time the weather was threatening, but rain only started falling as the tour was ending. Little Neck and Douglaston are far richer in Colonial history and artifacts than many would immediately expect, and this tour mined that history, shining a light on several hidden artifacts.
Above is shown Zion Church, whose grounds are entered via a lengthy path from Northern Boulevard just east of Douglaston Parkway.
In 1931, workers excavated the north side of Northern Boulevard just west of Little Neck Parkway. The boulevard, formerly known as Broadway and also as the Flushing and North Hempstead Turnpike, was being widened to its present condition as the Automobile Age was in full flower. However, a cemetery containing remains of Matinecoc Indian families, longstanding in this region of Queens, was in the way.
The Matinecoc Indians, a branch of the Algonquin group, had occupied the lands of eastern Queens for centuries before Europeans arrived. While the Matinecoc tribes gradually sold off their holdings to the Dutch and British in other parts of Long Island, giving the lands a peaceful transfer, Thomas Hicks (of the Hicks family that settled Hicksville) forcibly evicted the Matinecocks in Little Neck. Decades after Hicks, and well after American independence, some Matinecoc remained. Members of the Waters family, prominent among the tribe, still live in homes along Little Neck Parkway north of Northern Boulevard.
Q’Stoner writer and the man behind Forgotten New York Kevin Walsh just announced a guided walking tour of Little Neck and Douglaston. It’s happening on Saturday, September 13th, beginning at noon at the Little Neck Long Island Railroad station and lasting for about three hours. (It ends in the same place.) Some details on the tour: “Here are some of Queens’ most outstanding vistas and some of its most beautiful and historic architecture in the neighborhood Forgotten NY’s Kevin Walsh calls home. Also included are gorgeous tree-lined streets, bayside vistas, hidden alleys and historic churches and cemeteries in this surprisingly historic region.” Tickets cost $15 for Greater Astoria Historical Society members and $20 for the public. Interested in attending? Just email email@example.com.
With about 130,000 residents, Queens is home to more war veterans than any other borough in New York City. This weekend various neighborhoods honor their war heroes with Memorial Day parades, including biggest one in the country (Little Neck/Douglaston).
The Maspeth Memorial Day Parade (Sunday, May 25th, at 1 pm) is always an emotional display of patriotism and gratitude. This year, it honors local veterans and women. Retired Capt. Laura Zimmermann is the speaker, and other honorees are Leo J. Wasil, who flew 35 combat missions as a radio operator, mechanic and gunner in World War II; Anthony Simone, who fought in the treacherous Mung Dung Valley during the Korean War; and Jane Crowley, who joined the United States Marine Corp Women’s Service in 1943. The parade begins at 1 pm at Walter A. Garlinge Memorial Park, 72nd Street and Grand Avenue, and proceeds down Grand to the Frank Kowalinski American Legion Post 4 and Knights of Columbus on 69th Lane, where there’s a memorial service at 2 pm.
Information on the other parades follows:
Photo: The Whitestone Memorial Day Parade
The only road that connects Douglaston and Little Neck north of Northern Boulevard runs between Douglas Road, at the eastern edge of Douglaston at Udall’s Cove Park, and Little Neck Parkway alongside the Long Island Rail Road. The city has never really settled on a name for the road, and thus it’s known by a variety of names depending on what part of the route you happen to be on.
Until Hagstrom listed it in the 1970s, it had never made city maps, either, which leads me to believe the road in its complete route is a relatively recent connection. Area residents have been calling it simply “the back road.”