When I was a child, both of my parents were cigarette smokers. That was not unusual for the early 1960s. Everyone seemed to be a smoker then. They both quit cold turkey when I was around twelve. But before that, my father experimented with pipe smoking. He bought a couple of different pipes, and tried several aromatic tobacco blends before finding the combination he liked. I have to say, the pipe smoke was much nicer to be around than the cigarette smoke.
Starting in the early 19th century, the New York City area was a leader in the manufacturing of tobacco products. Cigars were the big thing throughout that century, and all of the boroughs had multiple cigar factories, both large and small. After all, one only needed a table to roll cigars, and many people rolled cigars in their homes, one of the city’s first at-home sweatshops.
Cigarettes didn’t become popular until the end of the century, but chewing and pipe tobacco also had their place in city production. Lorillard, which is still producing tobacco products, had several large factories in Manhattan and Brooklyn. There were many other companies, as well, whose names are now lost to history. But someone had to make the pipes themselves. By the turn of the 20th century, one of the largest pipe makers was located in Richmond Hill, Queens. It was called William Demuth & Company. (more…)
Danish-born crusading journalist and photographer Jacob Riis (1849-1914) made his home in Richmond Hill, Queens, beginning in 1886. In 1887, Riis photographed the squalid, inhumane conditions prevalent in New York City’s tenements, and his 1890 book “How The Other Half Lives” has become an influential text to the present day. His cause was taken up by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, who encouraged legislation that would help ease the burden of NYC’s poorest. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.
In his autobiography Riis wrote of finding Richmond Hill: “It was in the winter when all our children had the scarlet fever that one Sunday, when I was taking a long walk out on Long Island where I could do no one any harm, I came upon Richmond Hill, and thought it was the most beautiful spot I had ever seen, I went home and told my wife that I had found the place where we were going to live.…I picked out the lots I wanted. So before the next winter’s snow, we were snug in the house, with a ridge of wooded hills, between New York and us. The very lights of the city were shut out. So was the slum and I could sleep.” Riis’s house was placed on the National Register for Historic Places, but such a designation does not protect a property. The home was torn down in the mid-1970’s and replaced with a row of attached brick houses. Today two remaining beech trees planted by Riis in the backyard remind us of the tranquil neighborhood that put his mind at ease.
Diwali is a Hindu tradition also known as “The Festival of Lights.” This annual celebration of good over evil is a national holiday in countries with large Hindu populations, such as India, Nepal, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago. In the “Little Guyana” section of Richmond Hill, the activities include an enthusiastic mix of decorated floats, colorful clothes, oil lamps, chanting, drumming … and a tremendous motorcade.
Describing it as “vandalism,” “a blight,” and “a crime,” civic and political leaders from the Richmond Hill/Woodhaven area helped launch an anti-graffiti initiative with a press conference (below) and demonstration (above) on Wednesday. City Council Member Eric A. Ulrich, who represents these neighborhoods, announced that he had allotted $25,000 to eliminate graffiti at six major corridors — Woodhaven Boulevard; Jamaica Avenue; Atlantic Avenue; 101st Avenue; Liberty Avenue; and Rockaway Boulevard. The borough’s only Republican council member directed the funds to the Queens Economic Development Corporation‘s Neighborhood Development Division, which promotes economic growth by supporting community businesses. QEDC will sub-contract with Ridgewood-based Magic Touch Cleaning to carry out the initiative.
Saying this was a priority for him, Council Member Ulrich stated that he planned to seek more funding for this program in the future. QEDC Deputy Director Ricardi Calixte opined that graffiti is bad for business. He stated, “This type of vandalism has a domino effect, discouraging shoppers, encouraging lawlessness, and deterring investment.”
See a photo from the press conference after the jump. (more…)
This rendering popped up for 115-02 Jamaica Avenue, a new commercial building planned for the corner of 115th Street in Jamaica Richmond Hill. New York YIMBY reports that the three-story, 30,000-square-foot building will wrap construction later this year. The design is by Aufgang Architects.
