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974.7243 
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Tront Town Seat 
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by Vincent F. Seyfried 

Queens Community Series 





R 
974.7243 
c:; 

~l1nfiuUt 
Tront Town Seat 
'lo ~ega-Suburb 

by Vincent F. Seyfried 

Queens Community Series 



Chapter One 

Chapter Two 

Chapter Three 

Chapter Four 

Chapter Five 

Chapter Six 

Chapter Seven 

Chapter Eight 

Chapter Nine 

Chapter Ten 

Chapter Eleven 

Chapter Twelve 

Chapter Thirteen 

Chapter Fourteen 

Chapter Fifteen 

Chapter Sixteen 

1.11ueens Borough Public Library 
Long Island Division 

~lm.fiutSt 
'From Town Seat 
~o 'Mega-Suburb 

by Vincent F. Seyfried 

Table of Contents 

The Beginnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 

Newtown Village on the Eve of the Revolution. .. .... . . . .. .. .. ... .. 9 

The Road to Revolution in Newtown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 

The Revolution Engulfs Newtown ....... . ..... . .... . . . .. . . . . . . .. . 15 

The Post-Revolutionary Years : 1783-1830 . ... . ... ... .. . . . . . . . . . 19 

Elmhurst in the 1830s, 40s and 50s . ..... .... . . .. . .... . ...... , . . . 25 

Elmhurst in the Civil War (1861-1865). ................. . .... . . .. 37 

Newtown Loses a Railroad and Gains a Street Railway . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 

The Post.Civil War Years (1865-1895) .. ... .. . . . . . ... .. . . .. .. ... 47 

Cord Meyer's Elmhurst . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 

How the Sewers Came to Elmhurst. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 

Movement in Elmhurst : 1898-1905 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 

Changes in the Physical Face of Elmhurst .. .. .. .. .... . ..... . ...... 107 

Elmhurst in a Changing World .. . .. ... .. .. .. ... . . .. . . ...... . ..... 127 

Elmhurst in World War I . ... ... . .... ............ . ................ 133 

Elmhurst in the 1920s ....................................... . .. 137 

*** 
Copyright 1995 Vincent A. Seyfried 

Typesetting and Design by Traction Yearbook, P.O. Box 123, Merrick ,New York 11566; (516) 379-9797 

Printed in U. S. A. 

SJ...C/'3 
LONtThLAND DIVISICW 



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Preface 

The first European settlement in the old Town of Newtown took place in 1642 at the head of Maspeth Creek. 
Friction between the Dutch and Indians in 1643 resulted in Indian raids that wiped out the first attempt at a settlement. 
In 1652, a group of Englishmen attempted a new settlement inland to avoid the risk of further raids; in this way, the "new town" 
came into existence and is now known to us as Elmhurst. 

The following pages cover the whole of the long period from 1652 to 1932, a broad span of 280years. In the early chapters, 
I have attempted to present every aspect of Newtown, from its beginnings as a tiny village and its later emergence in 1683 
as the town seat: the evolution of governmental structures, the growth in population, the growing complexity of the economy, 
the social fabric, the underlying causes of the revolution, Newtown's part in the upheaval, and the long slow recovery 
in the years after 1783. The 19th century ushered in the emergence of public transportation, involvement in the Civil War, 
and the geographical expansion of the village, along with an increased population, and many more buildings and betterments 
in daily living. 

I can claim no originality for the colonial period; I have profited from Onderdonk's Revolutionary Incidents and particularly 
Jessica Kross' The Evolution of An Early American Town, Newtown, New York, 1642-1775. For the dark period 1783-1860, 
I have used the Town records and searched out references to Newtown in the newspapers of Manhattan, Jamaica and Flushing; 
for the post-Civil War period directories proved invaluable, plus the maps appearing in 1848, 1852, 1859 and 1873. 
The local newspaper, the Newtown Register, made its appearance very late - in 1873, decades after newspapers in 
Jamaica (1822) and Flushing (1842), but having once arrived, the Register became a veritable gold mine of local lore. 
The Whites, father and son editors, were historically inclined and exerted themselves to print not only the news but also 
histories, reminiscenses and obituaries that shed much light on the dark decades of the 1830s, 40s and 50s. 

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Joseph P. Saitta, who generously volunteered to computer typeset this book from 
my long manuscript so as to reduce the prohibitive cost of publication in today 's economy. It is due to his insistence that 
all of the footnotes in the original manuscript have been included here. The staff of the Jamaica Central Library -
Robert Friedrich, William Asadorian and Charles Young - bent backwards to furnish articles, directories, maps, and pictures 
of every kind to further my researches; Robert Stonehill, Robert Presbrey, the Queens Borough President's office, 
Joseph Brunelle, the Queens Historical Society and Nassau County Library all generously made available to me their 
postcard and photo collections, without which this book would have been much the poorer. 

Garden City, New York 
March 1995 

Vincent A. Seyfried 



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Chapter One 

The Beginnings ..... 

Elmhurst occupies a site in the northwest part of Queens, 
one of several communities along Queens Boulevard, the great 
arterial highway of the borough. The heavily urbanized 
character of the place today, with the endless rows of houses, 
high-rise apartments and mega-chain stores, has obscured 
the topographical features that in the 17th century attracted 
the favorable attention of the original settlers three hundred 
years ago. Elmhurst's first colonists, like those in New England, 
looked for a site with specific advantages: it should be easily 
accessible, preferably from the sea; it should be partially or 
wholly-cleared land; there should be a plentiful supply of 
sweet water; fresh or salt meadows should be nearby for 
livestock fodder; the soil should be fertile and easily worked. 
The Elmhurst area possessed all of these advantages and more. 
The climate was temperate and the soil was a stony loam that 
could support grasses and grains and nourish garden crops. 
There was moderate rainfall - 45" on the average and a long 
growing season, thanks to the moderating influence of the ocean. 
The terrain was and is low-lying, ranging from 15 feet 

at the corner of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and 
Queens Boulevard, to 70 feet on Elmhurst Avenue. 
Elmhurst occupies the divide between two former watercourses. 
Maspeth Creek rose in the neighborhood of 65th Place and 
Clinton Street, and flowed southwest through Maspeth to 
Newtown Creek. The Horse Brook arose at roughly the 
present Kneeland and Hillyer Streets, and flowed due east 
across Broadway, and just south of Justice Street, to a junction 
with Flushing Creek. Both brooks carried off the surface 
drainage from the vast acreage on either side of them, and 
furnished an abundant supply of sweet water in all seasons 
of the year. Immediately east of Elmhurst were the vast salt 
meadows that marked the banks of Flushing Creek, furnishing 
limitless quantities of hay for winter fodder and cattle bedding. 
These same marshes also provided a nesting ground and 
feeding area for flocks of geese and ducks. The nearby 
Flushing and Newtown creeks provided plenty of shellfish, 
crabs and mussels, and the deeper waters of Flushing Bay 
and the Sound yielded cod, eel, herring and haddock. 
The patches of woodland that covered the higher elevations 
offered abundant supplies of timber for houses, and in the 
forest depths roamed deer, foxes, squirrels and rabbits, 
while partridge and grouse nested in open glades. In the fall 
of the year, chestnuts and beechnuts were plentiful, while in 
the spring, wild strawberries and grapes were available. 
Elmhurst may not have been a veritable Garden of Eden, 
but it was certainly an attractive place to the eye, 
and blessed with many natural advantages. 

Elmhurst was not the original site of settlement on 
Long Island, but rather the outgrowth of the failure of an 
earlier attempt at Maspeth. English colonists drifting down 
from Massachusetts and Rhode Island filtered into eastern 
Long Island, and, in 1640, started permanent settlements 
at Southold and Southampton. Small bands of Englishmen, 
and individuals, spurred on by a hunger for land, profit 
and adventure, made their way westward through Long Island, 
and very soon came into the area of Dutch settlement 
around New Amsterdam. 

The Dutch West India Company, which viewed New 
Amsterdam as little more than a trading post for the enrichment 
of the home country, had experienced trouble in attracting 
enough Hollanders to settle, and so was disposed to grant 
charters, even to foreigners , so long as they agreed to swear 
fealty to the Dutch government and to give the settlement 
a Dutch name. In 1642, the Reverend Francis Doughty, 
a non-conformist minister, applied for and was granted a tract 
of land at the headwaters of the Newtown Creek. Previous Indian 
groups, following their normal agricultural and settlement 
pattern of clearing a site, growing crops for a few years and 
then moving on to a fresh site, had abandoned this settlement, 
which they had called Mespat, so that Doughty, with his band, 
inherited a desirable tract already cleared of forest. 
The charter gave the English colonists religious, judicial 
and administrative powers within the colony. In return , 
the colonists accepted Dutch rule and the Dutch name 
of Middleburgh. 
The Indians and the Dutch were uneasy neighbors; 

the Dutch usually made an effort to cultivate good 
relations with the Indians because of the profitable 
fur trade in the Hudson Valley. However, cultural 
misperceptions constantly created difficulties. A minor 
incident in New Amsterdam grew into a conflict in 1643-44, 
when a series of raids by the Indians against New Amsterdam 
and some of its outlying settlements resulted in loss of life, 
crops and homesites. One of the casualties of this series of 
raids was the English settlement at Maspeth. Governor Kieft 
ordered the abandonment of all the defenseless out-
plantations, and the concentration of men inside the 
stockade of New Amsterdam. Maspeth, now deserted, 
was burned by the Indians and its crops destroyed. 
The Reverend Doughty went back to New England, 
never to return. 
Ten years later, in 1652, some of the original colonists, 

strengthened by the addition of many newcomers, decided 
to re-establish a settlement under the old Doughty patent. 
Because the old site on Newtown Creek was felt to be 
too accessible and also quite vulnerable to Indian raids, 
the settlers resolved to choose an inland site, and fixed on 
a spot which is now the intersection of Queens Boulevard 
and Broadway. The Dutch authorities , under Peter 
Stuyvesant, accepted the new site and gave it the name 
of Middleburgh. In a petition to the governor signed by 
the 55 colonists, the English asked for the grant of 
a new patent which, as things turned out, was never 
forthcoming. Although the colony was formally entitled 
Middleburgh , the English among themselves referred 
to the settlement as Newtown, to distinguish it from 
the old town of ten years before at Mespat. In 1656, 
Middleburgh negotiated with the Indian sachems for 
the land roughly included in the 1642 patent, and agreed 
on a money payment of 55 pounds. This payment was made 
in two installments, one in 1656 and the other 1666. 
The money was raised by subscription among the colonists 
themselves. Another small southern piece was bought 
in 1664, to extinguish all Indian claims. 



2 

The Welling Map of Elmhurst showing the village in 1859. This is the second-oldest detailed map we have showing individual house 
and property owners. 



To reconstruct accurately the physical appearance of 
Middleburgh, and to present a clear picture of the social and 
economic life of an era so long past, is obviously impossible. 
The newspapers, public records and media coverage that 
provide so complete a portrait of 20th century life were, of 
course, wholly absent in the 16th and 17th centuries, so we are 
forced to rely on the few records that have come down to us. 
These are the official records of the town clerk, the records of 
the courts and the wills and inventories surviving in the 
surrogate's records. None provides a history in the modern 
sense, but a careful scrutiny of the facts recorded, and the 
frtstitutions mentioned, and the social customs unconsciously 
revealed, tell us a good deal about daily life, though the picture 
is always incomplete and information tantalizingly scanty. 
The records of Newtown begin in 1652, and furnish us 

what little we know of the Dutch period (1652-1664), 
and the remaining years of the 17th century. The settlers were 
all yeomen, i.e., farmers , some of whom, however, had a trade 
on the side. The English aristocracy and gentry had no need to 
emigrate to the New World and stayed in England. The 1642 
patent gave the colony rather liberal rights: the citizens could 
erect towns and build churches (Protestant). The three local 
justices could decide civil controversies and levy fines up to 
50 guilders. The citizens could pass the names of local men 
to the governor for appointment to civil posts. Taxes were 
1/10 of the crops, but nothing on orchards or gardens. 
All adult males could nominate candidates for the town 
government, from which the Dutch governor would appoint 
the town officers. The ruling board of three magistrates raised 
and collected taxes and sat as a civil court to hear cases like 
trespass and debts. A town clerk kept town meeting minutes, 
and registered land transactions. A constable carried out law 
enforcement. Routine affairs were handled in Middleburgh; 
the Dutch retained the provincial jurisdiction and Dutch 
courts decided cases appealed to them. 
The records of the Dutch· period show a steady increase 

in population and a surprising amount of mobility. 
The population list of 1656 had 51 recognizable names; 
by 1664, there were about 250. Some men were patentees 
elsewhere - Hempstead and Flushing. All came from many 
regional areas with very different notions of farming and 
varieties of religious beliefs. Many probably moved about often, 
for economic betterment and in a quest for cheap land . 
The town could , by common consent, award land to a settler, 
particularly if he had a much-needed talent - carpentry, 
masonry, milling, etc. Outside the immediate Elmhurst area 
were common fields with every man tilling a strip. 
Men bought and sold land amongst themselves, but coined 
money was little used and scarce; barter was customary in 
everyday life. Crops were taken to New Amsterdam by boat, 
and sold in the open market or traded for manufactured 
goods. The minister enjoyed top social status. The Reverend 
John Moore probably came with the first settlers in 1652; 
he died in 165 7. At his death, the Reverend William Leverich, 
a graduate of Cambridge, took on the job in 1662. 
His theological speculations in his·own handwriting are bound 
in the same volume with the town minutes. 

In 1664, an English expeditionary force sailed into 
New Amsterdam harbor and forced Governor Stuyvesant 
and his council to surrender the Dutch colony to the 
Duke of York, to whom the English king had made a grant of 
all Dutch lands. The duke appointed Richard Nicolls as 
governor and changed the name of New Amsterdam to 
New York. In March, 1665, Nicolls ordered all the towns 

to send deputies to a meeting at Hempstead to receive a new 
law code, and to listen to any advice they cared to give. 
The Towns of Newtown , Flushing and Jamaica sent 
representatives , but were disappointed to discover that 
there was no representative assembly provided for. 
Nicolls also reorganized the judicial structure , adding a 
justice of the peace to the town officials. 

Nicolls reorganized the New York province into shires and 
ridings based on the o ld English model. Newtown became a 
part of Yorkshire and, with Brooklyn and Staten Island, became 
the West Riding; Suffolk County became the East Riding; 
Flushing, Jamaica and what is now Nassau County became the 
North Riding. The people continued to chafe and complain 
intermittently to the duke's representatives about the lack of 
representation, and in 1683 the duke again reorganized New 
York colony into counties and towns. Queens, Kings and 
Suffolk Counties now arose on Long Island , and each county 
in turn was subdivided into towns. Queens County was 
divided up into five Towns: Newtown , Flushing, Jamaica, 
Hempstead and Oyster Bay. 

All these legal changes made very little difference to 
the average settler in Elmhurst, now just one of several 
small villages in the Town of Newtown but nonetheless 
the Town seat. Remarkably, the English conquest of 1664 
is not even recorded in the Town minutes. One change of 
importance was the re-examination and re-confirmation of 
all of the old patents in 1684. Anyone who owned land had 
to have his title confirmed by the payment of a quitrent. 
The moneys that were collected went to pay for the cost of 
the expeditionary force of 1664, and the act of payment 
was a symbolic acknowledgement of English legitimacy and 
sovereignty. The Town of Newtown finally secured a 
new patent in 1686, and named 113 freeholders and 
inhabitants, including Dutchmen and Englishmen, holding 
land on the outbounds. 

Even in the late 1600's, land began to be scarce in the 
Town of Newtown ; common Town land had all been 
sold or granted off. Elmhurst (properly Newtown Village to 
distinguish it from the Town of Newtown) retained its 
importance as the site of a Town court , a petty civil court; 
between 1665 and 1691, it heard 405 cases. The Town 
meeting also met in the village; it decided public issues, 
like fencing roads, but the major function was the annual 
election of officers: constable, town clerk, assessors and 
supervisor. The names of the office holders show that 95% were 
English, and came from the top half or wealthier part of society. 
Content Titus, whose tombstone stood in the Presbyterian 
churchyard in Elmhurst until 1958, was the most active office 
holder, with 36 years of service in eight offices. 
The Town records of Newtown between 1665 and 1775 

show 1,499 land transactions. Land could be exchanged, 
given , bought, sold or willed. Each Newtowner needed a 
home lot upon which he built his house and barns, and 
planted a garden and orchard. For his livestock, if any, 
he needed a patch of meadowland to harvest salt hay 
as fodder for his animals and bedding. Hay was also used 
on the floors as a kind of floor covering. The deeds 
also show that farming on a large scale was unknown 
in Newtown; 50% of the transactions involve ten acres 
or less. In wills, all sons receive some acreage to start 
a family; by the 18th century, many famers willed all 
the land to the eldest son, leaving money to the others. 
Women are almost never landowners; when they become 
widows, they get life-tenancy in the farm but rarely possession. 

3 



Typical page in the Town Record book of Newtown; it records the sale ot some property of William and Elizabeth Lawrence and was 
filed with Town Clerk James Bradish on February 20, 1663. 

4 



Up to a quarter of the townsmen owned no land at all, 
and had to rent quarters and work for others. Labor in old 
Newtown of the 1600's could be free, indentured servant 
or slave. A free laborer could hire out by the day or week , 
but there was competition from the servant and the slave. 
Slaves came from the New York market , and showed that 
the owner had wealth . Black slaves usually worked on the 
farm and were willed at death to an heir or sold. 

Will inventories reveal a lot about households and farms 
in old Newtown. The chief crops were corn, oats, hay and 
tobacco, and these could be used to pay taxes . Horses, pigs 
and cattle, and especially sheep, are the domestic animals . 
There was probably a fledging wool industry and at least two 
fulling mills for processing wool. Textiles mentioned are 
woolen yarn, homespun cotton cloth and coarse linen . 
Everybody was a farmer to some extent, but most men were 
part-time J:ilacksmiths, tailors, masons or carpenters. 
There were almost no rich men in Newtown , though some 
were comfortable; this meant a little more in the quantity 
and quality of everyday goods. Marriage was a serious 
business and undertaken for life. Remarkably, there is 
almost no intermarriage between the Dutch and the English . 
A census taken in 1698 in the Town of Newtown showed 
that 976 whites and blacks lived in 153 households, for an 
average household size of 6 .4 persons, or 5 . 7 without blacks. 
About a third of the families remained steady in residence ; 
the other two-thirds were newcomers from other colonies. 
In religion , Newtowners were dissenters , i. e., refusing to 
conform to the state religion or the established Anglican church. 
Congregationalism (rule by local congregation) and 
Presbyterianism (rule by authoritarian synod) were the religion 
of all the English inhabitants. The Dutch , who lived apart 
socially, had their own Dutch Reformed church. 

The 18th century ushered in a period of marked prosperity 
for Newtown Village and the Town.around it. The population 
slowly increased and the local economy became more 
diversified . The nearness of Newtown to New York enabled 
people to partake of luxury goods and services that were 
generally available along the Atlantic seaboard. From the 
2.0 inventories of estates preserved in the Town records , 
we read that at least a few Newtowners could afford gold rings, 
gold chains, silver bowls, pewter, silver spoons and silver 
shoe buckles. Although agriculture was still the backbone of 
the local economy, there were persons who made money as 
artisans. The estate lists mention grindstones, planes and 
saws ; the Halletts even op~rated a brickyard. The range of 
trades by 1750 is remarkably diverse: tailor, cordwainer, 
blacksmith, mariner, carpenter, vintner, brickmaker, boatman , 
mason , and woolcomber. General stores first made their 
appearance in the mid-18th century in Newtown and Jamaica. 
Coined money was becoming a little commoner, and there is 
evidence of surplus wealth in the mention of bonds and 
mortgages for the first time. Proof that at least some people 
in Newtown Village had enough money to gamble with 
towards the end of the 18th century appears in a notice in 
the New York Journal of February 10, 1774: 

The managers of the Newtown lottery at their 
meeting on Tuesday the 8th instant, finding 
there were a few tickets of the First Class left 
undisposed of , thought proper to postpone the 
Drawing to Tuesday, the 22nd instant , when the 
Drawing will certainly commence, though there 
should not one ticket more be disposed of. 

Quoted, Newtown Register, July 22, 1886 

A few men even invested in real estate in neighboring 
states. Humbler folk on farms planted a wider variety 
of crops; besides raising vegetables for the table on the 
home lot , farmers cultivated fields of wheat, barley, corn 
and oats . The range of domestic animals now extended to 
goats and swine, and even poultry like hens and ducks . 

As the 18th century wore on , the limits of available land 
were reached. Farms got smaller and land began to be more 
difficult to obtain, and more high -priced. Eighteenth century 
wills began to show a tendency to avoid sub-division of the 
family farm ; the eldest son often inherits the land , while the 
younger sons are given money to set themselves up 
in a trade . Younger sons frequently left Newtown , seeking 
their fortune in New Jersey and Westchester. This emigration, 
plus a high rate of infant mortality and smaller families, 
tended to keep down the population growth . 

