A Walk on Whitney Avenue, Elmhurst

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    Most of Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst runs from Broadway northeast to Roosevelt Avenue at 93rd Street, through a street grid that tilts northeast against the prevailing one. This was part of an early 20th century real estate development in which the streets were originally numbered and only later — by 1915 — were they given the names they still carry, Aske, Benham, Case, Denman, Elbertson, Forley, Gleane, Hampton, Ithaca, Judge, Ketcham, Layton, Macnish. By 1915, Roosevelt Avenue had been laid out and the el was under construction.

     

    Whitney Avenue is relatively short but one house of worship after the other, from origins all over the planet, can be found along its length. Christian Testimony Church, across the street from Elmhurst Memorial Park, the triangle formed by Whitney Avenue (formerly Warner), 43rd (formerly Ludlow, then Kingsland Avenue) and Judge Street (formerly 3rd Street — most Queens streets have past lives) has a Chinese-dominated congregation though services are offered in English and Mandarin. The building was originally a synagogue, as the word Mizpah (Watchtower) formerly appeared above the front door.

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    One of the jewels of Elmhurst, a neighborhood blessed with its fair share of historic houses of worship, is the cobblestone-exterior Elmhurst Baptist Church at Whitney and Judge. The cornerstone was laid in 1902, with the church completed the following year. There are Myanmar (Burmese) Baptist and Indonesian Baptist services offered here.


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    A block away on Ithaca Street and Whitney is Elmhurst’s biggest Catholic church, St. Bartholomew’s, which is not quite as famed as its Park Avenue namesake. The large Italinate church was built in the 1930s (as with many churches, online information is catch as catch can and sketchy; many churches would prefer you worry about what’s going on inside, not concern yourself too much with the exterior — still, this is a magnificent building and you’d hope for better building records to be readily available). The parish was established in 1906 and the original church is still standing (see below).

    A putative portrait sculpture of the Apostle, and a shrine to Mary Mother of Jesus (most Catholic churches have one) are on the lawn.

    St. Bartholomew, one of the original 12 Apostles, is the least known — there are no Bible stories associated with him and he isn’t quoted at all — though it is known he was an associate of a fellow Apostle, St. Philip. Any stories about him come from apocrypha and Christian tradition.

     

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    There seems to be no pattern in the names given to streets in this neighborhood (as listed above) –some, like Aske, Benham, Case, may be property owners or developers — and there’s Ithaca, which is a western New York State town home to Cornell University; the town was named for a Greek island.

    A walk down Ithaca between Whitney and 43rd Avenue reveals the old St. Bartholomew Church, built in 1910 (the cornerstones show the founding date of the parish, as well as the completion date). As this NY Times article relates, Ithaca was still 4th Street when the church opened in 1911. The building is now called Heafy Hall, after original pastor Jeremiah Heafy (the sign on the building misspells it as Heafey). Note the delicate worked sandstone; according to the article the stained glass windows were imported from Munich, Germany.

     

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    Also on Ithaca Street is the Jain Center of Elmhurst. From builder SEN Architects: Jain Center at Elmhurst is a four storied structure, with two religious temples, a meeting hall, library, meditation rooms, exhibition halls and classrooms for youth centered activities. It serves the social and religious requirements of the Jain Community in Queens.

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