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.
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…)
What a beauty in Douglaston! This historic Colonial is actually nestled in the woods, and looks like it belongs somewhere in Massachusetts, not New York City. The interior, which holds four bedrooms and three bathrooms, is very nice, with a renovated kitchen and a sauna in the master bath. There’s also a large deck that looks out onto the backyard, although the listing doesn’t provide a photo. For some New England living in Queens, $999,888.
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.
This week, the Department of Transportation posted the above photo of signage going up at the new Douglaston Station Plaza, making the public space official. The plaza, on the corner of 235th Street and 41st Avenue, is about 3,000 square feet. It holds umbrellas, tables, chairs and planters. Residents have hopes that the public space will bring some new commercial options to the neighborhood, which now has many empty storefronts.
Photo via Facebook
Zion Church, on Northern Boulevard east of Douglaston Parkway, was first completed in 1830 on plans from Trinity Church architect Richard Upjohn. Wynant Van Zandt, one of Douglaston’s first prominent landowners in the early 1800s, is interred in the family vault beneath the cemetery; Van Zandt had held local services in his home before the church was built. Bloodgood Cutter, the famed landowner/poet who Mark Twain called “The Poet Lariat,” is also buried in the churchyard. In the last century, the church has endured two devastating fires, the worse in 1924. The present building is a faithful representation of the original.
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.