The Town government reflected the increasing complexity 
of the economy. Where three officials sufficed in Dutch days 
to govern the Town, there were now ten ;one by one , the new 
offices of pound keeper, trustee, highway surveyor and fence 
viewer were added. The Town Clerk remained the most 
important local official; he kept track of land transactions, 
mortgages, the text of legislation passed at the annual Town 
Meeting and the e lection results. He had to be literate and 
educated, and acted as the Town memory . He also tended 
to stay in office longer than other officials. 

The Town Meeting, including all the citizenry, assembled 
once a year in the Town house at Broadway and Justice Street. 
On this occasion, the townspeople elected men from their 
own number to the offices of supervisor, constable , assessor, 
overseer of highways, fence viewer, pound keeper, trustee,etc. 
The term of office was one year, but many persons were 
re-elected year after year as a tribute to their popularity 
and effectiveness in office. 
The road system of the Town of Newtown was largely 

a creation of the 18th century. The justices had the legal duty 
of laying out the highways, and dealing with the landowner. 
Much road work was done in the years 1703, 1704, 1716 
and 1722, as appears in the Town records. The main purpose 
was to connect the outlying hamlets with the churches and 
Town offices at Newtown, and also to give access to the 
mills, the meadows and the shore. Later, highway supervisors 
were appointed to guard against encroachment and to insure 
that the roads remained passable . 

Education slowly improved in Newtown during the 
18th century. At first , children were taught by their parents 
and later by the Town minister in his own house . Land was 
allocated forthe first time for a schoolhouse in 1721 in what 
is now Astoria . By 1740, four other sites had been 
dedicated for schoolhouses, including the one in Newtown 
Village . The basic curriculum was reading, writing and 
arithmetic. The more affluent families could send promising 
sons to New York for a specialized education; by 1765, 
such specialized schools were available for surveying, 
navigation and the classical education in Latin and Greek 
necessary for entry into the professions. 
The Dutch element in the Town popµlation was rapidly 

becoming integrated during the 18th century. Although 
Newtown Village-Elmhurst had been settled by the English, 
the southern and western fringes of the Town were heavily 
Dutch, and many Dutch families settled in north of the Town 
seat over the years: Rapalyes, Kouwenhovens, Suydams, 
Bragaws, Van Alsts, Rems ens, Schencks. By 1731, the Dutch 
were able to start a Reformed church of their own in Newtown 

5 



Close-up of the Moore houses' middle section (dining room) in Elmhurst at Broadway opposite Vietor Avenue, now the site of Moore Park 

6 

The historic Moore house, built by Samuel Moore, son of the Reverend John Moore (first m inister of the Town of Newtown) in 1657 
or 1662; it stood opposite Vietor Avenue. The house was demolished to make way for the subway under Broadwav 



Village. In 1771, the Dutch formed roughly 21 % of Newtown 
householders. Although the Dutch married almost without 
exception among themselves, they were gradually losing 
their language. By the 1740s, Dutch was falling into disuse 
and its speakers had drifted into a dialect that diverged 
from Holland Dutch. The Reformed congregation sometimes 
had difficulty understanding the sermons of a newly-arrived 
minister from Amsterdam because his speech was too pure. 
By mid-century, the local congregation was requesting 
English-speaking dominies. The very last Dutch-inscribed 
tombstone in the Elmhurst Reformed churchyard is dated 1802. 
The Dutch, by mid-century, were beginning to participate in 
Town government and by the Revolution were regularly 
elected to Town offices. 
The calm and uneventful life of Newtown Village was 

twice disturoed in the 18th century by local events. The first 
was the long and vexatious boundary dispute with Bush wick. 
The dispute started in 1660, when Governor Stuyvesant 
granted to Bushwick some meadows at Newtown Creek 
legally within the bounds of Newtown. The Newtowners 
appealed to the succeeding English Governor Nicolls; 
there were frequent trials over the issue in 1669, 16 71 and 1695. 
Lord Corn bury, the governor, intervened and complicated the 
issue by awarding the disputed land to his personal friends. 
In 1768, a Boundary Commission was set up , and on 
January 7, 1770, the line was run that fixed, for all time, 
the boundary between Newtown and Bushwick. The 110-year 
wrangle created not only much rancor, but also continuing 
legal expenses, forcing Newtown to sell off much of its 
public lands to raise funds. 
The other issue that disturbed Newtown was the Ministry 

Act of 1693 enacted by Parliament. Queen Elizabeth I had 
worked tirelessly to Protestantize the Catholic England that 
she had inherited in 1558, and thanks to her long reign of 
43 years, she succeeded in setting up her new Church of 
England and forcing her subjects to accept it, with herself 

as final authority in matters of doctrine and ritual. 
Elizabeth and her later successor, James II, were chagrined 
to discover that some of her subjects, carried away by 
reforming zeal, rejected her theological positions and 
particularly her Anglican hierarchy of priests, bishops and 
archbishops. These people, loosely-termed Dissenters, 
were persecuted and sought refuge in the New World. 
In Massachusetts, they separated into two broad sects, 
Congregationalists and Presbyterians. From time to time, 
individual ministers rose up and preached new and 
sometimes bizarre doctrines that aroused controversy and 
often forced their hasty exit from the town. 

The Ministry Act was an attempt on the part of 
Queen Anne to force the official Church of England on the 
New York colony. In Queens County, two parishes were 
set up: Hempstead and Jamaica. Each parish was to obtain 
and pay a minister at the rate of £60 a year, the money to be 
raised by general taxation. The inhabitants of Newtown 
were Presbyterian and Congregationalist to a man and 
bitterly resented being taxed to pay an Anglican clergyman . 
When a vestry was elected from the dissenting Newtowners, 
they refused to vote a salary. In 1704, Governor Corn bury 
broke the deadlock by installing Thomas Poyer, an Anglican 
minister , at Jamaica; the sheriff was directed to evict the 
Congregationalist minister from his village parsonage and 
to install Poyer. The townspeople in Jamaica and Newtown 
Village shunned the minister, and for years forced him 
to struggle to collect his salary. It took 30 years and a 
succession of ministers with conciliatory personalities 
to win some acceptance among the Newtown people. 
A few families , like the Halletfs of Astoria , became 
Episcopalians, and finally , in 1731, a plot of land was 
donated at the corner of Broadway and 51st Avenue for an 
Episcopal church. Interestingly enough, this was the first 
conflict between Town and Crown , a harbinger of 
things to come. 



T
he C

orner H
ouse. southeast corner of Q

ueens B
oulevard and G

rand A
venue (before w

idening). 
B

uilt about 1
7

0
0

 and used as an
 inn 

all during the R
evolution

. V
isited by L

ord H
ow

e and G
eorge W

ashington. 
D

ow
nstairs w

as th
e barroom

; upstairs w
as a large ballroom

 
w

here B
ritish officers danced

. 
B

ecam
e a Presbyterian parsonage in the 19

th century; dem
olished July 10, 1916. 

A
n im

portant 
colonial landm

ark 
oc 



Chapter Two 

Newtown Village on the Eve of the Revolution 

By the end of the 18th century, it became possible 
for the first time to pinpoint landmarks in Newtown Village, 
and to relate these colonial sites to the present-day 
street pattern. Broadway was the principal street, and it 
extended only from Baxter Avenue on the north to 
Queens Boulevard on the south. Queens Boulevard, or the 
Jamaica Road, began at Broadway and extended east 
to Jamaica. Grand Avenue, or the Road to the Ferry, was 
opened about 1696 and was Newtown's connection to 
Brooklyn; it would soon serve as the invasion route for the 
British Army. Justice Street was the road to Coe's Mill and 
led to Flushing Bay. Woodhaven Boulevard, in use as early 
as 1668, was the "road leading to the bay" and existed as 
an outlet to South Queens and the salt grass meadows of 
Jamaica Bay. Corona Avenue began as a lane in front of 
the Reformed Church, and led to the "Commons," the 
open land to the east where villagers pastured their cattle. 
West of Broadway was another "Commons," acres of 
open land for grazing and farming. 
The Horse Brook was an important water course in 

colonial Newtown. Its path can just barely be traced 
between Justice Street and Queens Boulevard; to the east 
and west it has been wholly obliterated. The Horse Brook 
received all the run-off from the wide area west of Broadway 
and was a lively flowing stream furnishing water to man and 
beast in town. Broadway and Horse Brook Road (56th Avenue) 
were carried over the stream on bridges. Fish were plentiful 
in the deeper pools of the stream, and muskrats lived in the 
dense thickets of reeds. A spring was still flowing in the 
stream bank at 53rd Avenue in colonial times, and where 
56th Avenue crossed the brook was, in the mid 18th century, 
a bark mill (tanning mill) an·d pond, the enterprise of 
William Vallance. East of 56th Avenue, Horse Brook flowed 
through a vast low-lying meadow until it emptied into 
Flushing Bay. 
Atthe upper end of the village, at the corner of Broadway 

and 43rd Avenue, was the local cattle pond, to which villagers 
led their cows and horses. A small brook flowed east from 
the pond along the line of 43rd Avenue. 

Four cemeteries served colonial Newtown. The Town 
burying ground was on the south side of Justice Street and 
at the foot of 90th Street, and had been in use since 
the founding of the village in 1652. Few villagers could 
afford the luxury of tombstones, and the monuments still 
visible a century ago marked late 18th century and early 
19th century graves. When the cemetery was in use, roughly 
1652-1870, the place was well maintained, but later 
it became a jungle, and in our day serves as a basketball court. 
The colonial Episcopal graveyard lay behind the old church, 
and its remains were transferred to the newer grounds in 1882. 
The Dutch Reformed burying ground of colonial days 
remains undisturbed, but the site of the Presbyterian ground 
north of Queens Boulevard is now occupied, since 1958, 
by an apartment house. 

Newtown was almost entirely a hamlet of small private 
houses at the time of the Revolution, all of them wooden 
frame and mostly one story. Some of these - Titus, Bloom, 

Field, and Burroughs - survived into the 19th century and 
a very few into the early 20th; none survive today. 
There were at least half a dozen colonial taverns - including 
Bloom's and Provost's - but their locations have been 
forgotten along with their proprietors. The most prominent 
tavern was the Corner House on the southeast corner of 
Queens Boulevard and Grand Avenue. This large building 
was erected about 1716 by Jonathan Fish, who, with his son 
Samuel, long kept a tavern here. On this same site had 
formerly stood the first church building in Newtown, built in 
the 1680's. Though Presbyterian in origin, Lord Cornbury 
seized the church building and inducted the Reverend 
William Urquhart, a Church of England minister. In 1715, 
the church was either torn down or sold for another use , 
and the Corner House was built on its site. The Presbyterians 
then built their new church on Queens Boulevard in 1716. 
The only official building in Newtown Village was the 

Town House. The first building was a wooden structure 
on the north side of St. James Place and some hundred feet 
or so back from Broadway. For most of the 1600s, the 
building also served as a parsonage for the Town minister. 
About 1677, a second Town House was built on the west side 
of Broadway, opposite St. James Place and Corona Avenue. 
In 174 7, this building was replaced by a third Town House 
next door. When this structure grew decrepit, it was replaced 
by the fourth Town House, which went through the Revolution 
and lasted until 1805. The land on the west side of Broadway 
on which these successive Town Houses were built was 
owned by the Town, including all the surrounding lots , and 
remained Town property until it was auctioned off in 1849. 
The Town House served not only as the meeting place for 
the annual Town meeting, but also as the court house and 
the office of the Town Clerk. 

Nothing is known of the location of any commercial 
establishments in the village, though some certainly existed 
up and down Broadway. Most Newtowners were self-sufficient 
for foodstuffs , and had their own farms, orchards and chicken 
yards. A store would sell manufactured goods not available 
locally, or exotic items and luxury goods, and, since the 
demand for such goods was limited in a country village, 
one or two general stores would supply the small demand. 

In 1771, on the very eve of the Revolution , the Province 
of New York took a census of the Towns making up the 
province. In 1911, all these returns were destroyed in the fire 
at the New York State Library, but, fortunately for us, 
James L. Riker, the pioneer Newtown historian, had visited 
Albany in 1849 and transcribed the names of the heads of 
households for Newtown. It is possible that the original 
census records also showed the number of persons in each 
household by sex, race and age group, but if these figures 
were available for Newtown, Riker did not copy them. 

In any case, we do have an invaluable list of 189 names: 
Richard Alsop, Elias Bailey, Nathaniel Bailey, William Bailey, 
John Bargaw, Joseph Bass, Jacob Bennett, Cornelius Berrian, 
Richard Berrian, Joseph Betts, Richard Betts, Richard Betts, 
Samuel Betts, Jacob Blackwell, Simon Bloom, Charles Boerum, 
Jacob Boerum, Abraham Brinckerhoff, Abraham Brinckerhoff, 

9 



T
his is the only know

n view
 of the O

ld T
ow

n C
em

etery
, on the southeast corner of 9

2
n

d
 S

treet and Justice A
venue. 

T
he T

ow
n used 

to tidy up the graveyard at long intervals, but it soon reverted to a jungle-like status. A
 basketball court now

 occupies the site. 
~ 



George Brinckerhoff, Hendrick Brinckerhoff, Peter Burgaw, 
Widow Burgaw, Joseph Burroughs, John Burtis, Paul Burtis, 
Samuel Burtis, John Coe, Pheby Coe, Robert Coe, 
Robert Coe, Jr., Widow Collier, John Cornell, Gillean Corne!, 
Benjamin Cornish, James Culver, Charles Debevoice, John 
Debevoice, George Debevoice, Daniel Denton, Widow 
Denton, Abraham Devine, John Devine, William Devine, 
Philip Edsel , John Evans, Benjamin Field , Benjamin Field, Sr., 
Jacob Field, Robert Field, Stephen Field, Widow Fish, 
Widow Fish, Ezekiel Furman, Howard Furman, John Furman, 
Jonathan Furman, William Furman, Widow Furman, 
Jeremiah Gerason, Joseph Goslang, Jost Goslang, Jacob 
Gosling, Israel Hallett, Jacob Hallett, Jacob Hallett , 
James Hallett , Richard Hallett, Robert Hallett, Samuel 
Hallett Cap., Samuel Hallett bongs, Sarah Hallett, Thomas 
Hallett, William Hallett, William Hallett, James Harper, 
Widow Hazard, William Hazard, John Hobbs, Simon Horton, 
Anthony House , Edward Howard , Nathaniel Hunt, Cornelius 
Jacobs, Edward Ketcham, John Kitcham, Laffort Laffers , 
Woodard Lambert, Peter Lane , Daniel Lawrence, Joseph 
Lawrence, Jonathan Lawrence, Thomas Lawrence, William 
Lawrence, Sr., William Lawrence, Jacobus Lent, Elnathan 
Leverich, John Leverich, John Leverich, Jr., William Leverich, 
John Lewice , Ludlow Heirs, Daniel Luyster, Elexander 
Mackmullin, James Mar, John Mconnel, Benjamin Moore, 

John Moore, John Moore , Jr., Nathaniel Moore , 
Samuel Moore 3rd, Samuel Moore, Jr., Widow Moore, 
Abraham Morrell , John Morrell, Jonathan Morrell, Jonathan 
Morrell , Joseph Morrell , Thomas Morrell , Thomas Morrell, 
Widow Morrell , Widow Morrell , Isaac Mussera, Benjamin 
North, Thomas North, William Painter, Widow Palmer, 
John Parse! , Nicholas Parse!, Widow Penfold, Abraham 
Pettit, Daniel Pettit, John Pettit, Nathaniel Pettit , 
Stephen Pettit, Richard Pierce, Abraham Polhemas, Nathaniel 
Provost, Rem Ramson, Lucks Ramson, Jeromus Ramson , 
Abraham Rapelje , Abraham Rapelje, Abraham Rapelje, 
Cornelius Rapelje, Daniel Rapelje , Daniel Rapelje , Sr. , 
George Rapelje, Jacob Rapelje , Jeromus Rapelje , Widow 
Rapelje, Widow Remack, Stofil Remsen , Samuel Renne, 
Abraham Ricker, Samuel Ricker, Jacobus Ricker, Charles 
Roach , Nathaniel Robards , William Sacket, William Sackett, 
George Sands, Abraham Scilman , Samuel Scudder, John 
Seydam, Widow Sloane, Caspar Springsteen , Widow Spring-
steen , Samuel Street, Edward Titus, Francis Titus , John 
Van Alst, Dow Van Dine, Widow Van Dine, Burgaw Van Olst , 
Isaac Van Olst, Philip Venice, William Wainright, Oliver 
Waters , Samuel Waldron, Samuel Waldron, James Way, 
John Way, Samuel Way, William Waynman , Elizabeth 
Whitehead, Joseph Woodard, Lambert Woodard and 
Nathaniel Woodard. 

11 



1829 Long Island Farmer ad for the stage coach that ran from Flushing through Elmhurst to New York via the Williamsburgh ferries -

one round trip a day. 

