14th Road and 119th Street was the location of an undeclared landmark in College Point, Queens for 127 years before most of Queens was even settled. Flessel’s was there when Queens was double its current size including all of Nassau County and before it was a part of New York City. It was built during the Ulysses S. Grant administration and was there before the Brooklyn Bridge connected Long Island to New York City.
But Flessel’s didn’t make it into the 21st Century.
I had long known about Flessel’s, even before I moved to Queens in 1993, from its description in Willensky and White’s AIA Guide To New York City, and always admired its out-of-time quality. After moving to Queens, I had always talked about getting up to Flessel’s for a drink or a meal.
But it never happened. Flessel’s closed for good in December 1998, the property was sold, and the building was demolished.
From Peter Zaremba’s article in Time Out New York, April 22, 1999:
If you entered the bar through the front doors, instead of the through the former ladies’ entrance at the side, you mounted a wooden porch where horses had once been tethered (left). Inside, you could order a tall glass of Dinkel Acker and steady yourself against the solid onyx bar rail, polished by the hands of more than a century’s worth of tipplers.
As a breeze from the gently turning ceiling fan cooled your head, you could admire the beveled glass behind the bar and listen to the sound of footsteps on the solid wooden floors or the clack of colliding billiard balls.
The building that later became Flessel’s Restaurant was originally built by Joseph Witzel, a College Point landowner who also built a long-gone amusement park called Point View Island in Whitestone. Probably the only reminder of Joseph Witzel’s former holdings in the area is the “W” on the columns of Flessel’s Restaurant.
College Point, at one time, was a fashionable summer resort and still has a number of Victorian-era buildings as reminder of those forgotten days.
Over the years, the building changed hands. It has been used as both a hotel, bar and restaurant throughout its long history. It has been known as Witzel’s, Eifel’s and then, Flessel’s over the years. German food and drink was a specialty as a rule.
Incredibly, Flessel’s was never named a landmark by New York City, which would have saved it from extinction. Local preservationist Paul Graziano said in an interview with the Whitestone Times in June 1999:
“It’s a perfect example of a building that should have been landmarked 30 years ago but because of the politics in Queens, it never was.” Flessel’s “is truly, along with the Poppenhusen [Institute], the heart of the College Point community. If you talk to anybody in that town, not only will they know it, they probably had their wedding there.”
There are now a group of nondescript tract houses where there once was Flessel’s.