Christmas on Broadway


    One recent Christmas season, I hiked Queens’ very own Broadway. The route begins in Ravenswood at the East River edge, and plunges southeast into the heart of Elmhurst, indeed the center of the original town of Newtown (Middleburgh) first settled by Dutch colonials in 1652 — after an original settlement 10 years earlier in Maspeth had foundered after Indian attacks. Queens’ Broadway, which attained its present length only in the early 20th century, is an amalgam of a number of roads: Broadway in Ravenswood ran southeast to the now-demapped Ridge Road near Newtown Road; and the southern part between Woodside Avenue and Queens Boulevard is the eastern section of the colonial-era Hellgate Ferry Road, which connected Elmhurst and the East River; twisting Woodside Avenue follows most of its route today.

    I must admit that I’m unsure when these two roads were joined to create the present-day Queens Broadway. Maps from the 1910s and 1920s show a completed Broadway, but that may be a figment of mapmakers’ imaginations (they often show maps the way city agencies say the street will eventually appear). Meanwhile, historian Vincent Seyfried (the unsung master chronicler of Queens whose work inspires every borough and city historian) maintains, in Old Queens, NY in Early Photographs, that Broadway was only connected with Long Island City and Elmhurst when the IND subway was opened in 1933. In any event, we can call Queens’ Broadway the youngest of all the boroughs’ Broadways.

    During this less than cheerful holiday season, given the recent news (and lack of decorative holiday snow this year: on average, there’s snow in NYC during the Christmas season two years out of every five) I wish everyone the best for the end of 2014 and the greatest 2015.

    Kevin Walsh is the webmaster of Forgotten NY and the author of Forgotten New York and, with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Forgotten Queens.

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