12 

l'lushing, Newtown &. 1\Tew-
Tork. 

~~~(tgj~@) 
Fall Arrangement. 

T HE Flushing and Newtown STAGE leaves Benj. Lowerre 2s, and Cu:"tis 
Flushing Hotel, :Flushing, at seven o'clock 
and John Dodge's Hotd, Newtown, at 
half past seven o'clock, in the morning, hy 
way of Williamsburgh; ann have also bc1·11 t"1•;;.1gt"d, n1H.l ·" L<·1'L1ir .. 
will be delivered on each Tuc::~ay ey~ruag Junnt; 
the winter, vi~: 
Dr. Zabriskie, of .E1at1'111la. 
Jas T. Brady, E~q., of ~Y11c l'ork. 
Hon. John H. Scol••1o1,' .. 
llor11ce t ;reei~\·. E~., 
Hon. Chas. P. i );dv, 
~amul'I E. Johm~o·11. J·>q, u{ B1·;mk!11tt. 
l'tev. ::'Ylr. Brown, of .. As1uri1i. · 
Hev. t~. J. l;itnt't~on. of ~Yttt·/01ni 
Rev. Mr. B11~hop, of _·jswri1i. 
R('v. Joint Ludlow; V. D., l'rut•osl u{ tl1~ C:11frerri:'t/ 

of Pcmisylt•a nia. · · 
..\'1•wtown, ~ov. 29, lflJ:>. J91-1f 

An ad for the Newtown Lyceum lecture series for the season of 1845-46. Some of these men were well-known in their day; only 
Horace Greeley, friend of Lincoln, editor of the New York Tribune and presidential candidate is remembered today for his advice: "Go 
West, young man." This ad appeared in the Flushing Journal on February 14, 1846. 

The Newtown Lyceum .on the west side of Broadway., just north of Corona Avenue, later 81-33 Broadway Here famous men came 
to lecture to Elmhurst audiences and heated political rallies enlivened elections. Photo 1923. 

14 



Chapter Four 

The Revolution Engulfs Newtown 

Sentiment in Queens County was heavily Tory 
or pro-British; only in Newtown and Oyster Bay were 
there substantial numbers of people sympathetic to the 
Continental Congress. The New York Convention of 
November 20, 1775, summoned the 26 most prominent 
Tories in Queens to appear before it, and, when they refused , 
appointed Colonel Heard and his New Jersey Militia to 
disarm the Tories and to arrest the most vocal among 
them. Colonel Heard crossed by Astoria ferry on January 19, 
1776, and scoured Newtown, searching for arms and hidden 
ammunition and extracting pledges from loyalists to the 
crown to remain neutral. Nineteen of the 26 cited to appear 
in New York were arrested and sent to Philadelphia, where 
they were paroled and allowed to return home. 

In March, 1776, Congress decided to arrest all active Tories 
to prevent the British from using Queens as a friendly port of 
debarkation. A small patriot force moved through Newtown on 
March 6, 1776, and Jamaica on March 7th. In Newtown, 
193 enrolled in the patriot militia ; only 30 joined in Jamaica; 
10,000 cartridges and 1,000 flints were gathered. 
Four months later, news was received from Philadelphia that 

the Continental Congress had, on July 4, 177 6, dissolved the 
historic tie with England, and declared the colonies free and 
independent. The news created a sensation in Elmhurst and 
filled the townspeople with fear and foreboding. 

Parliament was determined to put down the rebellion 
and gathered an army and fleet which debarked on Staten 
Island in 1776. To prevent the livestock in Brooklyn and 
Queens from falling into British hands , the Congress at 
Philadelphia ordered the militia to drive the cattle eastward, 
along the line of Jamaica Avenue, into the interior 
of the island. On August 25th, the British Army landed at 
New Utrecht in Brooklyn; two. American regiments under 
General Washington formed on Brooklyn Heights to resist 
the invasion. Washington , seeing himself outnumbered and 
short of troops, resolved not to provoke an engagement, 
and, under the cover of a morning fog, withdrew his forces 
(August 27th). When the British discovered themselves 
masters of Long Island, they sent scouting detachments into 
Queens County, reaching Jamaica on August 28th, and 
Flushing on the 29th. 

Major General Robertson, with the main body of the 
British Army, marched along what is now Fulton Street, 
Bedford, DeKalb , Nostrand , Myrtle and Grand Avenues 
to Newtown Village (August 29th). The troops set up camp 
in tents on vacant ground between Corona Avenue and 
Queens Boulevard, and to the south of the Boulevard. 
Major General Robertson commandeered the substantial 
house of Samuel Renne at Queens Boulevard and 57th 
Avenue (later 89-16 Queens Boulevard), and, while sitting 
in the parlor on September 3rd, penned his report on the 
Battle of Long Island , with details of the engagement and 
the stores and taverns captured enroute through Brooklyn. 

In the first days of September, 1776, a rumor was reported 
to General Robertson that the American General Lee was 
flanking the British in the vicinity of Hell Gate in Astoria. 
General Robertson marched a part of his force out of 

Text 04-01 October 25, 1994 

Newtown Village via Woodside and Newtown Avenues 
to Astoria. He found that there was no truth in the rumor, 
but his forces engaged in an artillery duel with the Americans 
dug in at East 88th Street in Manhattan. General Sir Henry 
Clinton, with the rest of the British Army, occupied the 
Newtown Creek area and used what would later be DeWitt 
Clinton's house in Maspeth for his headquarters. 
General von Heister and his Hessians, who had succeeded 
to the Newtown Village command, marched out in October, 
1776 and moved to Jamaica. On October 12th, he marched 
to Flushing via Kissena Boulevard , Main Street and Union 
Street to Whitestone. Here he crossed the East River on 
53 flatboats and landed at Throgg's Neck. 

By the end of October, 1776, the big military moves 
in Queens were over, and the British generals and their 
armies moved onto the mainland for the continued 
prosecution of the war against Washington and his ragtag 
patriots. Newtown Village and the rest of Queens now 
settled down to a long occupation with British officers 
billeted in the houses and British sentries patrolling the roads. 
The main body of the Army of Occupation took up positions 
in what is now the Sunnyside Yards along 39th Avenue, 
between Woodside and Queens Plaza. This gave them 
command of all west-central Queens. British men-of-war 
anchored in Newtown Creek as a winter haven and British 
supply ships unloaded stores and munitions at the 
Town Dock in Maspeth. In Newtown Village, the British 
took over the Plain homestead on the south side of old 
Hoffman Boulevard at 58th Avenue for a military hospital. 
The word "hospital" creates false images in our minds, 
for we instinctively think of a special building and all sorts 
of medical equipment. A field hospital in colonial America 
was simply a farmhouse with many straw pallets on the floor 
for sick soldiers to lie on, and the sole medicine available 
was whiskey. When the Howard farm, behind the old Plain 
farmhouse, was broken up in August, 1892, 58th Avenue 
was cut through from Seabury Avenue to Hoffman 
Boulevard and in the process the old Plain farmhouse 
had to be be demolished. (1) 
For seven long years, the Town of Newtown lay under 

enemy occupation. Squads of soldiers penetrated every 
byroad and visited each farmhouse to search for food and 
property and to ferret out any hidden patriots. Most of the 
patriots fled to avoid imprisonment or to join the American 
forces . Their homes were confiscated and the door branded 
with an arrow to denote forfeiture to the crown. Those who 
stayed behind were either Loyalists or American sympathizers, 
who kept their feelings to themselves. To identify 
themselves, the Loyalists wore a red ribbon tied around 
their hats or a red flannel rag tucked under their hat band . 

The British garrisoned Queens with dozens of detach-
ments; Newtown Village was occupied by the Royal Highland 
Regiment. The regular troops occupied tents in the 
summertime and huts in the winter; many sickened and died 
from exposure to dampness, fog and wind, and were probably 
buried in the Town cemetery. The officers were billeted 
on the townspeople or farmers. The commanding officer 

15 



~®~il©~Q 
-~ 

•THE Subscribers Will milk.e ap• 
plication .to thr. L<'!!:i•laturc of the 

State of New;Y11rk, at their next s.-ssion, 
for an Act incorpotali11g theon.-lve• and 
others, "'soc.i•tcd for the ru1·pose of cs-
tablishin:; a J.<,,malP 8e.min•tyin Npw-
to1Vn, Lon:; Island, fClt fire diffusion of 
femal<' education, 11niler the nam~ of the 
"Newtown Female Acad1·my," .)vith 
power to th e said r.orpnration of holrli11; 
r"al hnd personal rstate, prmitled the 
yc:itly incnme t.lll·rrof s hall not at. ;iny 
time exceed tht•. "''m of ten tho1,.antl 
d11llnrs. Oat r. cl, ~rwtown, (L. I.) No-
vcmbrr ~I, IB~I. 

AIHU,\N VAN S!:'iOtltBN, 
AlllL\tL\M fl~:MSEN, 
JQllN EnnrT,;, 
AARON FUHMAN. 
J A~rns l\I . II ALSEY. 

' 17-Giv 

An attempt to set up a Female Seminary in Newtown Vilage in 1821. The school did open and we know the names of the two 
school marms: Mrs. Bruce and Miss Ledyard. Long Island Farmer 

The Andrew Lawrence House on the east side of Grand Avenue, opposite Van Loon Street. When Haspel Street was cut through 
to Grand Avenue in 1904, the Lawrence House was demolished (August, 1904). It was built about 1812 and was supposedly the 
site for the Newtown Female Academy proposed in 1821. 

16 



would obtain a list of the inhabitants and inform ation as 
to how many persons each family could accommodate. 
Non-commissioned officers, in squads of ten, twenty or more, 
were furnished with tickets directing them to the assigned 
house. The soldiers usually selected the kitchen as their 
apartment because it was the warmest. Hammocks were 
set up around the room in three tiers, one above the other. 
The soldiers often pilfered small articles and were many 
times disrespectful to their hosts. 
The major burden of supplying food and firewood fell to 

the townspeople. Feeding so large a force strained the 
economy, and made grains and vegetables scarce and 
high -priced. The British commissary forced farmers to sell 
to them at prices fixed by the king 's commissioners . 
Th.e insatiable need for wood to heat the miserable huts 
of the soldiers denuded the local woodlands and every fence 
in the Town. All travel was controlled by the soldiery, and 
passes had to be obtained to use the roads - and even 
the waterways. The army seized all solid buildings in 
Newtown Village . Henry Onderdonk, the historian, speaking 
of Revolutionary times, reported that some frolicsome 
young Torries, led on by Dr. Moore, one night shortly after 
the British came to Newtown, sawed off the steeple of the 
Presbyterian church and pulled it down with a well rope. 
The church was then used as a guard house and prison, 
and the pews were taken out. Finally, the building itself 
was taken down and used in constructing huts on Renne's 
place (south of Queens Boulevard and 57th Avenue). 
The pulpit was placed beside the Town House (old Corner 
House site) and was used as a horse post. (2) The Dutch 
Reformed Church at Broadway and Corona Avenue, 
equally suspect as a patriot resort, was turned into a powder 
magazine. The Episcopal church survived because it was 
the Church of England, and the British officers and men 
came to worship there on Sundays and to hear the minister 
invoke blessings on good King George and his family. 
The Corner House, at Queens Boulevard and Grand Avenue, 
was the special resort of British officers and men because 
it was the largest tavern in town and had a well-stocked 
cellar. It also had a ballroom in its upper story, where dances 

and receptions were held to celebrate the holidays and 
the king's birthday. 

The hardest thing to bear for townsfolk and farmers was 
the constant thievery by the soldiers of foodstuffs - grain , 
cattle and poultry. Everything had to be guarded day and 
night, and, even then, property disappeared. Complaints 
were fruitless; the civil courts were suspended for the 
duration, and the military winked at crimes committed 
by their own . 

When British General Cornwallis surrendered his 
8,000-man army in Virginia on October 19, 1781, it became 
obvious to all that American independence had been won. 
The British deliberately delayed surrendering in New York 
province, in order to evacuate the Loyalist population, 
who now had good reason to fear retribution at the hands of 
the patriots. The English designated the province of 
Nova Scotia as a refuge for the Tories, and provided free 
transportation to that location. On September 3, 1783, 
a peace treaty was signed, ending the Revolutionary War. 
In October, the army began to pull out of Newtown, marching 
along Woodside Avenue and what is now the Brooklyn-
Queens Expressway to Review Avenue at Calvary Cemetery, 
where they crossed over the Penny Bridge into Brooklyn. 
Manhattan itself was evacuated on November 25, 1783. 
On December 8 of that year, the people of Jamaica watched 
as the last redcoats marched west along Jamaica Avenue 
into Brooklyn. That night there was a patriotic celebration, 
with 13 candles shining in each window to mark the start of 
a new nation . 
One of the most astonishing things about the Revolution 

in Newtown was the complete absence of any reference to it 
in the Town Records kept by the Town Clerk of that period, 
Samuel Moore. British officers were quartered in the old 
Townsend house on Bowery Bay Road, where Moore kept his 
records and, as a good Tory, he disdained to allude even once 
to any of the stirring events occurring daily around him! 

(1) Newtown Register, August 11, 1892, 5 :4 
(2) ibid ., September 14, 1916, 4:4, quoting 

Onderdonk's Revolutionary Incidents , p. 132. 

17 



, ·:Oni,lY.etl.6' .. y ~i~ht, 19Jh inlt. a fire broke 
~~·in lhtfooaeh· umnufactory oft~ M .. rl.~ B.ur-
;l'()~•irhs, at Newt.,wn; . whi&~h wit.h ·its. cuutebl8, 
:Wileil~··dhatru,yed~· ~lie J1'te comtnuoiCaced ~~:9!t~~~E 
su~~NO• .Of u.e pPOpert1 · .... •111Un-d • . , 
• , - •••• ~:., , . ~ , . ! . • . ~ - . • • .· .. . ' . . : L .... -..I; 

News article of October 29, 1836 in the Williamsburgh Gazette describing a fire on Broadway that had occurred ten days before. 

Gravestones of three ministers of the Presbyterian chu rch· Peter Fish, died 1810; Reverend Simon Horton, died 1786; and Samuel 
Pumroy, died 1744. Originally buried in the Old Town Cemetery, but moved to the church cemetery on Queens Boulevard in 
November, 1901. This was destroved for an aoartment house (86-35 Queens Boulevard) in April 1958. 

18 



Chapter Five 

The Post-Revolutionary Years: 1783-1830 

The end of the Revolu1tion found Newtown and all of 
Queens County in a state of exhaustion. The forms of municipal 
government had continued all during the seven years of 
occupation, but this was largely a facade with real power in the 
hands of the military. On December22, 1783, the first Town 
officers were elected under independence. Many patriots lost 
no time in returning to their devastated homes and farms. 
The new officers had to deal with tangled finances and 
confusing claims, striving to restore good order and stability 
to affairs. The land 's physical condition was a discouraging 
factor. Houses and barns were dilapidated, either from military 
abuse or as a result of years of no maintenance. All the fences 
had been burned for firewood, and the woodlands had been 
totally destroyed by foraging teams. The JOU's signed by 
British officers for food and supplies went unredeemed, and 
stolen property remained irrecoverable. The social damage of 
divided loyalties remained deep and lasting; although many 
Tories had left Queens in fear of retaliation , some remained 
behind chagrined and baffled by the defeat of the supposedly 
invincible British Army in which they had once trusted. 
Now, they faced the long-smothered anger of the triumphant 
patriots who reviled them publicly, and often sued them for 
trespass and theft in the days of occupation. These divisions 
often cut across families and neighborhoods, and created 
strained relations for years thereafter . 

Some idea of the disruption created by the Revolution 
can be gained from census figures for the whole Town of 
Newtown between 1790, when the first count was taken, 
and 1830. In 1790, there were only 2,111 persons living 
between the East River and Flushing Creek, and between 
the Long Island Sound and the lnterboro Parkway, the limits 
of the Town of Newtown. In 1830, the count was 2,610, 
a gain of only 499 in forty years. The period was an era of 
quiescence, a time to recove·r momentum and to catch up to 
the prosperity that had prevailed in the 18th century. 
This early period is perhaps the darkest in the history of 
Queens in the sense that we know so little about it. 
People were born, married and died , as always, but, there is 
no evidence of movement or vitality in the villages or in the 
Town as a whole. We have no diaries, newspapers,journals, 
collections of letters , etc. from 1790 to 1830, and the sole 
materials we possess are the sterile files of Town minutes, 
wills, court records, etc. - hardly the stuff of history and 
devoid of the flesh and blood detail that constitutes real 
social history. 

Agriculture , long the backbone of the Queens economy, 
recovered gradually thanks to enlightened cultivation, the 
introduction and use of manures , better farming machinery 
and determined recovery of marsh and bog land. 
The woodlands, left in peace for decades, also regenerated 
themselves, bringing back beauty to the landscape, and food 
and timber to the farmers. The completion of the Erie Canal 
in 1825 caused a radical change in the cultivation of crops 
in Queens County. Before the Erie Canal , wheat, barley, 
corn and rye were the chief crops raised on Long Island 
and were processed in local mills, but, after the canal opened, 
Long Island could no longer compete with the rich and 

virgin lands of the West in the production of cereal grains. 
To survive, farmers on western Long Island were forced 
for the first time to experiment with market gardening. 
The easy proximity of New York City and Brooklyn provided 
a ready market for the potatoes, cabbage, peas, beans, 
asparagus and tomatoes of Queens farms. This dependable 
market for produce, insatiable and growing every year as 
the waves of immigration deposited more and more people 
on Manhattan Island, stimulated local agriculture 
enormously and made market gardening the chief industry. 
The wealth and prosperity that cultivation brought to 

Newtown was reflected in Town betterments . One of the 
most important of these was education. As early as 1720, 
the Town of Newtown had established four widely-
separated schools on sites donated by prominent landowners. 
The students had to defray the costs of running the school-
the schoolmaster's salary and the cost of books. In 1814, 
the Town of Newtown voted to divide the whole township 
into school districts and to appoint commissioners and 
inspectors. This was the start of the common school system 
of free education in Queens County. The village of Newtown, 
in virtue of its position as the town seat, was made District # 1. 
The most remarkable social change in the Town during 

those early decades was the abolition of slavery on July 4, 
1827. A majority of the land -owning farmers in Newtown 
owned slaves, but always in small numbers because there was 
nothing in Queens comparable to the plantation system 
in the South. Normally, male slaves helped to work the farm, 
while one or more female slaves did household chores. 
Because of the strong Quaker influence in Queens, and the 
relatively small importance of slave labor in the Town 's 
economy, there had been a tendency to manumit slaves 
in the 18th century, and the War of Independence intensified 
this tendency to extend to slaves the same freedom from 
bondage that free Americans enjoyed. Many slaves hailed 
the event with joy, and left the familiar surroundings of 
a lifetime for the excitement of a new life, but others, 
especially the middle-aged and infirm, preferred to live out 
their days with their old master. The Town records for almost 
every year after 1783, and down to as late as 1825, record 
the manumission of one or more slaves. It was necessary 
to record these grants legally, for manumission had to be 
approved by the Overseers of the Poor, and could be granted 
only to those under 50, presumably to make sure that the 
free slave would not become a charge on the Town. 

It is interesting to note that at the very time of the abolition 
of slavery in New York State, the first black church in the 
Town of Newtown was founded. On November 23, 1828, 
William Hunter and his wife Jane deeded a plot of ground 
on the north side of Corona Avenue, just west of 91st Place, 
to the United African Society. In the 18th century, this tract 
and all the land south of it, down to Justice Street, had been 
part of the Hunter farm. The deed stated that the property 
was given for the express purpose of erecting thereon a 
church and parsonage "and for no other purpose." A small 
church seems to have been erected within a few years, 
and the surrounding land became a colored cemetery. 

19 



t:;.._;.~-.---~- ·-----------·-··-" 

~·' 

A view of the 18th-century Penfold house, which was built in 1790. It was located on the north side of Woodside Avenue 
at 67th Street. 

The Alexander Baxter house on Baxter Avenue, about opposite Ketcham Street, in 1906. This is obviously an old Dutch-style 
house with a separate kitchen. Note the well at the left. Alexander Baxter, a Scotsman, was long manager of the Lord estate until 
the sale of the property to Cord Meyer in 1893. 

20 



For more than a hundred years, the church, variously known 
as Methodist Colored, Presbyterian and, finally, as St. Mark's 
African Methodist Episcopal, along with the graveyard, 
continued in use down to as late as the 1930s. (1) 

An important improvement for Newtown was the opening 
of a post office in June, 1829, the ninth to be established 
in Queens County. Bernard us Bloom, a tavern keeper, was 
appointed as the first postmaster. Letters before this date, 
for persons living in Newtown, had been deposited in the 
Brooklyn post office and had to be picked up in person. 
The name of Bernardus Bloom recurs several times in 
Newtown Village in the late 18th and early 19th century. 
The first Bernard us was a blacksmith, according to the Town 
records, old enough to buy and sell property in the 1740s. 
By the time of the Revolution, he is a colonel in the militia and, 
in 1775, he is one of the signers declining to recognize the 
Continental Congress. His wife, Agnes Nicoll, who died 
in 1818, was later buried in the Town cemetery. Bernardus 
died between 1781-83 in Newtown. His grandson, also 
Bernardus Bloom, was, in 1802, running the Flushing 
stagecoach three times a week to Brooklyn at a 50-cent fare. 
In 1788, he and his wife Angentie were members of the 
Reformed Dutch church. Three deeds mention him as a 
recipient of property in 1792, 1793 and 1801. In April, 1810, 
the Town's annual meeting was held at his inn. (2) 
In April, 1819, the annual election was also held there. 
Bernardus died in the 1840s. He lived in the house later 
numbered 88-09 on the north side of Justice Street; 
this old house, built about 1800, survived until at least 1935. 

Female education, even as early as the 1820s, was a 
matter of concern in Newtown. On November 21, 1821, 
Abraham Remsen, Adrian Van Sinderen, John Ebbits, 
Aaron Furman and James M. Halsey advertised in the 
Jamaica Long Island Farmer that they would apply to the 
Legislature for permission to incorporate themselves for the 
purpose of establishing a Female Seminary in Newtown for 
the diffusion of female education. There is no evidence that 
the Newtown Female Seminary ever came into existence, 
but the interest in the education of women at so early 
a period is certainly notab.le. 

One of the most remarkable accomplishments in 
Newtown Village in the very first years after the withdrawal 
of British troops was the building of a new Presbyterian 
church to replace the one destroyed during the occupation. 
The old church, built in 1741 on land donated by Jonathan 
Fish, had been desecrated by the troops who first used it as 
a stable and later burnt it down. In 1787, the Presbyterians 
began the erection of a new church on thesiteoftheold one, 
facing Queens Boulevard and across the street from today's 
stone church. Foundation beams and any timber that had 
escaped the fire were salvaged and incorporated into the 
new building. The edifice was built under the direction of 
John Ketchum and was dedicated on December 21, 1791. 
A bell cast in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1788, rang for the 
dedication ceremonies. The church was enlarged in 1836. 
About 1879, the colonial interior was modernized by the 
removal of the hard, square-backed pews with their little 
doors, and the old windows with their small panes were 
replaced by stained glass. This 1787 church continued in use 
until 1895, when the present stone church replaced it. (3) 
We have some evidence that social life in Newtown in the 

post-occupation years survived, despite the disruptions of 
the Revolution. In June, 1876, on the occasion of the 
lOOth anniversary of the Revolution, an exhibit of curios 

Text 05-02 June 10, 1995 

was held at the Queens County Fair, and among the items 
displayed was a card that was inscribed: "1791 - Newtown 
Subscription Dances. The honor of 's 
company is requested at the dance. (Signed) John Lawrence, 
William Prince, Jr." (4) 

An even more remarkable piece of evidence of the cultural 
level in Newtown Village at this time surfaced in 1991. 
This is the hand-written manuscript of a three-act farce 
entitled "A Trip to Newtown or Lord Monboddo is Himself 
Again." This farce is anonymous, and probably dates to 
1785-1790. Lord Monboddo was the title of James Burnett, 
a Scotch judge and man of letters, prominent in Great Britain 
in the late 18th century. Monboddo had no connection 
with America, but his works on Greek philosophy and 
social theory must have been familiar to the educated 
classes in this country. The work seems to be a light 
and farcical conversation during a stagecoach trip from 
Brooklyn to Newtown Village. The speakers are Lords 
Bacon, Kaimes, Murray, Castlereagh, Burnett , the stage 
driver, and two ladies, Belinda and Nancy Dawson. 
The dialogue is full of puns, risque remarks , double-
entendres, with some references no longer intelligible to us , 
but a few to the then-living Newtowners like Bernardus 
Bloom and James Rennie. The composition and presentation 
of such a dramatic piece presupposes an educated, literate 
audience in Newtown Village and an easy familiarity with 
British life, letters and manners. (5) 
The first decades of the 19th century witnessed 

the erection of a building that would play a central role 
over many years in the life of Newtown Village -Association 
Hall. This landmark building was built about 1809 by 
the Baptist Society as a church on the south side of Queens 
Boulevard , between 56th and 57th Avenues. The church 
group was disbanded about 1855, and the building was 
purchased by the Young Men 's Christian Association , 
which moved it in 1857 to the west side of Broadway, 
about 100 feet north of Queens Boulevard. The association 
enlarged the hall and added lodge rooms. For years, the hall 
was used for all sorts of public gatherings. Both the political 
parties held their primaries and conventions in this hall , 
and it became the scene of many hot political battles. 
Many future political leaders of Newtown made their debut 
in politics here, and campaign orators from the Greeley 
campaign (1872), down to McKinley's (1896), lauded the 
virtues and denounced the enemies of their respective parties. 
Over the years, parties , balls, fairs , school exhibitions 
and wedding receptions all took place in Association Hall, 
simply because it was the one large hall in town . 

In 1875, Charles Simonson, a Newtown realtor, bought 
the building and transformed it into a more modern edifice, 
adding another story for living quarters and erecting the 
two offices in front of it, which he used for his real estate 
and insurance business. On July 13, 1901, the building 
was purchased at auction by F. DeHass Simonson, son of 
Charles, for $300 and moved a week later to the south side 
of Queens Boulevard, and just west of Grand Avenue. 
When the city condemned that property for the widening of 
Queens Boulevard, Simonson moved the building once 
again to its final site on the north side of Queens Boulevard, 
121 feet west of Van Loon Place. The building, with its 
distinctive cupola, survived until at least World War II. (6) 

One of the most far-reaching innovations introduced into 
Queens County in the first decades of the 19th century was 
the turnpike road. This was a new concept in communication 

21 



O
;..t· ~E.WT

U
W

'
 

V
i LL .;C.~E.1 

!K~C 

Painting m
ade by an anonym

ous artist of E
lm

hurst V
illage in 1852. 

T
he E

piscopal and R
eform

ed churches are at left. 
B

roadw
ay is in the 

m
iddle; Ju

stice S
treet branches off to the right. 

G
rand A

venue is at the low
er left and Q

ueens B
oulevard is o

n
 the low

er right. 
C

\I 
C

\I 



and soon became very popular everywhere. The idea basically 
was to turn over the public roads or permission to build new 
ones to a private company, which would maintain the 
pavement in return for the right to charge a modest toll. 
The theory was that taxes would be lowered with fewer 
public roads to maintain, and that only those who actually 
used the roads would pay for them. 

As it happened , the three turnpikes serving Newtown 
Village were among the earliest to be built. The Flushing 
& Newtown Road and Bridge Company was incorporated 
on March 21, 1801, and connected the villages of Flushing 
and Newtown via Northern Boulevard , 37th Avenue and 
Emhurst Avenue to Broadway. The company maintained 
two toll houses, one on the Flushing Bridge and the other 
on 37th Avenue, midway between 112th and 114th Streets. 
The second turnpike was the Newtown and Bushwick Road 
and Turnpike Company, incorporated on March 25, 1816, 
running from the Penny Bridge at Laurel Hill Boulevard and 
Review Avenue, beside old Calvary Cemetery, along 
Laurel Hill Boulevard and 45th Avenue to Broadway 
in Elmhurst. The third turnpike to reach Newtown was the 
Newtown and Maspeth Plank Road Company in the 1830s. 
This road began at Maspeth and Grand Avenues, and 
continued east along the line of what is now Grand Avenue, 
to a junction with the other two turnpikes at Broadway and 
Elmhurst Avenues. This junction point was then popularly 
referred to as Lord's Corner, from the Samuel Lord general 
store at that corner. The meeting of the three turnpike roads 
in Elmhurst transformed the village into a traffic hub and 
gave the location growing commercial importance. 
The turnpikes also had the effect of linking Elmhurst closely 
with Brooklyn . Farmers and travelers passed through 
Elmhurst to Williamsburgh and Bushwick, and via the East 
River ferries in those villages to New York. 
The emergence of a public road system not only 

stimulated public travel into and out of Newtown Village, 
but it brought into existence the first public transportation 
service into Queens County - the stage coach. Many persons 
either had no need of a horse ,orcould ill afford the expense 
of maintaining one , much le.ss the luxury of a private carriage. 
The stage coach was a distinct advance in that it provided 
cheap , daily transportation to everyone in the village , 
and opened up a wider world to the average citizen, whose 
mental and physical horizons had hitherto been limited to the 

village boundaries. The stage coach brought the mails several 
times a week, and for a fee would pick up and deliver packages. 

In Elmhurst, service was begun by Curtis & Lowerre's Stages, 
which was owned by two Flushing men who had been operating 
over the turnpikes since about 1810. An ad dated 1829 
reveals that the pickup point in Elmhurst was Benjamin B. 
Bloom's inn on Broadway. The stage left Flushing at 
7:00 a.m ., reached Elmhurst at 7:30, crossed into New York 
via the Williamsburgh Ferry at the foot of Grand Street , 
and terminated at 340 Pearl Street in lower New York . 
The return trip was made at 4:00 p.m. By 1832, business 
was good enough to add a second trip , which left New York 
at 8 :00 a.m ., and reached Flushing at 4 :30 p.m. The new 
Elmhurst stop was now John Dodge's Hotel on Broadway. 

Although Newtown Village was the town seat for the 
Town of Newtown , it was during those post-Revolutionary 
years that it began to fall behind the other two town seats 
of Jamaica Village and Flushing Village in respect to both 
population and geographical siz e. Jamaica raised itself 
up to the legal status of a village as early as April 15, 1814, 
and Flushing similarly enhanced its status on April 15, 1837. 
Newtown never did so , right down to the end of Town 
government in 1898. Why did Newtown remain small and 
backward for so many decades? Part of the reason , of course, 
was historical: Jamaica had been the colonial capital of 
Queens County and sat astride the main east-west highway 
from Brooklyn Ferry to the interior of Long Island . 
Another reason was in geography. Flushing lay at the head of 
a fine harbor and developed as a seaport from its beginning. 
Newtown Village enjoyed no such advantages. Its propertied 
class resisted the break-up of their extensive real estate 
holdings down to the start of the 20th century, effectively 
inhibiting the growth and expansion of the community. 
Newtown Village, in 1898, still numbered only 1,730 people, 
while Jamaica had swollen to 6,500 and Flushing to 9,000. 

(1) Newtown Register, May 8 , 1913, 1:7 
(2) ibid., December 16, 1909, 8:5 
(3) ibid., April 39, 1903 
(4) Flushing Daily Times, June 20, 1986, 2:1 
(5) Original manuscript in the Long Island Room, 

Queensbrough Public Library, Jamaica, New York 
(6) Newtown Register, May 21 , 1903, 5:4; 

and July 18, 1901, 5:5 

23 



Seal of the town clerk of the Town of Newtown affixed to a ll legal documents before 1898. The Town governments then went out of 
existence and Queens became part of New York City 

- \~.-

The Court House of the Town of Newtown, and, at right, the Town Clerk's office about 1875. Judge McKenna stands on the porch and 
Town Clerk William O'Gorman leans on the fence. O'Gorman, who died in 1893. was one of the first historians of Queens County. 

24 



Chapter Six 

Elmhurst in the 1830s, 40s and 50s 

Old Newtown Village can be thought of largely as a 
one ~tree! hamlet, where just about all the churches, stores, 
civic buildings and many private houses were strung out in a 
north~outh direction . From this main street , today's 
Broadway, four small side streets branched off : 
the Jamaica Road (now Queens Boulevard), Justice Street, 
Cook Street (5lstAvenue )and Church Lane (Corona Avenue). 
The whole village of the 1840s and 50s occupied the space 
between Elmhurst Avenue on the north and Grand Avenue 
on the south ; everything outside this small settled area 
was open farmland. 

Broadway ,at this early period, is the original 17th-century 
road, and hardly more than four blocks long. It formed the 
natural continuation of Grand Avenue , the old colonial 
ferry road. Court Street (now Justice Street), terminated at 
the Court House on its western end (whence its name). 
On its eastern end, it continued through today's 56th Avenue 
to Junction Avenue . Junction Avenue, in colonial times, 
enabled the townspeople to reach the grist mill on 94th Street, 
at what now is the entrance to LaGuardia Airport . 
The old mill on the now-vanished creek at that point 
was run by several Newtown men during its long 200-year 
history . Here, the wheat and corn of the villagers was ground 
into flour, with the miller retaining a small portion as his fee. 
Corona Avenue began as a lane between the Episcopal and 
Reformed churches ,and was informally called Church Lane. 
The Town Minutes of June 1, 1823 record the formal opening 
of the road and its new name. "Dutch Lane ." After the 
Civil War, it becomes Union Avenue . Queens Boulevard, 
as we now know it, did not exist. The stretch from Long Island 
City to Broadway was laid out only in 1870, but the eastern 
end dates to colonial days and went informally by the name 
of Jamaica Road. The road alignment , however, was less 
direct than at .present. The stretch from Broadway to 
63rd Avenue is the colonial road; the road then followed 
63rd Drive to 102nd Street , then south down 102nd Street 
to today 's Queens Boulevard , and thence along the 
boulevard to Jamaica Avenue. In 1868, Governor Hoffman 
of New York signed the bill providing for the opening of the 
present-day alignment of Queens Boulevard, and cutting 
out the jog in Forest Hills. In his honor, the boulevard , 
for years, bore the name "Hoffman Boulevard ." The only 
other early road in Elmhurst was today 's 56th Avenue, 
connecting Justice Street with Queens Boulevard. This very 
short but ancient road bore the name "Horse Brook Road " 
and crossed the brook on a small stone bridge. In colonial 
times, William Vallence operated a bark mill here, 
using the impounded water of a pond to turn the stones . 
Beyond these few thoroughfares, at that time only country 
lanes, fields and meadows stretched to the horizon . 

We can best visualize what pre-Civil War Elmhurst looked 
like by leisurely studying the anonymous painting ofthe village, 
now hanging in the Stony Brook (Long Island) Museum; 
it was probably done by some itinerant artist in the 1840s. 
Many of the houses are small 1 \12-story frame structures; 
a very few are 2\12-stories high. The importance of Newtown 
as a township seat is suggested by the three sizeable churches -

Episcopal, Reformed and Presbyterian - clustered together, 
a capacity far in excess of the needs of so small a village. 
The painting is not wholly accurate as a photographic 
portrait of the village ; there were more houses in existence 
in the late 1840s than are shown in the painting, 
but the overall impression of a small, one-street rural village 
is well-conveyed. Oddly enough, Grand Avenue does not 
appear in the foreground . 

As the seat of government of the Town of Newtown , 
the village enjoyed a more than local importance with its 
Court House and Town Clerk's office, and on Sundays 
people streamed in from the hamlets all around to attend 
church. On weekdays, farmers drove in to patronize the 
stores and the bars, and, at election time , they came in 
to vote in the Town Clerk 's office . The Lyceum (see ahead), 
on Broadway roughly opposite Corona Avenue, was, next 
to the Association Hall , the only public hall in town, 
and here politicans and prominent figures addressed crowds, 
and Whigs and Democrats held political rallies. The stage 
coach office was another lively spot mornings and evenings , 
when the Brooklyn and Flushing stage coaches stopped 
to let off or exchange passengers. The old stage house 
was where Jeremiah Casey, the village blacksmith, had his 
shop in later years, on the northwest corner of Broadway 
and 51st Avenue . When the stage lines stopped, the building 
was bought by William Robinson , moved up the avenue , 
enlarged and served as a residence for him and his family. 
In 1916, it was owned by Cornelius Burke at 45 Old Chicago 
Street , which today is the southwest comer of 92nd Street 
and 54th Avenue . (1) 

Newtown Village boasted two or three hotejs and inns, 
and there were enough transients to make these establish-
ments profitable . The earliest preserved excise list dates 
to 1857, and , at that period, there were two taverns and 
two stores that took out liquor licenses . 

In the year 1843, the question of local option as 
to liquor was put up for a vote at the Town meeting. 
After much discussion ,it was voted to discontinue licensing 
taverns. The sale of liquor was then stopped by every dealer 
in the town except one - Thomas Pettit of Winfield. 
The other dealers , seeing that Pettit did not close after a 
two weeks' shutdown ,opened up again . Although they were 
all arrested, nothing was ever done to them, because they 
would have demanded a jury trial , and everyone knew that 
no jury could be found who would find them guilty. 
The next year, liquor licenses were again granted , and the 
issue of prohibition was never again raised . (2) 

Newtown 's inhabitants were originally white, Protestant 
Anglo-Saxon stock that formed the dominant element in 
early America. However, Queens was exceptional in having 
such a large Dutch admixture dating back to the earliest days 
of Settlement. The Dutch had large families ,and spread out 
over the land. They were a conservative lot, preferring 
to live in the open countryside and shunning commerce. 
They avoided intermarriage with the English ,and supported 
their own Reformed church. In the 1840s and 1850s, 
we find the Van Alsts ,Luysters , Strykers, Rapaljes, Bergens, 

25 



Three historic buildings on Broadway: the firehouse at the left, the ex-railroad station for the Long Island Rail Road's White Line in the 
middle. and the ex-schoolhouse, later the office of the Newtown Register. Photo was taken in 1923. 

This badly-faded photo is the oldest -known surviving Elmhurst picture, dating to about 1880. This is the original office of the Newtown 
Register, on the east side of Broadway before the newspaper moved into the schoolhouse across the street. 

26 



etc. owning much of the property in town. In the 1840s 
and especially during the 1850s, large numbers of Irish 
appear in Newtown on the census lists , always as laborers 
and servants . None were professional people and none 
had any material wealth. In Newtown, the men usually 
worked as farmhands, while the women were housemaids 
and seamstresses. Just behind the Irish in numbers were 
the Germans. A few had trades and earned their living 
as barbers, shoemakers , tailors, etc. However, most of the 
men also hired out to farmers. A very few owned small 
dwellings, but most appear on the census lists as boarders 
in the houses of others . Other than these two classes of 
ethnic newcomers, foreign types were all but unknown in 
Elmhurst. No Italian or Slavic names appear until late 
in the century. 
The fact that Newtown Village was the Town seat and 

much visited by farmers from the surrounding hamlets 
is revealed by the surprisingly large list of names of artisans, 
tradesmen and storekeepers doing business in the 1850s: 

Painters: 
William Helman, William L. Roker 

Carpenters: 
Daniel Falke, Richard B. Leverich, John Maison, 
John Rapalye, Daniel Riker , 
Richard B. Leverich 

Tailors: 
Thomas Child , Joseph Hiland , George Schaick 

Butchers: 
Thomas Anderton, Charles Simonson 

Saddle Maker: 
Daniel J. Rapalye 

Hames Maker: 
R .Anotty 

Shoemakers: 
John Maurerer, William Miller, 
Charles Schanzenbach 

Furniture: 
Jebens & Co . (1853) 

Iron Molder: 
John Holman 

Blacksmiths: 
August Bernock , George A. Rapa lye 

Tinsmith: 
Robert Campbell 

Wheelwight: 
Arbraham Proctor 

Barber: 
John Schneller 

Bakers: 
Thomas Burford , John Shears 

Grocers: 
John Furman ,Edward Howard ,Cornelius L .Moore, 
John H. Parker 

Watchmaker: 
Charles Grames 

Stage Driver: 
James Nesbitt (Williams burgh stage), 
William Robertson 

Hotel Keeper: 
Joseph Hageman 

Bookkeeper: 
George Recknagel 

Confectioner: 
Richard Deveny. 

Professional men were scarce in Newtown: 
Doctors: 

James L. Blauvelt , Cornelius W. Stoothoff, 
Julius A. Wright 

Episcopal Rector: 
George A. Shelton 

Presbyterian Pastor: 
Dr. John P. Knox 

Principal, Private School: 
Charles Cook 

Reformed Pastor: 
Dr. Thomas M. Strong. 

There were very few rich men in the village. Perhaps the 
sole example was Samuel Lord of the New York firm of 
Lord & Taylor, who came to Newtown about 1840 and 
eventually became one of its biggest landowners . Not quite 
in the same class was Theodore Vietor, a German-born 
merchant ,although his household had three women servants 
and four men to care for the property. 

Blacks are rare in Newtown: 
Army Veteran: 

Elisha Peterson 
Laborers: 

Richard Braddock , John Peterson , John Smith 
Servants: 

Liddy Gasman, Sarah Hicks , Elias Jackson, 
Morgan Peterson , Elisa Steven. 

One would have expected that since the abolition of 
slavery had occurred as recently as 1827, and that 
many slaves stayed on voluntarily with their masters, 
that more blacks would appear. 

There were a few manufacturing establishments in 
Newtown in the 1840s and '50s. A gas plant began operations 
on Queens Boulevard on the edge of the village in the 1850s, 
but appears to have gone out of business by the mid-1860s . 
There was a slaughterhouse on the north side of Queens 
Boulevard three doors east of Broadway run by a man 
named Ferguson ,and the building survived until July , 1916, 
at which time this reminiscence appeared in the Newtown 
Register (September 7, 1916, 4:5): 

"Anotherold-time building has passed away to give 
place to the march of improvements . This is the old 
Ferguson slaughter-house demolished several 
weeks ago. When this old building was taken down , 
in it was found the wooden windlass that was used 
to raise the cattle up feet first with their heads roped 
to the floor. They were then killed by hitting them 
on the head between the ears with a heavy ax. This 
seems cruel now, but they say it was a most 
humane way, for with an expert axman , death was 
instantaneous. Mr. Weber preserved the windlass 
and it seemed to be in as good a condition as when 
it was built nearly three-quarters of a century ago. 
The slaughterhouse was the only one of its kind for 
miles around. On slaughtering days this was a busy 
section of the village." 

There were two ropewalks in town: a small one run by 
Thomas Marshall (3) on Corona Avenue, and that of John 
Murch on Corona Avenue at about 90th Street, both 
functioning in the 1850s. On Broadway was the carriage 
manufactory of Messrs. Burroughs, alongside the Reformed 
Church; this burned down in 1836. Thomas Manwaring was 
building carriages and wagons in a factory on the east side of 
Broadway between Queens Blvd. and Justice Street in the 1850s. 

27 



The old Newtown Hotel on the northwest corner of 5lst Avenue and Broadway, built in 1857 and torn down on January 21, 1919, 
and long the finest in town. 

Civil War veterans lined up in front of the old Newtown Hotel on May 30, 1891 to mark Memorial Day. A few boys and one girl stand 
~~~ . 

