Architecture

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Brownstoner recently took a look at historical and culinary highlights centered on or near Bell Boulevard, the “main street” of Bayside, Queens. But the neighborhood is large and goes far beyond that stretch, with a deep history in film, theater and sports, as well as eclectic architecture.

Here are some of Bayside’s historical and architectural highlights.

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Bayside, in northeast Queens, was first settled by the British around Alley Creek, the East River inlet now leading to Alley Pond Park, in the early 1700s. It was first named Bay Side in 1798 and by the time the one-word spelling appeared in the 1850s, it was a small but potent community, giving rise to governmental leaders and statesmen.

The neighborhood has always retained a small-town atmosphere centered around Bell Boulevard. The street is named for Abraham Bell, an Irish Quaker who was a partner in a shipping firm and owned a vast farm in the area, and has nothing at all to do with Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor who obtained the first patent for the telephone. The city, however, has added to the confusion by naming P.S. 205, as well as its playground at 75th Avenue and 217th Street (a couple of blocks from the boulevard), Bell Park and later, Telephone Park, in honor of the inventor.

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Ridgewood Theatre, 55-27 Myrtle Avenue between St. Nicholas and Putnam avenues

Myrtle Avenue, one of the lengthiest streets in both Brooklyn and Queens, runs for nearly 15 miles from Jay Street MetroTech complex in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, east to Jamaica Avenue at the former Triangle Hofbrau.

It was first laid out in 1835 from Fulton Street to as far as Cripplebush Road, an ancient Kings County track now largely replaced by Bedford Avenue. It was extended in 1839 to Brooklyn’s Broadway, and again in 1854 as the tolled Jamaica Plank Road out to Jamaica. (Most of NYC’s toll roads of this type were made “free” around 1890-1900.)

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It was the hottest day of the year, and I spent it in Far Rockaway. The plan was simple. I would take the A train — which runs through Brooklyn Heights, downtown, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York through the heart of Brooklyn and Woodhaven, Queens and runs across Jamaica Bay — and take it to its farthest limit: the Mott Avenue station in Far Rockaway.

There are many things to see in Far Rockaway: historic commercial buildings, a Monticello-inspired post office, impressive churches, lovely homes, and more.

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Last week, I showed BQ readers the highlights of my walk down the entire length of Metropolitan Avenue, from the East River waterfront all the way to its eastern end at Jamaica Avenue, with an emphasis on its Queens identity east of Newtown Creek. I only got us as far as 69th Street, just east of the last stop on the M train.

Metropolitan  Avenue is about 13 miles long, end to end, and today’s highlights cover a lot of territory from Middle Village to Forest Hills. If you’re not up to the challenge of walking the whole way, that’s fine: simply take the M to the end of the line and grab the B54 bus heading east, which runs nearly the entire length of the avenue with a detour into The Shops at Atlas Park.

The best way to see a neighborhood, though, is by putting one foot in front of the other; behind the wheel or the handlebars, there are other things to pay attention to, such as cars and traffic regulations.

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The community of Woodhaven lies just east of the undefended border between Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a fairly large neighborhood located between Forest Park on the north, Liberty Avenue on the south, Eldert Lane (the official boundary of Brooklyn and Queens) on the west and Woodhaven Boulevard on the east.

Visitors to Woodhaven can easily travel on the J train from Williamsburg, Bushwick and East New York to the Forest Parkway station; connections to the J can be made from the A and L trains at Broadway Junction.

From the 1830s to the 1850s, the area was known as Woodville. But this was an era before the invention of zip codes, and there was some Post Office confusion between New York City’s Woodville and another Woodville upstate. In 1853, residents voted to change Woodville’s name to Woodhaven.

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Astoria. Ditmars Boulevard. The subway signs on the R train advertised these outlandish, far-off locales as I boarded it in Bay Ridge, back when I lived there for the better part of three decades. But I never really thought to trouble this northwest section of Queens until I actually moved to the borough a couple of decades ago.

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The Poppenhusen Institute, built in 1868

There is no college in College Point, and hasn’t been since about 1850, when St. Paul’s College, whose site we will visit later in the tour, was converted into an elementary school and then a summer resort. The college was founded in 1835 as a seminary by the Rev. Augustus Muhlenberg. Communities known as Strattonport and Flammersberg united to form College Point in 1867.

Though the Lawrence family, a name familiar to Queens historians, were the first to settle in what is now the College Point area in the colonial era, it was an entrepreneur named Conrad Poppenhusen who built downtown College Point, to house his factory workers, and it is his legacy that shapes College Point to this day.

College Point today is about as fully realized as small town life gets within the five boroughs. It’s effectively separated from the rest of the city by the East River, Whitestone Expressway and the former Flushing Airport, and the Long Island Rail Road stopped running there in 1932. However, a number of city buses are routed there and College Point is well worth a day trip from “out-of-villagers.”