This parcel was previously home to a prewar bank building. When the new commercial space opens, the ground floor will hold a Dollar Tree and Crunch Fitness will occupy the top two floors.
Excuse us while we swoon over this Victorian at 85-12 110th Street, in Richmond Hill. The facade looks to be in excellent shape, and who wouldn’t want a house with a wraparound front porch? The interior shows promise but it’s going to need upgrading. Details like hardwood floors, moldings, arches and pocket doors are still there. But we’d imagine a buyer will want to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms. This is asking a total of $720,000 — what do ya think?
Braving the ungodly 80-degree heat (I’m kidding), nearly fifty Forgotten New York fans converged on Richmond Hill for the eightieth Forgotten New Yorktour in a series that goes back to June 1999. New York City, at one time or another, has had three settlements named Richmond Hill. The one in Manhattan, in what is now the West Village, and the one in Staten Island, in what is now Richmondtown, have been pretty much absorbed into new neighborhoods. Queens’ Richmond Hill has been more enduring. In 1869, developers Albon Platt Man and Edward Richmond laid out a new community just west of Jamaica with a post office and railroad station, and Richmond named the area for himself (or, perhaps, a London suburb, Richmond-On-Thames, a favorite royal stomping ground). It became a self-contained community of Queen Anne architecture west of Van Wyck Boulevard (now Expressway) that remains fairly intact to the present day. Journalist/activist Jacob Riis as well as the Marx Brothers were Richmond Hill residents in the early 20th Century.
The early 20th Century William Demuth — S.M. Frank factory (above) is near the corner of Park Lane South and 101st Street. Here briar was turned and polished to manufacture Frank Medico smoking pipes. It was built at “a time when every man could afford a pipe, and conversations centered on which shape burned coolest to the taste.” The intricate brickwork is embellished with stepped corbels under the cornice and basketweave on the center tower. It was converted to condos in the 1990s. The adjacent Rockaway LIRR may have had a siding where goods could be loaded right from the factory. Simple, relatively unembellished brick factory buildings have always been a personal favorite.
Mark you calendars! Q’Stoner and Forgotten New York writer Kevin Walsh is leading a walking tour of Richmond Hill on Saturday, June 28th. As the tour details say, “Queens’ Richmond Hill boasts what may be the borough’s richest collection of high Victorian homes. Walk in Jacob Riis’ footsteps and see architectural highlights such as the Triangle Hotel, a pipe factory that became luxury housing and a 19th Century church building.” The tour begins at noon, on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. Tickets cost $15 for Greater Astoria Historical Society members, and $20 for everyone else. Check out all the details here.
Yesterday the NYC HPD celebrated the opening of a brand new affordable housing development in Richmond Hill. The development is comprised of two different sections: Richmond Place and the Richmond Hill Senior Living Residence. Richmond Place consists of 117 new affordable units for low-income families. And the Richmond Hill Senior Living Residence has 65 units specifically for older New Yorkers. According to the HPD, “Both were constructed on a Remediated Brownfield Location and are now energy-efficient affordable housing developments.”
The seven-story building has studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units priced between $785 and $1,175 a month. The city broke ground on this development way back in 2011. Click through for more exterior and interior photos of the finished product. GMAP
Don’t bring a black-and-white camera. This Sunday, the 26th Annual Phagwah-Holi Parade will fill the streets of Richmond Hill with color, music and glee. If the weather is good, at least 50,000 revelers will celebrate this Indo-Caribbean-Hindu religious holiday by singing, riding floats and throwing powder, perfume and water at each other in a good-natured fashion. (One popular red dye, called ”abeer,” symbolizes the blood of tyrannical King Kiranya, who was burnt alive by his son to avenge the suffering he had inflicted on his people.) The parade formation will begin at around 10 am in the vicinity of Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street. Participants will then proceed to 125th Street and head to Smokey Oval Park at 92nd Avenue, where music and cultural performances will take place until about 6 pm.
Details: Phagwah Parade, Liberty Avenue, starting at 133rd Street, Richmond Hill, March 16th, 10 am to 6 pm, free.