28 



Newtown Village, and in fact the whole Town of Newtown , 
did not provide favorable conditions for the support of a 
local newspaper. The village was too small geographically -
a one-street town perhaps three blocks long - and there 
were too few people . The whole Town contained only 
scattered hamlets with no one center of population , so that 
no publisher hazarded printing a newspaper until 1873. 
Jamaica, in contrast, launched the Long Island Farmer in 
1821, and Flushing issued the Flushing Journal in 1842. 
This partly explains why the early 19th century in Newtown 
is more obscure and less well-reported in comparison with 
Jamaica and Flushing. 

Thanks to the chance discovery by an American scholar 
of the diary of a Barbados planter, Nathaniel T. Carrington , 
who visited Elmhurst and Corona in 1837, we have an 
eye-witness account of Newtown 's common militia company, 
the "Washington Blues." During this period , every adult 
male in New York was liable for service in a local militia , 
and had to report for a muster roll at least once a year 
in uniform and with his rifle and ammunition. Mr. Carrington 
happened to be walking along Broadway with his British 
friend , Mr. Williams, on September 4, 1837, and has left us 
this marvelous pen-portrait of the Town militia as he saw it: 

After breakfast this morning, I accompanied 
Mr. Lent to Newtown to see the militia training. 
There were three officers: captain, lieutenant and 
adjutant, dressed in blue coats made like our red 
ones, with silver wings, and bedaubed on the cuffs 
and caps with silver lace or something like it . 
Sergeants and men made 65 in number; the 
sergeants had long white feathers with red tops , 
and the men were hobnob, and the crew some 
actually without jackets or coat. Some had guns and 
bayonets , cartridge boxes and bayonet sheaths, 
others guns, and no bayonets, some without the 
cartridge box, some without any arms. The guns 
were of every kind and denomination: long duck 
fowling pieces , musket and rifle, just as it pleased 
the party . Mr. Lent's absolutely had no flint and had 
not been cleaned for the last 12 months or perhaps 
more, as steels and irons do not rust and corrode 
here , and his had a pretty good share. 
The discipline was of a piece with the appoint-

ments and dress . They talked loud and quitted the 
ranks as they pleased. The meeting was in front of 
the principal hotel in the Town, consequently, they 
could only move up and down the street and return. 
The only attempt at maneuvering was to present, 
order and shoulder arms, which was done 
awkwardly enough. 
The captain is a painter and is considered the 

drunkenest rascal in the township. The commissions 
are disregarded by the persons and therefore are 
filled by the lowest of the people who will accept 
them . Upon one occasion of their meeting, the 
captain got so drunk after parade that some of his 
men tied him to a horse post to prevent any accident 
happening to him . 
They meet on the first Monday in September to 

be inspected and on the 3rd Monday to be reviewed 
by the colonel, and they never meet again for the 
year. The captain kept them out from 9 A.M. till 
5 P.M. I remained at a store nearby to see them , 
expecting they would have been dismissed in an 

hour or two as is usual. At a quarter past 2 o'clock 
Major Williams passed by on his return home and 
advised me to go home and dine with him which I 
accepted, and in passing the militia , the captain, 
who had prepared for it by drawing out his men into 
single rank, gave the major a salute by ordering arms 
presented. The colonel (as they call the Major) took off 
his hat to the compliment paid by his brother officer. 

NB . The captain is the major's painter. Whether 
he was drunk last night I have not heard. Mr. Lent 
says it is not to be doubted. Poor soul! I pity him! 
Some portion of the Newtown militia survived into the 

early 1840s, for, in the Flushing Journal of October 8, 1842, 
there is a reference to a muster of several local companies 
in Flushing, all of them referred to by their unofficial and 
rather irreverent local names : the Flushing lnvincibles, 
the Black Stump Bushwackers , the Jamaica Scorchers and 
the Newtown Pippins. Afterthe muster.all adjourned to the 
hotel of Ford Rapalye for supper and hearty drinking . 

Although Newtown was still a small place in the 1830s 
and 40s, there were unmistakable signs of progress . 
An important event in 1831 was the razing of the old Dutch 
Reformed Church , which had stood for 98 years, and had 
witnessed the stirring days of the Revolution . The old relic 
was built of wood , octagonal in shape ,and the roof ascended 
from all sides to a point in the centre surmounted by a cupola . 
Inside, at the rear end of the building, stood the high narrow 
pulpit with its sounding board projecting above it , while rows 
of chairs extended across the main body of the church forthe 
use of worshippers . On September 4 , 1831, much to the 
regret of many of the townspeople , the old church was taken 
down and the cornerstone of the present edifice was laid on 
September 16th by one of the elders. The new church was 
dedicated on Sunday, July 29, 1832. 

Another sign of growth came in 1843, when the Town 
meeting authorized the organization of the first fire company 
by awarding a plot of Town-owned land, 25' x 50', on the 
west side of Broadway and opposite Justice Street. This site 
had previously been used by the militia company, but was 
now dedicated to the use of the fire company. Fifty dollars 
was voted towards the construction of the engine house. 
The new company adopted the Indian name of the Algonquin 
tribe , once native to Newtown: Wandowenocks. In 1844, 
the company bought a second-hand engine in lower New York 
called "Old Skiver." It was later renamed the "Good Intent" 
and was used until 1861. At that time, James Smith of 
Newtown handcrafted a new engine for $150. This gave 
service all through the 1860s, 70s and 80s. Finally, in 1889, 
the Wandowenocks purchased a handsome Button steam 
engine, along with much new hose and a hose carriage. 
The opportunities for education increased during the 

1840s. Charles Cook, a New York teacher, came to 
Newtown Village in the early 40s and set up a private 
academy on Cook Avenue (now 51st Avenue) . He was born 
in 1800, and lived with his wife Grace and two teenage 
daughters in a house on the northeast corner of Broadway 
and 51st Avenue. Cook served on the school board of 
Newtown Village fo r several terms. The school seems to 
have lasted until Cook retired from teaching about 1865. 
Primary school instruction was available in the home of two 
spinster ladies, the Misses Ann and Sarah Palmer, who lived 
on the east side of Broadway, about three doors north of 
St. James Church . The ladies were descended from the Fish 
family of Bowery Bay, and prided themselves on their 

29 



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ownership of family papers and Bibles from the 17th and 
18th centuries. Ann Palmer was born in 1805 and her sister 
Sarah in 1808. By the end of the Civil War, they were no 
longer instructing children and supported themselves 
by taking in boarders. We hear nothing about the Newtown 
Village District School #1 in this early period. One of the 
schoolmasters, "Squire" John Cutting ,was long-remembered 
by a few of his students when they reminisced half a century 
later, back to the days of their boyhood. 
The year 1848 was remarkable in Newtown Village for 

the construction of a new and much-enlarged St. James 
Church on a new site on the northeast corner of Broadway 
and Corona Avenue ,now 84-07 Broadway. This site ,in the 
early 18th centiry, had been owned by William Sackett; 
in 1761, he willed his house and land to Jacob Ogden of 
Jamaica.who donated the site to the church . Old St .James , 
across the street, was last used on July 16, 1848, and, 
on November 15, 1849, the new church was consecrated. 

In 1849, Newtown made a significant break with the past 
by voting in the April Town Meeting to sell off the old Court 
House that had been erected about 1805 as a replacement 
for the building of Revolutionary vintage. The Court House 
stood on Town -owned land on the west side of Broadway 
and just above Justice Street. The old Court House ,the land 
it stood on and the surrounding lots were sold at public 
auction on June 12, 1849. The venerable building was 
moved off the site and is said to have later burned down. 
The Town then built a new Court House and Town Clerk's 
office in the triangle formed by Justice Street, Broadway 
and Burford 's Alley. 
The intellectual life of Newtown Village had hitherto 

been nourished by the churches and the schools, but the 
founding of the Newtown Library Association marked the 
first attempt to reach out to a wider audience. This society 
was founded about 1845 to stimulate the reading of books 
and to invite prominent speakers to come to town and lecture 
on the events and problems of the day. In 1851, the society 
had a large enough membership to be able to finance the 
construction of a public hall, the first in Newtown . !twas built 
on the west side of Broadway, opposite Union Avenue. 
This building, called the Lyceum after the Association's 
discussion groups, provided a forum not only for local and 
visiting clergy , at that time the best-educated class , but also 
politically prominent people such as Horace Greeley, 
founder and editor of the New York Herald and the man 
who helped Lincoln to win the Republican presidential 
nomination of 1860, and even, reportedly, Daniel Webster 
and Henry Clay. (3) The Association paid the maintenance 
costs ,taxes and speaker's fees by renting out the building for 
political meetings, election rallies and social functions. 
The Lyceum is evidence of the existence in Newtown Village 
in the 1840s of an educated intelligentsia, aware of the 
outside world and concerned with national rather than local 
parochial interests. 
The year 1854 was a landmark year for the village , 

for it marked the coming of the railroad . The Flushing 
Railroad was the creation of a group of well-to-do Flushing 
men, who saw in the road an opportunity to make money 
and to greatly improve local transportation of goods and 
passengers. In January, 1851, the backers formed articles of 
association and, on March 3, 1852, secured a charter from 
the State. To raise the needed funds, the incorporators 
decided to sell stock. In the course of these efforts the 
promoters came to Wheeler 's Hotel in Newtown Viii.age. 

During one full day, not a single share of stock was sold. 
An investigation revealed that Newtowners feared the new 
railroad would prove a threat to the market gardening on 
which their livelihood depended , that the railroad crossing 
over Broadway would endanger life and property, and that 
the traveling time of the train to New York would not be 
materially faster than the service provided by the stagecoach. 
The idea of a railroad in 1852 was a very novel one for 
Newtowners , nearly all of whom had never seen one. 
Most Newtowners were conservative farmers and few were 
wealthy enough to invest in a new and untried scheme. 
The year 1853, and part of 1854, passed in wrangles over 
where to locate an East River terminal, and in surveys and 
land acquisitions. Construction began in May , 1853, and, 
after many difficulties , the road was at last opened on 
June 26, 1854. The service consisted of six trains a day 
at roughly two -hour intervals. A site was donated in 1855 
for the building of a railroad station. A fram e building south 
of the track and west of Broadway was erected , probably 
in 185 7 -58. The railroad soon proved a great convenience to 
Newtown ,opened the place to a wider world and ,by the Civil 
War , had put the old -fashioned stagecoach out of business. 

A huge and very welcome stimulus to the economy of 
Newtown Village in the mid -1850s came with the opening of 
the Fashion Race Course ~ater National Course) in Corona, 
just east of Junction Avenue , and north of 37th Avenue. 
By a curious coincidence, the race track ran its first race 
on the very day that the railroad opened -June 26, 1854. 
The race course promoters built a large grand stand and 
clubhouse ,and attracted crowds of spectators. In these years 
just before the Civil War ,many wealthy Southern plantation 
owners who prided themselves on their fine horseflesh 
came north to the Fashion Course and raced their champions 
against the best horses in the north. These men brought 
thei r families ,their grooms ,jockeys and stablemen with them; 
all had to be housed and fed. Corona, at this time (1854), 
had no facilities at all, and, in fact, did not yet exist as a 
village. Newtown Village and Flushing were the nearest 
communities and both profited handsomely from the 
patronage of the racing men and particularly from the 
crowds of spectators who came out from New York and 
Brooklyn to watch and bet on the races. Grand Avenue and 
Broadway were thronged on race days , with men on 
horseback , private carriages and stagecoaches , and the 
stores and taverns did a thriving business. 

Newtown Village had only two or three small hotels in the 
1850s that were hardly more than inns for travelers . 
We hear of Lowerre 's, Wheeler's, Mars hon's, all short ~ived 
lessees of the same establishments. There were three or 
fourlicensed taverns, although general stores sold liquor. 
The lack of bette r accommodations caused the building, 
in 185 7, of one of Newtown Village 's best known landmarks -
Hicks ' "Newtown Hotel." Jackson Hicks purchased the site 
left empty when the Town sold off the old Court House 
in 1849 and erected a large three -story modern hote l with 
numerous rooms , and a bar downstairs. This hotel , on the 
west side of Broadway and north of 51st Avenue, became 
a social center and political hangout for years after the 
Civil War ; it survived until 1919. 
One of the most remarkable figures in the Newtown of 

the 1840s and 50s was Samuel Lord ,one of the two founders 
of the firm of Lord & Taylor , the Manhattan department 
store ,still existing and familiar to all New Yorkers. Lord was 
born in Yorkshire, England, in 1803, one of a family of 

31 



S. LO:r-t.D d.:3 Co-, 
NE\V'l'O\VN ~ , 

W OULD CALL THE ATTENTION OF CJ.081'~ BUYERS to their c:tten~h·e 
STOOJ( OJ!' GOODS, 

Which they are offering at 

CITY PnICE~. 

CHOICE FAMILY GROCEilIES, 
DOOTS .AND 81101~~' 

HAH.D\VARE, UHOCKERY, 
}.,LOUR A~D FEED, 

Together with a 1eneral a.;sortment usually found ln 
a Country Store . 

..-We have a large Stock or Rrown and Ble:ichecl 
SHEETINGS 

AND 
SHIRTINGS, 

All width" At much los~ than usual pricea. -p 
.Also, nn extensh·e Stock of' 

1'ew Fall Dress Goot1 • 
.!ftKr" Choice TEA.8 & COFFEE of o.U kinds. 

B. LORD & CO., 
f344, tr] NKAR TnJ: H. R. DRP<>T, Ninrrow~ . . 

Samuel Lord, senior partner in Lord & Taylor, ran this ad for his "country store" on Broadway, Elmhurst in November, 1861. Mr. Lord 
came to Elmhurst about 1840, retired to England around 1860 and died there in 1889. 

32 



five children and was left an orphan at an early age . 
He learned the trade of iron moulder, and , at age 21, was 
a master moulder. In 1824, he emigrated to America and 
landed in New York. With great effort, he borrowed $1,000 
and, in 1826, started a retail dry-goods store at 
47-49 Catherine Street. After a few years of struggle , 
he was enabled to send for his wife and daughter from 
England (1835) . About this time , George Washington 
Taylor, a cousin of Mrs. Lord 's, was taken into the business 
and the firm then became Lord & Taylor. In 1854, Lord 
moved into a fine new store at Grand and Chrystie Streets , 
where the business remained for over half a century. 
In 1860, he bought the land at the corner of Broadway and 
Grand Street, then prime business property, and erected 
another store there . By 1865, both partners were worth 
several million dollars. George W. Taylor retired to England ; 
Samuel Lord followed him shortly ,with most of his children. 

No one knows how Lord 's attention was first attracted to 
Elmhurst, but about 1840 he bought a house on the southeast 
corner of Broadway and Elmhurst Avenue and opened up 
a country store just across the street. The Newtown Town 
records record that he petitioned the Town officers ,in 1841, 
to fill in the old colonial cattle pond close to his house. 
Samuel Lord was an early Long Island commuter ,for he drove 
down to the Williamsburgh Ferry every morning and crossed 
over to New York and returned home to his country house 
in Elmhurst at night . He gradually accumulated land around 
the village as it became available, and eventually owned over 
100 acres. In 1850, he enrolled his teenage sons , Charles 
and George, in the aristocratic Flushing Institute. 
About 1855, Samuel Lord engaged a young Scotsman, 
Alexander Baxter (1823-1895), to look after his expanding 
Newtown real estate. The young man had been in the country 
hardly more than a year himself , and devoted his fullest 
energies to the management of his master 's properties. 
Baxter soon became Mr. Lord 's confidential agent, and 
continued to manage the Lord estate for nineteen years. 
He invested his earnings carefully in real estate, and later 
became a prominent farmer in his own right in Newtown Village. 
Today's Baxter Avenue commemorates him . (4) 

Another long -time employee on the Lord estate was 
James Robertson Smith. He was born in Pitcur, Perthshire, 
in 1838, and came to this country in 1854. He immediately 
entered into the employment of Samuel Lord as a gardener 
and general handyman. Even after Lord retired to England , 
Smith continued to work for Lord's daughter Elizabeth and 
her husband , Thomas Warrin, on the estate until 1882, 
when he took a position in the Lord & Taylor store on 
Broadway in New York City, where he continued until his 
retirement in 1910. During his many years as a faithful and 
valued employee of the Lord family , he raised three sons and 
four daughters. He died in Elmhurst in March , 1914. (5) 

Lord 's most enduring contribution in Elmhurst was his 
construction in May and June, 1856, of four large 2\12-story 
mansions just south of the railroad track ,and on the east side 
of Broadway; these buildings were set back fifty feet from 
the street. The four houses, with their private driveway, 
stood on a slight elevation and Lord gave the park ~ike site 
the name "Clermont Terrace." Time has largely erased the 
beautiful terrace , but the mansion nearest the railroad track 
still survives to give a hint of the old-time grandeur. 

After Lord left Newtown in the 1860's, his modest 
Elmhurst home on the southeast corner of Elmhurst Avenue 
and Broadway burned down on July 4, 1872, and his country 

store across the street soon met a similar fate. For his 
daughter, Elizabeth, who had married Thomas Warrin, 
he built a fine mansion occupying the whole block between 
Elmhurst Avenue and the Long Island Rail Road. Lord's first 
wife, Mary, died soon after returning to England. In due time, 
he remarried and sired a son and daughter. Lord died in 
May, 1889, at age 86 in Cheshire, England , where he had 
built another splendid residence . 
Theodore Vietor was, like Lord, another prominent early 

resident of Newtown Village. He was born in Rinteln , 
Germany, on December 26, 1802, and came to America 
in 1824 as a young man , eventually becoming a wealthy 
New York merchant. In looking about for a summer retreat , 
he chanced on Newtown Village and, in 1838, bought 
extensive acreage on the northeast corner of Broadway and 
Elmhurst Avenue . Here he built a house where he resided 
with his wife Emily , six sons and three daughters. In 1861, 
he took on as his estate manager a 19-year-old Irish immigrant 
youth named Morris Connolly, who by an odd coincidence, 
later became the father of Maurice Connolly , the fifth 
borough president of Queens . Connolly continued to work for 
Theodore Vietor until Vietor died on September 28, 1867. 
In November , 1873, Samuel Lord,everon the alert to add to 
his Elmhurst holdings, bought out the Vietor estate so that 
he now owned all the land on both sides of Elmhurst Avenue . 
Vietor Place, a block north of Elmhurst Avenue, preserves 
the memory of the family , even after 150 years. 

Although Newtown Village in the 1840s and 50s was a 
small village , crime was not unknown. The supervisor of 
Newtown all during 1853 ran a continuous ad in the Astoria 
Gazette offering a $50 reward for the successful capture of 
a burglar. One of the problems of the day was the homeless 
tramp who sought shelter in barns and stables, and who often 
set fire to properties in revenge for charity withheld or 
by accident. We have two rare accounts from 1856 where 
someone went out of his way to disable the Wandowenock fire 
engine and then set fire to commercial buildings along Broadway: 

"Between 12 and 1 o'clock on Tuesday morning a fire 
broke out in a row of stables at Newtown Village ,owned 
and occupied by George Meserole &Bros., proprie-
tors of the Newtown line of stages. The engine was 
got out but it was found that it was designedly 
disabled. The stables , together with a horse, three 
omnibuses and the contents, were destroyed. Loss 
about $5,000 on which there was an insurance of 
$500. The stable was in close proximity to William 
Mershon 's Hotel and while the furniture was being 
removed, some persons took a vest belonging to 
Mr. Mershon in which was $180 which has not yet 
been returned. A stranger who was found lurking 
around has been arrested on suspicion of having set the 
stables on fire." Flushing Journal, January 7, 1856, 2:4 

"Between 3 and 4 o'clock this morning the 
Newtown Hotel ~he old Town House) was entirely 
destroyed by fire, supposed to be the work of an 
incendiary. Mr. Mershon and the two servant 
girls who were the only inmates, Mr. Mershon's 
family being in the city, barely escaped with their 
lives . The contents on which there was no insurance 
and valued at $2,500 were also entirely consumed . 
The building belonging to F. Meserole & Bro. and is 
insured in the Citizens Company for $3,050. It was 
only a few weeks ago that we recorded the destruction 

33 



Samuel Lord (1803-1889), a Yorkshireman , came to America in 1824 and opened a department store in New York; his wife's cousin , 
Mr.Taylor, later joined him in business under the finn name of Lord & Taylor. About 1840, he came to Elmhurst and opened a country 
store. Over the years, he acquired a large amount of land. After his death , the property was sold to Cord Meyer, who developed it. 

34 



of the stables attached to the hotel by fire, also 
supposed to be by an incendiary. Calamities seem 
to fall thick and fast on Mr. Mershon. Last Saturday 
night his house was robbed of considerable silver 
plate. Flushing Journal, July 5, 1856, 2:1 

Newtown Village, in the years before the Civil War, 
remained pretty much a one-street town. The first attempt 
to expand the limits of the old village came in 1850 when 
a developer named James Bailey acquired a farm on 
Broadway across from what is now Elmhurst General Hospital. 
He had the tract surveyed in 1852, and in 1853 began the 
sale of lots. The five-block tract was bounded by Broadway 
on the west, Baxter Avenue on the north ,a line 100 feet east 
of Ithaca Street on the east, and Britton Avenue on the south. 
A new street, Pettit Avenue, was opened through the middle 
of the property to give access from Broadway , and four 
north-south streets were laid out: Layton, Judge, Ketcham 
and Ithaca (originally 1st to 4th Streets). Bailey cut up his 
property into 259 building lots, mostly 25 ' x 100'. 
Unfortunately for Bailey, the promotion was not a success. 
Baxter Avenue in 1853 lay considerably to the north of 
"downtown" Elmhurst and offered no special attractions to 
home seekers. Twenty years later, only eight houses had 
been built on the tract and four of these faced Broadway. 
The second expansion in the size of Newtown came in 

September, 1853, when another developer, John B. Myers, 
put up for sale "Myer's Addition to Newtown Village." 
This tract lay just east of the settled part of town . 
The northern boundary was Corona Avenue , the western 
border was a line 200' west of the western border of 
90th Street and running south to a point 100' south of 
50th Avenue. The southern border was a straight line from 
the former point running due east to 93rd Street , and then 
north up the eastern line of 93rd Street to Corona Avenue , 
the point of beginning. Roughly speaking, the new addition to 
Elmhurst was four blocks wide and 3\f.! blocks north to south. 
Myers divided the whole tract into 353 lots, almost all of 
them 25' x 100', and, to give access to these lots ,he laid out 
90th, 91st, 91st Place, 92nd and 93rd Streets . The tract map 
was filed on April 19, 1854, and development presumably 
followed. Myer 's Addition , like that of James Bailey, failed 
to attract home seekers. Twenty years later , there were 

barely half a dozen houses on the tract, and these were 
mostly on Main and Corona Avenues . 
The third and final developer in the years before the 

Civil War was W. E . Caldwell. About 1851, Caldwell bought 
what had been the August Bretonniere farm , a great empty 
tract south of Queens Boulevard and east of Grand Avenue , 
and , in December , 1853, he filed a map entitled "Nassau 
Heights in the Village of Newtown ." The ex-farm was 
bounded on the north by Queens Boulevard ,on the west by 
55th Avenue and 55th Road, on the south by 82nd Street 
and on the east by 58th Avenue. Caldwell carved up his 
development into 960 lots , each 25' x 100' and laid out 
Seabury, Van Horn, Haspel, Gwydir and 82nd Streets. 
The former farm was a very rural area. The house of the 
former owner,August Bretonniere , stood on the southwest 
corner of 57th Avenue and Queens Boulevard ,and a chapel 
erected by the Baptist Society about 1809 stood immediately 
to the west. These were the only buildings. A leech pond, 
where a German pharmacist from New York City raised 
leeches , occupied the bed of Haspel Street between 56th 
and 57th Avenues. The development had at least the virtue 
of being historic ground ,for during the British occupation of 
1776-1783, the troops had encamped in the rear of the 
Bretonniere house . 

In the summer of 1861, only eight years afterthe tract had 
been put on the market , it was cut in half by the building of 
the Long Island Rail Road . The railroad ,however ,made no 
move to open an Elmhurst station , even though the village 
was only a quarter-mile distant,and so its presence proved 
no inducement to the sale of lots . Nassau Heights , as a 
planned expansion of Newtown Village, proved a failure 
like its two predecessors, and , as late as 1908, the whole 
tract had fewer than two dozen houses and these mostly 
clustered near Queens Boulevard . 

(1) Newtown Register, August 17, 1916, 4:5 
(2) ibid ., December 20, 1888, 5 :4 
(3) Widow of Thomas Marshall died; Newtown Register, 

November 22, 1917, 5:6 
(4) Newtown Register , August 3, 1916 
(5) ibid. , September 26, 1895, 5:5 
(6) ibid ., March 12, 1911, 5 :6 

35 



The mansion that Samuel Lord built for his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Thomas Warrin, occupied the space between 
Elmhurst Avenue and the Long Island Rail Road and from Ketcham Street to Broadway. Dr. Abbott C. Combes acquired the estate 
in 1882 and sold it off for building lots in 1915 

HUMBERT'S 

~itwtroi~tlfu ~1n1g Jt001rt t 
NEWTOWN, L. I. 

DRUGS, MEDICINES, CIIEMICAtS, 
PATEX'r ~fEDICLNEs, 

PA~NTS, 
Perfumery of all kinds, Tooth, Nail, 
and Hair Brushes, Fancy Arti-

cles and Stationery. 

~T[ftEi)\ ANH LHflt-ORS\ 
For Medicinal Purposes. 

DfPO!\TJ>:n AXD DO~rnsrrc C!G.\RS, SPICES AND CON-
FECTIO.'\EltY, ALL OF A SUPE!\IO!\ QUALITY. 

PURE lllEDICINES.-Great care invariably taken in 
s<'lecting such .Mc.·ectator of the events of 1860 in the South , 
where the election of Lincoln precipitated a movement 
among Southern governors and legislatures to secede from 
the Union . In the following six months, six states ' legislatures 
approved secession and set up a new Confederate 
government with a capital at Richmond , Virginia . 
Federal property was seized - forts, arsenals, mints, 
customs houses, shipyards, etc. The outgoing administration 
of President Buchanan made no move to resist , and public 
opinion remained sceptical that anything more serious than 
the usual political maneuvering was happening. The firing 
on Fort Sumter by South Carolina, and the surrender of the 
garrison on April 1, 1861 , after a 36-hour bombardment , 
stunned the nation . On April 15th , President Lincoln issued 
his first call for troops. In the North , and especially on 
Long Island, there was little sympathy for slavery; the Town 
Records of Newtown record constant manumissions of 
slaves by prominent landowners and the Quakers, strong 
in Maspeth and Flushing, actively opposed slavery . 
Union sentiment was strong, though in many communities 
there were always a few individuals who were willing to 
let the South go its own way in peace. The Northern military 
establishment was almost non -existent at the outbreak of 
the war , both on land and sea, and a strenuous effort had 
to be made to create an army and a navy. Long Islanders 
who were strong for the Union cause and Abraham Lincoln 
voted Republican ; those who opposed a war with the South 
and a strong Federal government voted Democratic . 

Ten days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, April 24 
and 25, there were enthusiastic meetings in Newtown Village 
advocating taking up arms to punish the South and to defend 
the Union cause . A company for the 15th Regiment was 
formed , and $2,000 raised to buy uniforms and rifles. 
Local political figures delivered stirring speeches and 
excitement ran high. (1) In August, 1861, a notice appeared, 
in handbill form locally ,and by ads in some of the Brooklyn 
and New York papers, summoning citizens to turn out for 
a "Peace Meeting " in front of Jonathan Hicks' "Newtown 
Hotel" on Broadway at 7:30 pm. on August 29, 1861. 
The notice read: "Peace and Our Country . All persons in 
favor of a settlement of the Country's difficulties on 
honorable terms through the means of a National Convention 
will meet at Hicks' Hotel in Newtown August 29th at 7:30. 
Several good speakers will address the meeting. Come One , 
Come All and let political demagogues hear the voice of 
the people. Committee of Arrangements : Charles Covert, 
William McCoy, J . Henry, James F . Blauvelt , A . Backus, 
William Hulst, William H . Furman, and others." 
Dr . James L. Blauvelt , who lived on Grand Avenue , just 
south of Queens Boulevard, headed the Newtown group. 
William H . Furman of Maspeth, a prominent landowner, 
also wrote a letter to the Brooklyn Times, dated 
August 27, 1861 , on the honorable course of conciliation . 

By Wednesday, August 28th, rumors concerning the 
indignation of the citizenry over the appeasement meeting 
had reached the ears of the sponsors, and they sent out 

Text 07-01 October 25, 1994 

follow-up notices that the meeting would be cancelled . 
The pro .Union citizens , however, were determined to take 
over the occasion , and during the night distributed written 
and printed handbills that the meeting would take place 
as planned. In Flushing ,funds were hastily raised to pay for 
a special train , and two hundred persons left at 7:00 pm . 
for Newtown . At the meeting hour , some ten or twelve 
hundred people, some from Jamaica and the surrounding 
villages, assembled in front of the hotel and appointed a 
chairman and secretary. Five prominent Union men delivered 
patriotic utterances in thrillingly eloquent language . 
The crowd then gave the thrice -repeated cheers for the 
Union and the Constitution ,and hurled anathemas against 
treason and traitors. 
The crowd , now all fired up ,paraded an illuminated coffin , 

drawn by four horses and labeled "Secession died at 
Newtown, August 29, 1861 ," up and down Broadway , 
and then marched to the house of Dr . Blauvelt, who had 
represented the peace movement locally. The doctor was 
ordered out of his house ,ordered to hoist an American flag, 
and to give three cheers , which he did . The crowd then 
dispersed and the Flushing people caught the 10:00 pm . 
return train. (2) The following morning , when Dr. Blauvelt 
opened his gate ,he was discomfited to discover that some of 
the townsmen had hung dead cats on the palings of the fence . 
These events had the effect of completely stopping any very 
public outbursts of disloyalty in Newtown ,and the southern 
sympathizers in the Town contented themselves during the 
rest of the war period with such petty acts of meanness as 
fastening dead crows to the front fences of prominent loyal 
citizens , tagged with the inscription ''Black Abolitionists ." 
The supervisorof the Town ,John E .Van Nostrand ,reminisced 
in later years about taking many such a crnw from off of 
his fence, put there to express the hatred of some of his 
townsmen to his family, who were well -known to be in strong 
sympathy with the Abolitionists and the Union cause . (3) 

At a special Town meeting on April 1, 1862, it was voted 
119 to 3that $25,000 be raised to pay a bounty to volunteers . 
On August 16, 1862, the Flushing Journal reported that 
special meetings to stir up donations and enthusiasm 
for the war effort were being held not only in Newtown 
Village , but also in Astoria , Whitestone and College Point . 
Newtown Village was too small a place to raise a company 
of volunteers by itself , and the men instead joined the 
15th Regiment , New York State Militia , in Flushing, 
but Newtown was assigned "G " Company , with its own 
officer, Captain H . Worthington . After the war , 
Captain Worthington was honored by having a street 
in Winfield named after him ; it is now 71st Street , 
between Roosevelt and Woodside Avenues . In August , 1862, 
Company "G" numbered 60men. Efforts ,meanwhile ,were 
going on to raise money for equipping the volunteers with 
arms and clothing . Newtown and Astoria together raised 
the sum of $7,000; the cost of equipping one man 
was estimated at $28.75 . 

In July, 1862, the first list of persons from Newtown 
Village liable to military duty in the 15th Regiment of the 

37 



These two photographs depict the Presbyterian Cemetery on the north side of Queens Boulevard as it looked in April 1958, about a 
month before its destruction. A modern apartment house, #86-35 Queens Boulevard, now occupies the site. Seyfried Photo 

38 



New York State Militia was published ; it contained 87 
names, listing men as young as 18, and 12 men in their 40s. 
Few men on these draft lists ever served; aliens and active firemen 
were exempt, and a man could buy his way off the list by a $300 
payment, or by paying another man to substitute for him . 

On August 5 , 1862, an enthusiastic war meeting was held 
in Newtown Village, at which William H. Furman presided . 
Speeches were delivered by prominent speakers , and a 
committee of three from each school district in the Town 
was appointed forthe purpose of encouraging enlistments. (4) 
Two weeks later , on August 19th , another large meeting 
was held , where more impassioned speeches supportive of 
the war were made by prominent men in uniform. It was 
resolved that a bounty of $50 should be paid to each recruit 
who should enlist , and it was further resolved that $25,000 
should be raised by general tax to start a fund to pay 
these bounties. (5) 

Almost a year passes before we hear of any activity in 
Elmhurst. Then , in July, 1863, President Lincoln decreed 
the first general draft for compulsory military service in the 
country's history. In New York, there were three days of 
rioting , burning down of draft boards and anti-Negro riots . 
In Jamaica , the headquarters of the Queens County Provost 
Marshal, a mob burst into a military storehouse and looted 
stores of military equipment and clothing. We have no 
reports from Newtown for the summer months of 1863 -
indirect evidence that all was quiet in the village. 
On September 3 , 1863, the draft list for all six Towns of 

Queens County was published; there are 308 names on the 
Newtown list, but this included men from Long Island City, 
Astoria , Maspeth and all the small hamlets. Within a few 
days - September 16th - the Board of Town Officers in 
both Newtown and Jamaica met to make arrangements 
to procure substitutes for those in indigent circumstances 
who had families dependent on them for support. The sum 
of $25,000 was appropriated for the purpose of relief of 
drafted firemen who had previously been exempt. (6) 
The draft appears to have failed in its object to procure 

men forthe service . A large number of men were found to be 
physically impaired ; dozens of others proved to be hardship 
cases or exempt for various reasons. A man could 
still buy his way out for $300 or furnish a substitute. In the end, 
only a dozen out of the original 308 passed the examinations 
for induction . Financially, the government did a little better; 
as of October 15, 556 men in western Queens county had paid 
the "Commutation" fee of $300 for buying their way out of 
military service, netting the government $166,800. 
The moral question raised by the practice of commutation -

that rich men could buy their way out of service but poor 
men could not - was resolved in 1864 by a presidential 
decree ending the practice altogether. The draft boards 
continued to draft men, but because of the limited numbers 

of men that were actually inducted into service , greater 
efforts were made to attract volunteers . This was done by 
offering bounties . By mid-1864, the State was offering 
$300 to volunteers to sign up and the Town an additional $50. 
At the special meeting of the Town Officers of Newtown 
on August 4, 1864, it was voted to raise $125 ,000 for 
the payment of the bounties to volunteers . 

We have the draft list of July 1, 1864 for Newtown Village , 
assigning men to duty in Company "D," 89th Regiment , 
New York State Militia. There are only 19 names of village 
men , ranging in age from 19 to 44. The Elmhurst men who 
actually appeared for service assembled in front of the 
Newtown Hotel on Broadway, where waiting stagecoaches 
took them to East New York, the staging area for Brooklyn 
and Williamsburgh . 
The last known meeting in Elmhurst relating to the war 

occurred on January 7, 1865, when it was voted at a special 
Town Meeting to raise $65,000 for th e purpose of filling up 
the Town quota for the approaching draft in February. 
By this time , however, the war was all but over. 
General Sherman captured Atlanta on September 2, 1864, 
Grant overran Petersburg on April 2, 1865, and , on April 3 , 
Richmond itself , the proud capital of the Confederacy, 
fell to Union forces . The Civil War was over, and the 
Union army was disbanded over the next few months. 
Newtown Village was too small to commemorate the 
Civil War, and its own veterans, as did the much larger towns 
of Flushing and Jamaica , which did erect monuments 
(still standing). Newtown had to be content with a 
Grand Army of the Republic chapter and a monument in 
Mount Olivet Cemetery dedicated to all 300 of the fighting 
men of Newtown , both living and dead . In the burial grounds 
of the Dutch Reformed Church on Corona Avenue can be 
seen the graves of two local men cut off in their early prime 
while fighting in the Civil War. One is the grave of 
Daniel J. Payntar, who was shot down in his 22nd year 
while acting as a scout before Yorktown on April 17, 1862; 
he was a member of Company "B," 1st Regiment, 
Berdans V. S . S . S . The other is the last resting place of 
Robert Joseph Marks, who died in his 20th year from wounds 
received in the battle . He was a corporal in Company "B," 
8th Pennsylvania Calvary, and he served in no fewer 
than 23 engagements. (7) 

(1) Long Island Farmer, April 30, 1861, 2:4 
(2) Flushing Journal, August 31, 1861 , and 

Long Island Times , September 5 , 1861, 2:3 
(3) Newtown Register, May 28, 1891, 5:5 
(4) Long Island Times , August 14, 1862 
(5) ibid., August 28, 1862 
(6) Flushing Journal , September 10 and 24, 1863 
(7) Newtown Register, May 28, 1891, 5:5 

39 



A check for five cents issued by the Grand Street & Newtown Railroad horse-car line in 1862 in the midst of the Civil War, when coined 
money had become scarce. 

Looking along Grand Avenue from Queens Boulevard on January 8, 1930. The Brooklyn Union Gas Company building is in the rear. 

40 



Chapter Eight 

Newtown Loses a Railroad and Gains a Street Railway 

The first railroad service in Elmhurst was that furnished 
by the New York & Flushing Railroad , beginning in 1854. 
As the years passed, the company experienced bankruptcy 
and reorganization, and eventually came into the possession 
of the much larger Flushing, North Shore &Central Railroad , 
a network centered on Flushing, Hempstead and Babylon. 
The Long Island Rail Road, under its shrewed president , 
Oliver Chadick, rightly saw in this combine a threat to 
his own LIRR, and he resolved to deal the FNS&C a blow by 
building his own rival line to Flushing. Chadick incorporated 
the Newtown and Flushing Railroad Company to build a 
three-mile branch from a point just west of Maurice Avenue 
in Winfield , through the heart of Elmhurst , then over 
the meadows to Corona and then across Flushing Creek to a 
terminus at Main Street, Flushing. 

On March 1, 1871, Charlick filed articles of association 
for his new road, and incorporated it a week later as the 
Newtown and Flushing Railroad Company. Work began in 
November, 1871, when 10,000 chestnut and pine ties , 
costing fifty cents apiece, were distributed along the route . 
In May 1872, the pile bridge and draw over Flushing Creek 
was begun. In September 1872, track layers put down the ties 
and rails, working east from Winfield; they completed their 
work in October. One engine and coach made a test trip on 
September 27th. Charlick himself visited Newtown Village 
on October 18th to check on the work , and to inspect the 
tentative depot site on Broadway. In late October, the depot 
area in Flushing received last-minute installations , including 
a turntable and engine house. On Monday, November 10, 1873, 
the new railroad opened for business . Hourly service was 
given between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.; the fare was 15 cents 
for a one-way ride, compared with 20 cents on the rival road. 
The cars were painted white , and from this circumstance 
the road got the popular n.ame the "White Line." 

As completed, the White Line left the Main Line at a point 
just west of Maurice Avenue, then crossed that street 
diagonally and then Queens Boulevard midway between 
Goldsmith and Van Alst Streets. The first station was in 
Newtown Village, on the east side of Broadway, within a few 
feet of the present stairs into the subway. The track then 
paralleled the north bank of the Horse Brook, crossing the 
back yards of the houses facing on Justice Street. 
The track then struck out across mostly low meadow land, 
intersecting Corona Avenue at 11lth Street. Here, on the 
south side of the avenue, was the second station, Corona Park. 
The track then curved northeastward across the salt marshes, 
crossing Flushing Creek on a pile bridge, terminating at Main 
Street, Flushing, midway between 41st Avenue and 41st Road. 

Charlick put 20 new coaches on his new road, and these 
made the trip between Long Island City and Flushing 
in 23 minutes. Competition between the White Line and 
the Flushing, North Shore & Central was intense. For long 
stretches - perhaps half the run to Long Island City -
the White Line and the FNS&C were either alongside or 
in sight of each other, and each road took pride in coaxing 
the greatest possible speed out of their straining engines. 
Chadick next began a fare war by selling books of 100 tickets, 

good for a ride between Long Island City and Flushing, at $8, 
or 8 cents a ride. Then he reduced the price of ferry tickets 
between Long Island City and Manhattan to 41'2 cents apiece 
to White Line commuters. In January, 1874, he lowered the 
single railroad ticket price to ten cents. The Flushing & 
North Shore met the competition by selling books of 100 
tickets for $7.50, or 71'2 cents a ride . The residents of 
Newtown Village , Corona and Flushing were enjoying the 
best railroad service in years, and gave their patronage to 
whoever offered the cheapest rate. For the railroads, 
the competition was ruinous and neither was earning its 
operating expenses. 

The unexpected death of the Long Island Rail Road 's 
President, Oliver Charlick, in April, 1875, changed the picture. 
His successors , after some months of quiet negotiation , 
reached an accommodation with the rival road, and , in 
February, 1876, the White Line was quietly sold to 
the owners of the Flushing & North Side Railroad ; the very 
next day , the fares were doubled on both lines. Packages of 
100 tickets went from $7.50 to $16.60, and freight rates rose 
66%%. Early in April , this notice appeared in the windows 
of the White Line cars: "On and after Monday, April 17, 1876 
all trains on the Flushing Branch of the Long Island R.R. will 
be discontinued." All of the conductors , depot agents and 
flagmen were discharged ; some commuters threatened law· 
suits , but nothing came of these moves . 
The White Line through Newtown Village was not 

immediately torn up; some freight and special movements 
used the track. Beginning in 1878, the Flushing Meadows 
rails were taken up , and in the summer of 1879, the track 
through Newtown Village was torn up. The last trace of the 
White Line disappeared in 1880, when the Broadway 
crossing was taken out in August , and the Queens Boulevard 
crossing removed in December. The Newtown Village depot 
was purchased by the Newtown Register, the local newspaper, 
and moved across Broadway to the west side of the street 
for use as an annex to the newspaper office. 

The whole White Line incident had been an extraordinary 
experience for Newtown Village; in the short space of five 
years, the village had gained and lost a useful railroad 
facility and an opening to the outside world. Fortunately for 
Newtown, the same year that the village lost a steam railroad -
1876 - also brought compensation in the form of a Grand 
Avenue-Broadway street railway. 

In the early decades of the 19th century, Grand Avenue, 
as laid out by the Newtown & Maspeth Plank Road Company, 
extended only from Elmhurst as far west as Maspeth Avenue 
and to reach Brooklyn, the traveler then had to journey over 
the Maspeth Avenue & Toll Bridge Company's road over 
Maspeth Avenue and Newtown Creek to Bushwick Avenue. 
This roundabout route involved the payment of two tolls, 
and gave no access to downtown Brooklyn. 
The lack of a direct highway between Elmhurst, Maspeth 

and Brooklyn had long been felt , and , in 1874, the 
first steps were taken to correct this inconvenience. 
An official authority was set up, called the "Grand Street 
Improvement Commission." Its object was to extend Grand 

41 



N
ortheast corner of B

roadw
ay an

d
 Q

u
een

s B
oulevard ab

o
u

t 1915. 
T

he F
urm

an B
lock building o

n
 the corner dates to 1885; the old 

store to the right is probably a century old. 
T

he M
anhattan &

 Q
ueens T

raction C
om

pany trolley is h
ead

ed
 for N

ew
 Y

ork. 
N

 
 1.1.'1.f,,~'if 

\V
E

'-.l:i: 
t·:Lf:V

-\l'E
ll S

t',\
i'IO

'\; 

L
ooking from

 the roof of P
ublic S

chool #
8

9
 tow

ards the E
lm

hurst A
venue !R

T
 elevated station

. 
G

leane S
treet is in the foreground

, 
w

ith Forley and E
lbertson S

treets in the rear. 
E

lm
hurst A

venue is at the right. 
T

his view
 dates to D

ecem
ber 1920. 

V
J 

a-



There was next to no movement during these years on the 
construction of other public buildings . The Wandowenock 
Fire Company gave out a contract , in September , 1901, 
to build a one-story 25' x 50 'extension onto the fire house , 
which would be used as a stable for three horses . (53) 
In September , 1902, the company spent $100 to 
purchase a 500-lb . bell from the Meneely Bell Company of 
Troy ,New York.which was promptly hung in the tower . (54) 

The creation of "New Elmhurst " as a Cord Meyer 
development led to the transformation at this time of the old 
Gorsline farmhouse on the south side of Denman Street , 
between Elmhurst and Whitney Avenues ,into the Elmhurst 
Club ,which a few years later became the Amerind Democratic 
Club . The old house had been built in the late 18th century by 
Andrew Gorsline, a fifth-generation descendant of Jacob 
Gorsline , who came to Newtown from France in the 1600's. 

While many new houses were going up at this time in 
Elmhurst , a few historic ones from the past were disappearing . 
The old William and Catherine Swan house on the south side 
of Grand Avenue ,at 74-06 to 74-10, and built in August , 1836, 
was torn down for two-family dwellings. (55) On February 
26-27, 1904, the old horse-car stables on the west side of 
Broadway , about midway between St . James and Dongan 
Avenues , were torn down. The now-dilapidated barns had 
been unused for about a dozen years and had threatened 
to collapse onto the front sidewalk . (56) We have already 
spoken of the destruction of the Gorsline -Lawrence mansion 
on Grand Avenue and Haspel Street which took place on 
August 10-11, 1904. (5 7) This very large plot ,now occupied 
by Elmhurst General Hospital, at the corner of Woodside and 
Baxter Avenues , was owned by Fred and Luke Kouwenhoven 
of Astoria, but since 1892 had been farmed by John Seitz . 
When he moved away in March , 1905, the Kouwenhovens 
sold the 18-acre tract for $50,000 for development . (58) 
In the southeast corner of the farm , facing Woodside Avenue 
and Broadway ,stood the old 18th century farmhouse built 
by John Leverich. The house was built in Dutch style ; 
a large double piazza extended along the front of the house 
with big double doors opening onto it from the lower and 
upper hall . The front door was ornamented with a ponderous 
iron knocker in the shape of a lion's head with a ring in 
its mouth . This relic from old Newtown 's past was razed to 
the ground in the first week of September, 1905. (59) 

Another loss was the ex -parsonage of the original 
St .James Church on the east side of Broadway and fifty feet 
north of St . James Place . The rear of the old house was 
reputed to have once been a part of the old Town House , 
built about 1656, and which had served for a church , town 
meeting place, school and parsonage ; the property then 
passed through several hands till willed to St .James Church. 
When the new parsonage was constructed alongside the 
new St .James in 1848, the old one was sold to Dr . Franklin 
Booth , whose son in February, 1905, tore down the old 
place to create a wide lawn for his house next store . (60) 
Along with the disappearance of the old houses was the 
disappearance of the farms. These were mostly south and 
east of Elmhurst ,along Grand Avenue and along Woodhaven 
and Queens ~he old Hoffman) Boulevards . The Philip 
Reichert farm south and east of the crossing of Queens and 
Woodhaven Boulevards was cut in two and became a nursery 
as of January, 1901. (61) The sale of the Burroughs farm 
in the heart of the village has already been mentioned (1905). 
The Bragaw and Rapalye farms on Grand Avenue ,south of 
the railroad , took place in March, 1905. In August and 

September , 1905, the England , Meisel and Robrecht farms , 
all on Queens Boulevard in the Rego Park area , went for 
$2,500 an acre . (62) Often these farms were sold and 
re -sold by successive speculators and not cut up into building 
lots until the 1920's . 

It is time now to turn to the arrival in Elmhurst of a few 
other amenities of life that contributed to the prestige and 
well -being of the residents. 

Elmhurst benefited unexpectedly at the turn of the 
century from the largesse of one of the great benevolent 
capitalists of the era - Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) . 
Carnegie amassed a fortune estimated at $500 million 
through his ownership of the Carnegie Steel Corporation; 
when he sold out to U .S .Steel in 1901, he spent his declining 
years in philanthropy ,the most enduring result of which was 
the contribution of money to build 2,500 libraries around 
the United States. In Queens, the Queensborough Public 
Ubrary applied for five sites ,one of which was for Elmhurst . (63) 
Cord Meyer , with his usual liberality, offered a free site in 
his new development and the local citizens club strongly 
urged this site on the city . The location , however , would 
have been a distance from the center of the old village and 
several prominent citizens leaned toward a more central 
location on the southeast corner of Broadway and 51st Avenue , 
then occupied by the grocery store of W .T.and J .E .Furman , 
and owned by one of the library trustees. (64) In July , 1902, 
Cord Meyer renewed his offer but the Board of Library Trustees 
declined it , preferring to purchase for $8,000 the Furman site . 
The mayor and the Board of Estimate were not pleased at this 
and recommended that the library trustees accept the Meyer 
site . (65) At this time , the Queensboro Library was still 
largely autonomous and antedated the formation of Greater 
New York. After another year of political maneuvering , 
the Board of Estimate yie lded to the library trustees 'wishes 
and , in July , 1903, appropriated the $8,000 to purchase 
the Furman site . The trustees had made good use of the 
twelve months previous to survey this site and to do 
all necessary preliminary work to speed construction. 
The architects selected to design the library were the firm of 
Heine &LaFarge of Manhattan . (66) At the time of actual 
construction ,however , the architects in charge were Messrs . 
Lord & Hewlett . To furth er improve the library site, the city 
agreed to purchase , for the sum of $2,000, from the Henry 
Skelton estate, the 50-foot property adjoining the library 
site on the south side , rounding but the plot to 102 feet 
on Broadway and 213 feet on 51st Avenue . (67) 
On February 1, 1904, the city formally took title to both the 
Furman and Skelton properties. (68) 
The building plans called for a brick and cement one -

story structure with classic simple lines . There was to be a 
great reading room across the entire front of the building, 
divided by the librarian 's desk in the center into adult 's and 
children 's halves . Opening off the reading room was the 
stack room and librarian 's work room . In the basement 
were a newspaper room , toilet rooms ,a boiler room and an 
additional work room . (69) In march •. 1904, the old 
Furman grocery store , which had been built about 1823, 
was demolished to make way for the library. The old country 
store had been operated at first by Peter Gorsline and later 
Peter I. Van Alst until 1859, when William T . Furman 
took over ; more recently , his sons William E . and John T. 
had continued the business . (70) 
The Queensboro Library trustees awarded the contract 

for the Elmhurst Library on June 3, 1904, to H . F . Quinn 

97 



The sewer treatment plant serving Elmhurst, first started by Cord Meyer, on Queens Boulevard at 62nd Road on January 13, 1931. Note 
the change in grade 

Looking into 52nd Avenue from high ground just south of the Long Island Rail Road tracks on February 16, 1912. The tracks lie in a 
cut in the mid-foreground and are out of sight. Grand Avenue is at the left. Note how much empty land there is north of Grand 
Avenue 

98 



& Son of Long Island City on a bid of $23,450. (71) 
A local contractor, William C . Card of Elmhurst, worked 
during the last days of June to clear off the ground 
preparatory to excavating. July and August saw the 
foundations built and the first courses of brick laid. 
A shortage of brick shut down work for a week , but , on 
September 20, a new shipment arrived, along with stone 
fittings and casements. (72) To the surprise of residents , 
the whole of October passed with no work at all done on 
the building; another shortage of brick had caused the 
shutdown. (73) On October 31, work resumed ,to the great 
relief of the Elmhurst people who had been following the 
construction with intense interest and impatient anticipation . (74) 
The whole spring and summer of 1905 passed in carpentry 
and masonry work inside the new library building. A large 
amount of shelving had to be installed for the books, plus 
check -out desks and fittings . In the first week of November 
1905, about 2,500 books were delivered to the library and 
the newly-assigned librarians started the slow process of 
cataloguing and shelving the volumes. (75) The library 
capacity was estimated at 20,000 volumes. By the end of 
November,about 5 ,000books were ready and available for 
circulation . (76) The electric fixtures were installed in the 
building in December, a modern fixture just beginning to 
displace the gas jets typical of older public buildings. (77) 
On March 31, 1906, five years after the first move toward 
building a library in Elmhurst began ,the handsome modern 
building opened to the public. 
One of the barometers of growth in Elmhurst at the turn 

of the century was the expansion of postal service . 
In September, 1897, the Post Office Department in Washington 
notified the postmaster that Elmhurst had been made a 
third-class office as of October 1. This elevated Elmhurst 
above every other post office in the Second Ward or old 
Town of Newtown ,since all the others were still fourth-class 
offices. Some of the distinction brought by this enhanced 
status was diluted a month later when the mail service on the 
railroad was discontinued and the mail contract shifted to 
trolley mail cars operated by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit . 
This was a new experiment designed to take advantage of the 
increasing service given by trolleys in the fields of freight and 
express and route expansion into the suburbs. (79) Elmhurst 
people soon found that the change was not for the better ; 
newspapers were delayed a day and mail matter irregular . (80) 
A new postmaster ,John T.Robinson ,came in on January 17, 
1898, but nothing changed. (81) In February, 1898, the 
service was described as '\.vretched" and much of this was 
attributable to the fact that all mail first went to the Brooklyn 
main office for sorting before being delivered to local dest -
inations. (82) In November , 1902, Postmaster Robinson 's 
4-yearterrn expired and Thomas E .Hardgrove replaced him . (83) 
The most far-reaching change in the history of the Elmhurst 
Post Office came on October 1, 1904, when free delivery was 
instituted. Post Office inspectors began working as early as 
July , taking measurements and re-arranging the interior of 
the office to make room for new furniture and carrier areas . 
The Elmhurst Post Office became the central office for 
Elmhurst , Newtown Heights and Forest Hills (Whitepot) . 
Two deliveries and three collections were set up and three 
carriers hired to make the rounds ; trolley mail was discontinued 
and the railroad resumed its contract hauling. (84) 
The final improvement was an announcement from Washington 
approving the renting of new and larger quarters in a newly-
erected building on the east side of Broadway and fifty feet 

south of Justice Street. (85) This new facility adequately 
served Elmhurst for the next twenty years. 

One of the oddest but short -lived constructions in 
Elmhurst was the ornamental drinking fountain sponsored 
by the Women's Christian Temperance Union . A similar 
structure had been erected in Maspeth (86) with the idea of 
encouraging the drinking of water rather than the stronger 
refreshment offered by the numerous saloons of the day . 
The site selected in Elmhurst for the fountain was the 
Broadway Hotel at the northwest corner of Queens Boulevard 
and Broadway. (87) The fountain was a joint effort; various 
public -spirited citizens contributed $200 to pay for the work , 
the contractor donated a foundation and the Citizens Water 
Supply Company the water. On September 5, 1903, 
the fountain was dedicated by the Methodist pastor . (88) 

Within a month ,the fountain was condemned as unsuitable 
by the public. It had been designed to accommodate men , 
horses and dogs on different levels , but had proved too big 
for its sidewalk site and more adapted to a public square . 
The people 's fountain had been set too high and awkward 
to reach and the one drinking cup constantly fell into the 
horse trough below . The children 's faucet was too high 
for their reach and tempted them to dim up on the structure 
with the water jets. As a result , after only two months ' use, 
the fountain was quiety removed . (89) It was re-erected 
on the northeast corner of its original location in 1911 . (90) 
The amenities that we take so for granted today in terms 

of electricity, gas and the telephone made their first 
appearance at the time of consolidation , but took several 
years to become commonplace . Although electric light 
was first seen in Elmhurst on June 14, 1895, it was slow to 
be adopted into people 's houses. Part of the reason for this 
was its undependability . The few electric lights that had 
been strung along Grand Avenue and Broadway went out 
almost every evening for part of the time ,and the residents 
grumbled about the darkness and wondered whether the 
electric company deducted from its bill the long intervals of 
darkness. (91) No additional street lighting was attempted 
until 1901 ; the papers reported that electric lights were 
soon to be placed along Queens Boulevard between Elmhurst 
and Jamaica. (92) Most of the trouble arose from the fact 
that the company did not use incandescent lamps ,considered 
too dim for outdo.ors . Instead, carbon arcs were used and 
these burnt out irregularly and required adjustment . At first , 
the carbons were open and exposed , but these tended to be 
snuffed out by rain and newer carbons were enclosed in glass . 
The police kept a regular report of dark lamposts and the 
large number out every night . (93) In 1903, the prominent 
Broadway Hotel at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 
Broadway converted to electricity -an arc light atthe entrance 
and 25 incandescent lamps indoors . (94) This was a typical 
installation for that era ; amusement parks along strung lights 
around their grounds as much for a novelty as for illumination. 
But lights in private homes were still a decade in the future. 
Gas was first introduced into Newtown Village in 1896 

by the Newtown Gas Company, organized in 1891, and it 
rapidly ousted the oil lamps that had been the standard 
illumination since colonial days. Gas lamps were still being 
installed in the streets of Elmhurst in January , 1896, for 
Justice and 90th Streets and 51st Avenue . As late as 
February, 1897, the interior of St . James Episcopal Church 
was lighted forthe first time with gas (96)and , in December , 
1898, the Sunday School installed handsome new gas fixtures 
to replace the old oil lamps in use since the 1840's. (97) 

99 



CHAfHE.R OF ST. JA~1ES· CHURCH. GRl\"tken from a phl•tograph of Elmhurst, looking up L amont. t1venu& 
from the hri11 nue }'egiu:.ning t o show well up ~1bove the ground. 
Five uf thP.!,.; have been i;olcl dru'iug Lhe pa,;l ieu dnys, most ly to New "York Cit.y 
peopfo. Of fo11y.two hoit'><::> thu~ w .. r ' fot snle on Febrm1ry 1, there aow refll'tin lmt 

' t wt>l\·e uusohl. 

Looking north up Lamont Avenue from 43rd Avenue from a sketch printed in the Newtown Register on July 2, 1896. 

Fifth S tn·et. looki ng-. 'or t h. !·:Jmhnr st, L i. 

Looking north up Hampton Street from 43rd Avenue. Lamont Avenue is to the right. Photo taken 1908 



recreation, and, in 1618, King James I, legally the head of 
the Church of England, promulgated the Edict of Sports 
which enumerated the games that might be played on 
Sunday afternoons after Church. It was not until the Puritan 
Revolution that the strict Sunday observance came into vogue. 
The Presbyterians and the Methodists, the evangelical 
branches of Protestantism, became the most fanatical 
proponents of rigid , all-day observance of the biblical 
injunction to keep holy the Sabbath Day. 
The immigrant Irish and Germans arriving on Long Island 

in the decades before and after the Civil War were baffled 
by the dour, joyless, Calvinistic insistence on silence, 
day-long solemnity and the view that ball-playing, especially, 
was sinful and profane (3). The church lobby reached the 
apogee of its power in Albany when it succeeded in adding 
two paragraphs to the New York State Penal Law, sections 
2140 and 2145, prohibiting public sports on Sunday, 
including the playing of professional games by recognized 
teams. In areas like Long Island City, where the population 
was overwhelmingly Irish and German, the law was either 
ignored or winked at; the mayor and the police force were 
both Irish and out-of-sympathy with the law. From time-to-time, 
church groups would complain of the noise and disturbance 
of worship, and the police force would then make token raids. 
In Corona and Woodside, church-organized law-and-order 
vigilantes descended on the parks and baseball lots on 
Sundays, and forced deputies to shut down the games. 
The ball patrons argued in court that they worked 5¥.!-days 
a week and were entitled to innocent amusement on their 
day of rest, a rest divinely instituted, as they reminded 
their persecutors. The church folk argued that baseball 
crowds were loud, used vile language, urinated on lawns and 
shrubs, picked farmer's fruits and taunted respectible females. 

World War I, with its tremendous stimulus to travel and 
exposure to a wider world, broke the power of the fundam-
entalist churches. The absurdity of the Puritan Sabbath 
in a modern world became more and more evident, and in 
February 1918 two bills were introduced into the Legislature 
to allow baseball after 2:30 p.m. on Sundays and to permit 
fishing and other sports between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. 
The ministers of the New York Sabbath Committee rose to 
meet the challenge and wrote to all the local ministers for 
support. To their horror and chagrin, the Reverend 
G. Ashton Oldham, rector of the fashionable and influential 
St. Ann's Episcopal Church in Brooklyn Heights, wrote a 
public reply, declaring that the Puritan Sabbath was 
un-democratic because it affected only the poor and working 
classes, while the rich golfed, fished and played tennis 
unmolested; also, that young men were better off in healthful , 
outdoor exercise rather than loafing on street corners, 
playing cards or shooting pool in some seedy hall (4) . 
This declaration from one of the most respectable clergymen 
of the day put an end to all clerical opposition. In the spring 
of 1919, State Senator {iater mayor) James J. Walker 
(Manhattan) introduced a bill to repeal Sections 2140 and 
2145 of the Penal Code so as to permit ball playing 
on Sunday. The bill passed both houses and was so-worded 
as toallowforlocaloption . In April 1919 Governor Alfred E. 
Smith signed the bill and the New York City Council soon 
followed with their own resolution. On Sunday, May 4 , 1919, 
the first legal baseball games were played in both Ebbetts 
Field and the Polo Grounds (5) . 
The other great liberating influence in daily life at this 

time in Queens and one that markedly affected church 

attendance was the growing popularity of the automobile. 
The automobile began as a luxury and plaything of the rich 
men in the first years of the century, but by World War I days, 
the prices had fallen sufficiently to bring the motor car 
within the means of the middle and upper middle classes. 
Owning an automobile brought a man instant prestige and 
status in the eyes of his family, and it opened him to a wider 
world in which he could explore at times of his own choosing; 
he was emancipated from the trolley, the commuter train 
and timetables and he could explore territories far beyond 
their local range. Sunday, the "day of rest," became the 
most crowded day of the week on the roads, and garages 
and filling stations began to spring up in every community 
to meet the motorist's needs. There are no statistics for 
automobile ownership in Elmhurst alone, but the figures for 
New York State for 1918 and 1919 undoubtedly reflect 
what was going on on Long Island (6): 

August 1, 1918 August 1 , 1919 Change 
Pleasure 346,100 398,560 52,460 
Omnibus 18,895 19,056 2,197 
Commercial 69,160 83,076 13,916 
Trailers 1,887 1,633 -254 
Dealers 2,220 2,446 226 
Motorcycles 26,415 21 ,626 -4,789 
Chauffeurs 129,076 150,674 21 ,598 
These are the figures for Queens County as a whole for 

1918 and 1919 (7): 
1918 1919 Change 

Pleasure 11 ,810 14,143 2,333 
Commercial 2 ,596 3,231 635 
Chauffeurs 6 ,597 8 ,420 1,843 
Another important new element in the social life of 

Elmhurst in these years was the advent of motion 
pictures. The first crude productions projected in halls and 
outdoor theatres called "airdromes" were presented in 
neighboring Corona, but Elmhurst began to have its own 
outdoor presentations in 1913, 1914 and 1915. On summer 
nights an empty lot was chosen, smoothed out and folding 
chairs were set out; a projector was mounted on a table 
at the front of the lot and images projected on a cloth 
screen at the rear. The film reels were usually one-act 
comedies or adventures, songs for the audience to join in , 
and newsreels; admission was lOC. Summer "theatres" 
like this appeared on Broadway near the railroad station 
and on Corona Avenue near Hampton Street. The first real 
theatre building was the Victoria on Corona Avenue at 
92nd Street, opened in November 1916. The movie 
industry became more and more of a fixture in the social life 
of Elmhurst. Anonymous performers gave way to career 
actors who became "stars" thanks to Hollywood glamorizing, 
and the crude one-reel comedies evolved into full-length 
dramas of adventure and romance. Movies became important 
moulders of public opinion in Elmhurst and elsewhere 
during World War I when documentaries of camp life and 
actual battle footage attracted large audiences and brought 
home to the average family the realities of the war in 
Europe and the battles in which their fathers and sons 
were participants. 

Surprisingly, movies were not only viewed in Elmhurst, 
they were made there at one point. In September and 
October 1919, Famous Players-Lasky, one of the biggest 
early film makers, selected Forest Hills and Broadway in 
Elmhurst as locales for a film entitled The Copperheads, 
with Lionel Barrymore in the title role. The word Copperhead 

129 



Two scenes in the "new" Elmhurst created by Cord Meyer between 1893 and 1910. At the top is the intersection of Whitney and 
Elbertson Avenues about 1900. The bottom location is uncertain. Almost all of these fine house disappeared after World War II , with 
apartment houses taking their place, 

130 



was a derogatory expression used in Civil War days to 
describe Southern sympathizers in the North who opposed 
President Lincoln's prosecution of the war against the 
Confederacy. The movie company built a model Civil 
War-era village at approximately Yellowstone Boulevard 
and 66th Avenue, easily visible from Queens Boulevard . 
Eleven buildings, including a church , court house, drug store, 
general store and blacksmith shop were erected and 2,300 
men were hired to play the parts of Mexican War and Civil 
War soldiers. Costumes, posters and a host of other small 
details lent authenticity to the scene (8) . 
On November 10, 1919, the camera crews took over 

Broadway in Elmhurst. The object was to shoot several 
scenes, supposedly of a Fourth of July celebration in 1904 
in a typical American town. All Broadway was hung with 
American flags and bunting and supposed veterans of the 
Civil War marched briskly down the street while the populace 
crowded the sidewalk and cheered. Everyone joined in the 
spirit of the occasion, glorying in the opportunity to be an 
actor, if only for a day (9) . 

Probably the last social movement to profoundly affect 
Elmhurst was the advent of Prohibition. This misguided 
attempt at social legislation was the outgrowth of a long 
campaign against saloons, breweries and alcoholic bevo.ages 
in general. Temperance movements began early "' the 
United States and European countries and the Women's 
Christian Temperance Association, the most effective of all 
in the United States, started up in 1874. Liquor was seen 
as a threat to the home; men spent money needed at home 
on drink, returned to their homes drunk and abused their 
wives and children. Carrie Nation, with her famous hatchet, 
added a dramatic element to the fight against whiskey and 
saloons. In Queens, there was rising resentment against the 
powerful breweries that bought up saloons, using them as 
an outlet for their exclusive product, while openly subsidizing 
the numerous amusement parks to push their brand 
aggressively on susceptible young men. 

National prohibition crept in indirectly during the war 
in 1917 when Congress banned the processing of grain into 
liquor on the plea that foodstuffs were vital to the prosecution 

of the war (10). The 18th Amendment to the Constitution 
to ban liquor outright began a slow progress through the 
various state legislatures ; six years were given to secure 
ratification by the states. One by one, the states voted 
approval and, in 1919, the necessary three-quarters 
had subscribed. The Volstead Act of 1919 was the enforcing 
arm of the 18th Amendment. In Queens, mock wakes were 
held in many saloons on the last night of legal liquor, with 
black crepe tied around the last bottles of spirits. 
The economic effects in Elmhurst were as severe as they 
were in many other Queens communities. Many saloons on 
Broadway and Queens Boulevard went out of business, 
choking off the livelihood of dozens of owners and 
bartenders. The old Newtown Hotel , fighting years of 
declining patronage, could not survive the additional 
prospect of Prohibition and closed down, succumbing to the 
wrecker's ball on January 21 , 1919 (11) . 

A few others tried to hang on by converting their premises 
into ice cream parlors. Cornelius Burke, proprietor of the 
Broadway Hotel on the corner of Queens Boulevard and 
Broadway, spent a few thousand dollars remodeling his 
saloon into a confectionery parlor and ice cream shop (12) . 
The demise of the saloon closed down the traditional male 
retreat for millions of American men; women still had their 
churches and their clubs, but the men were shut out for 
good from their oldest source of male camaraderie and 
liquid comfort. 

(1) Newtown Register, March 27, 1913, 5:3 
(2) ibid., February 9, 1911, 5:4 
(3) ibid ., April 16, 1914 4:2 and July 21 , 1910 
(4) ibid., February 21 , 1918, 4:5 
(5) Big Sticks by William Curran, Harper, 1990 
(6) Newtown Register, September 4, 1919, 4 :3 
(7) ibid., October 9, 1919, 5:5 
(8) ibid., October 2 , 1919, 1:6 
(9) ibid., November 13, 1919, 5:6 

(10) ibid., September 12, 1918, 7:7 
(11) ibid., January 23, 1919, 5:2 
(12) ibid ., January 8 , 1920, 5:2 and March 4 , 1920, 5:3 

131 



Elmhurst people lined up to 1,Vatch the Draftees' parade on Broadway on September 4, 1917, during the first World War. 

Draftees' parade at the northwestern corner of Broadway and Whitney Avenue on September 4 , 1917; photo was taken and published 
by the Newtown Register, the local newspaper. 

132 



Chapter Fifteen 

Elmhurst in World War I 

When World War I broke out in Europe in the fall of 1914, 
America was neutral in its sympathies. Isolationism had 
long been a cornerstone of American foreign policy, 
originating in Washington's advice to avoid foreign 
entanglements and involvements in age-old European 
rivalries. Although America had been overwhelmingly 
Anglo-Saxon down to 1850, huge numbers of Germans, 
Irish, Austrians, Hungarians and Scandanavians had 
immigrated into America in the post-Civil War years and 
settled in the big cities of the Northeast and on the farms of 
the mid-West. By 1900, the populations of Long Island City," 
Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale and College Point 
were heavily German. German singing societies, sick and 
death benefit societies and fraternal and sport organizations 
were an important component of community life in Queens 
from the 1870s onwards. In Queens and Manhattan, 
many German families had long occupied the highest levels 
of society and were prominent in the fields of commerce 
and banking: Steinway, Ehret, Windmuller, Schurz, Schiff, 
Batterman, Ziegler, Cassebeer, Poppenhausen, Funke and 
Bermel were well-known names in New York society. Jacob 
Leisler had been governor general of New York in colonial 
days and Charles Schieren had been the last mayor of 
Brooklyn; Frederick Bowley and Joseph Bermel had 
been Queens borough presidents. When the European War 
broke out, therefore, in 1914, there was a considerable pride 
of ancestry and inclination toward giving a sympathetic 
hearing to the cause of the Central Powers - Germany and 
the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. 

As the war dragged on into 1915 and 1916, the balance 
slowly tilted toward the Allied Side. France and England 
suffered terrible battlefield losses during these years, as did 
Germany and Austria. Germany began to lose the propaganda 
war by her military tactics - the invasion of neutral Belgium, 
the burning of Louvain, and in 1915-16, the beginning of 
unrestricted submarine warfare. The sinking of the Lusitania 
with the loss of 1,200 lives especially alienated American 
sympathies, even though half a century later it was admitted 
that the ship had been carrying munitions. 

The other decisive factor was money- the huge investment 
of American commerce in trade with the Allies. Allied 
demands for metals, munitions, foodstuffs and war material 
of every kind swelled to enormous proportions and provided 
huge profits to American industry. When American ships 
carrying this trade began to be sunk by German submarines, 
there was an outcry and demands for freedom of the seas. 
Finally, the government, the upper classes and the great 
financial houses traditionally favored the British cause. 
Americans spoke English and we had been a British colony, 
and more than half of Americans traced their ancestry to 
British forebears. 
On February 3, 1917, the United States severed 

diplomatic relations with Germany and on April 4th 
Congress proclaimed a state of war. In Elmhurst, 
the transition to a state of war was slow. As recently as 
February 1916 the Turn Verein Vorwaerts had 90 members 
on its rolls and sponsored barn dances as well as athletics. (1) 
In January 1916, several Elmhurst women opened a booth 

in Madison Square Garden and collected funds for widows 
and orphans in Germany and Austria-Hungary. (2) Yet in 
June, the local paper commented on the number of military 
uniforms to be seen on the streets of Elmhurst , as young 
men were reporting to military encampments, while recruits 
were being signed up for the 10th Regiment in Flushing. (3) 
When diplomatic relations were broken in February 1917, 
the Newtown Register came out for universal military service. (4) 
In the last week of March, the Queens Chamber of Commerce 
distributed cards for signing oaths of loyalty which would 
then be tabulated and forwarded to Washington. (5) 
As Congress assembled to declare war, Mayor Mitchell in 
New York ordered the Board pf Education to hold patriotic 
meetings in high schools; in Newtown High School there 
were many patriotic speeches and flag-waving. (6) 
On September 4th, the first draftees from Corona and 
Elmhurst assembled in Broadway. On a stand erected in 
front of the Court House, officials reviewed the parading 
men; then the recruits marched down Grand Avenue to 
Neuman's Washington Park at 74th Street, where they were 
served a hearty dinner of roast beef, chicken and the 
trimmings. At 9:30 p.m., Borough President Connolly and 
Congressman Caldwell addressed the men and at midnight 
the party broke up. (7) On September 22nd, 44 men from 
the Elmhurst district marched up Broadway to the accomp-
animent of bugles and drums and the clanging of church 
bells to the railroad station, where they entrained for Camp 
Upton. (8) On October 30th, eleven Negroes from Elmhurst 
similarly departed for Upton. (9) 

Beginning in October, the first war propaganda material 
from Washington began to appear in the local Queens 
newspapers - cartoons of the Kaiser, etc. , and in April 1918 
the first atrocity cartoon of the war - ape-like Germans 
using the spike on their helmets to bayonet the Allied 
wounded. (10) For most Elmhurst people, the war was 
something far away; radio and television were still fa r 
in the future and the conflict could not be brought into 
the home with the vivid images and immediacy that we 
experience today. However, there were a few visible 
changes. Women conductors began to appear on the cars 
of the New York & Queens and Manhattan & Queens trolley 
lines, the men having been drafted or lured into high-paying 
factory jobs. The uniforms were extremely unflattering -
blue skirts, blue coats buttoned up tight at the neck, and 
puttees wound around the calves like the soldiers wore. ( 11) 
At the Post Office, registration of aliens began on 
February 4th, with photographs and fingerprints taken. 
Supposedly, there were 62,000 German aliens in 
New York City. (12) On June 4 , 1918, the police 
commissioner put out an order requiring all lights to be 
dimmed or extinguished against the possibility of an enemy 
bombardment. In Elmhurst and elsewhere, lights were 
dimmed in store windows and at movies, libraries and 
churches. Police went from house to house and told citizens 
that when they heard whistles and sirens, they were to go 
into their cellars for protection against bombardment. (13) 

In March 1918 came news of the first Elmhurst casualty: 
John Joseph Haspel of old 174 Wool Street (now 53-16), 

133 



E
xcellent close-up of the W

andow
enock Fire H

ouse o
n

 B
roadw

ay opposite Justice A
venue on D

ecem
ber 31

, 1929. 
A

t the right is the 
old one-story E

lm
hurst railroad station o

n
 the W

hite L
ine, built in 1873; 

at the left, som
e ancient stores an

d
 buildings 

' SCHOOL HOCSE THAT STOOD O~ THB SITE NOW OCCC'l'IED 
BY THE REGISTER Bt:'ILDI:'iG. 

Sketch of the original Elmhurst school house, dating back to the setting up of the school districts in 1814. 

Certificate awarded to Thomas B. Lowerre for "good behavior" by Schoolmaster John Cutting in the Newtown District School # 1 on 
August 15, 1845. The schoolhouse on Broadway later became the office of the Newtown Register. 

142 



the contractor was glad to dispose of his excavated soil 
to a nearby site at no cost. The importance of Junction 
Avenue as a through traffic artery was greatly enhanced 
by its conversion to a through road; Elmhurst people could 
now reach Queens Boulevard without a long, circuitous drive 
around the meadows. More importantly, Junction Avenue, 
at Queens Boulevard, connected directly with Penelope 
Street, which gave access to Middle Village, Glendale 
and Maspeth. (32) 

Queens Boulevard was also the subject of continuous 
improvement at this time. During late 1923 and early 1924, 
the work of relocating the existing roadway was at a standstill 
because of a long court battle over the moving of the trolley 
tracks of the Manhattan & Queens trolley line. To get 
something accomplished, contractors removed hundreds 
of thousands of yards of earth in the process of grading, 
and a large number of houses were either razed or moved back. 
The biggest and most spectacular move of 1924 was the 
relocation of the stone Presbyterian church 150 feet soutl\ 
from its old site. In a few places along the boulevard, like 
Kew Gardens, hills had to be cut down to bring the roadbed 
to grade and in other places the extra soil came in handy 
to raise the road up to grade. 

The court decision reached in the case of the trolley 
company provided for a central strip 7 4 feet in width for the 
elevated road from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Avenue. 
Provision was made for the trolley tracks beneath the 
el structure. The two roadways would be on either side of 
the elevated road. From Roosevelt Avenue to Union 
Turnpike, two centrally-located roadways, 34 feet in width, 
were separated by a mall six feet wide. These roadways 
adjoined Belgian-block paved spaces 18 feet in width, with 
service roads 25 feet wide, and these in turn adjoining 
sidewalks of a 20-foot width. The trolley tracks were relocated 
into 18-foot malls. The city, in effect, built a whole new 
trolley line, installing new girder tram rail and new steel 
poles. This investment got the trolleys out of the roadways, 
where they had been before, and onto a private right-of-way 
where the cars could make better time. (33) The city took 
advantage of all this rebuilding on Queens Boulevard to 
install, in late 1930 and early 1931, two highway 
underpasses, one at Woodhaven Boulevard and one at 
Union Turnpike. (34) 
The most important wholly new road in the Elmhurst area 

in this decade was Nassau Boulevard, the original name 
of the present Long Island Expressway. This great arterial 
highway had been talked about for years. Finally, in 
February 1924, engineers of the Borough President's 
office began preparing condemnation maps of the right-of-
way. The road, as then laid out, was eight miles long in 
Queens county and 160 feet wide. It began at Eliot Avenue 
and Queens Boulevard and traversed the Horse Brook 
meadows to Strong's Bridge at Flushing Creek. Then it 
continued in a straight line south of Flushing to Alley Pond 
and finally to the county line at Lakeville Road. (35) 

By May 1928, the road had been built from 600 feet 
east of Woodhaven Boulevard to Flushing Creek. Jn 1927, 
the roadway had been graded from Flushing Creek through 
Little Neck. (36) The grading was done using excavated 
material from the Queens boulevard subway. (37) By the 
end of 1929, the western end of the road, from Queens 
Boulevard to Flushing Creek, still needed grading and paving, 
but eastward from there a fir.e 30-foot roadway with asphalt 
pavement on a concrete base continued to Springfield 

Boulevard . Although the paved section had been completed 
only in July 1928, a great amount of traffic was already 
using the road; because the road had been energetically 
pushed by Horace Harding, a financier, art collector and 
philanthropist, the city named the new roadway after him. 
Ironically, Horace Harding died in 1929, eight years before 
the dedication of the completed road that bore his name. 
There were few changes in the utilities serving Elmhurst 

that are worthy of mention. On October 1, 1919, the 
New York Telephone Company reduced the cost of 
telephone service in Queens and elsewhere in New York City 
by 8% and advertised that no subscriber would have to pay 
more than 5 cents for a five-minute call within any of the 
five boroughs. Queens calls to New York had hitherto cost 
10 cents. The reduction applied to business and residential 
services, including message rate and flat rate subscribers. (38) 
The Citizens Water Supply Company, founded by Cord 
Meyer and supplying water to much of central Queens and 
Long Island City for years, was finally bought out by the city 
in 1924 after years of wrangling and negotiation over a 
purchase price and the question of real estate acquisition. 

The transportation picture in Elmhurst during the 
1920s reflects the housing explosion that occurred in the 
new neighborhoods and the resultant rise in the population. 
The Roosevelt Avenue elevated line that began running in 
1917 reported an increase in passengers at each of the 
stations because it was the only rapid transit line available 
and was within easy walking distance of both the new and 
the old neighborhoods. The ridership statistics for the 
Elmhurst Avenue and Junction Avenue stations tell the story: 
Year Elmhurst Avenue Junction Avenue 
1917 (Apr.-Dec.) 275,900 456,500 
1918 541,200 810,120 
1919 679,200 1,010,980 
1920 784,400 1,235,300 
1925 1,4 70,850 4 ,093 ,848 
1927 2,086, 722 3 ,620,272 
1928 2,345,446 3,950,183 
1929 2,640,249 4,324,522 
1930 2,884,540 4 ,489,840 
1931 3,075,682 4,458,855 
The Elmhurst Long Island Rail Road station was far less 

patronized than we might expect, probably because of the 
higher fare and the competition of the Roosevelt Avenue 
elevated, which charged only 5 cents and gave free-transfers 
to the New York subways. Very few statistics for commuter 
ticket sales for the individual stations survive: 
1920 commuters : January, 151 ; July, 127 
1921 commuters: January, 104; July, 155 
It is worth noting that the Long Island Rail Road did make 
one important improvement in the 1920s - the elimination 
of the Broadway grade crossing. This was first planned 
in 1923 at a projected cost of $300,000 ; by April 1926, 
the cost had risen to $450,000, one-half to be borne by the 
railroad, one-quarter by the state and one-quarter by the 
city. Construction work began during September, was 
practically completed in 1927 and finished early in 1928. 
In the process , Elmhurst Jost its handsome old brick station 
with Victorian scrollsaw trimming. (39) 
The trolley service in Elmhurst had been provided by the 

New York & Queens County Railway operating along 
Woodside Avenue, Broadway and 45th Avenue to Corona 
and Flushing, and the Manhattan & Queens Transit Company 
operating on Queens Boulevard. The New York & Queens 

143 



Public School #13 on 48th Avenue across the street from Newtown High School. This 1885 building occupied the high school site at 
first, but was moved in 1898 to make room for the new high school. It was demolished about 1955. 

144 



was hard hit by the opening ofthe Roosevelt Avenue elevated 
in 1917, because the rapid transit line not only closely 
paralleled the streetcar line, but gave its passengers free 
transfers to the subways in Manhattan, Brooklyn and 
The Bronx. The elevated, with its limited stops, offered a 
faster ride and delivered its passengers to New York City 
instead of Long Island City. The trolley service continued 
for a few years because some Elmhurst and Corona patrons 
rode to Flushing and College Point; however, on August 3, 
1925, the company abandoned all service in Elmhurst. 
The Manhattan & Queens trolley on Queens Boulevard, 

on the other hand, had no competition, and as Elmhurst, 
Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens grew rapidly 
during the 1920s, the company enjoyed great prosperity. 
The company, alone among streetcar lines, won in 1920 the 
right to institute a zone system on its eight-mile-long line. 
On December 10, 1920, the line was divided into two fare 
zones, with the zone limit fixed at Broadway, Elmhurst. 
A separate nickel was collected east and west of that point 
and a 10-cent fare charged for the through eight-mile ride 
from New York to South Jamaica. This additional revenue 
proved a life-saver to the company and enabled it to survive 
the crippling inflation of the post-war era in wage costs and 
the price of materials. The statistics on ridership show the 
surprisingly heavy patronage on Queens Boulevard all 
during the 1920s: (40) 
1917-4,875,636 1924-8,006,253 
1920-4,876,365 1925-8,073,016 
1921-5,348,274 1926-8,746,599 
1922-7,147,257 1927-9,212,562 
1923-7,935,304 

1928- 9,285,489 
1929- 9,728,941 
1930-10,124,971 
1933- 8,466,074 

When the Independent Subway opened through to Jamaica 
on April 24, 1937, the Queens Boulevard trolley company 
realized that it would soon lose most of its patronage and 
went out of business on April 17, 1937. 
The city-owned Independent Subway was the newest arrival 

on the transportation scene in Queens. On September 10, 
1932, the city had opened its 8th Avenue subway, connecting 
207th Street and Chambers Street in New York. Part of the 
grand design for the subway included an extension under 
53rd Street, New York to Queens and then under Queens 
Boulevard to Jamaica. On February 26, 1927, a contract 
was awarded to the Patrick McGovern Company for 
$10,481,550 and approved by the Board of Estimate on 
March 10. Ground was broken on April 2, 1927 at Vernon 
Boulevard and 44th Drive, Long Island City. On December 
14, 1927, the Board of Transportation let the first contract 
for work entirely within Queens county to the Atwell-Gustin-
Morris Company for the stretch under Jackson Avenue from 
44th Drive to a junction with the Brooklyn Crosstown line 
near Queen Street. The rest of the subway route to Elmhurst 
and beyond was allocated to a series of contractors working 
on specific segments of the line: 

Arch Street (21st Street and Jackson Avenue) to 
Steinway Avenue, and moving !RT elevated line 
pillars to sides of street: W. G. T. Construction Co. 

Section I - Queen Street to 37th Street and Northern 
Boulevard: Tries! Construction Co. 

Section II - Steinway Street and Broadway to 
Northern Boulevard and 53rd Street: J. F. Cogan Co. 

Route 108: 
53rd Street via Broadway to Pettit Place, Elmhurst: 

Atwell-Gustin-Morris Co. 
Broadway and Queens Boulevard to Pettit Place and 

55th Avenue: George H. Flynn Co. 
Queens Boulevard from 55th Avenue to 64th Road; 
Queens Boulevard from 64th Road to 71st Road: 
Arthur A Johnson 

Queens Boulevard from 71st Road to Union 
Turnpike: 

137th Street to Hillside Avenue. 
By April 1932, the subway from Long Island City to 

74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside was 
complete. Stations were fixed at Northern Boulevard, 
65th Street, Roosevelt Avenue, Elmhurst Avenue and 
Grand Avenue-Newtown. The subway opened to Roosevelt 
Avenue and 74th Street on August 19, 1933 and to Union 
Turnpike on December 30, 1936. With this extension of 
rapid transit through the heart of Queens, a new era dawned 
for Elmhurst. Elmhurst paid a price for the march of 
progress - the destruction of almost all of the century-old 
buildings in the heart of the village. Down to the end of 
1929, the picturesque old houses and stores on both sides 
of Broadway remained intact, but in the first months of 1930 
excavation for the subway began from Baxter Avenue 
eastward. The 250-year-old Moore house, opposite Vietor 
Avenue, was condemned to provide room for the four-track 
subway and was shortly torn down. To avoid the demolition 
of the St. James Episcopal Church and the Reformed Church, 
land was taken on the west side of Broadway, resulting 
in the loss of many old 19th century residences and the 
Wandowenock Fire Company building. To provide for the 
subway curve into Queens Boulevard, the northeast corner 
of Broadway and Queens Boulevard had to go, plus the old 
Presbyterian chapel and some ancient stores. Once the 
subway structure was completed, new buildings arose behind 
a new curb line and Elmhurst no longer looked the same. 
The modern era - for better or for worse - had begun. 

(1) Queensboro Magazine, July 1919, page 134 
(2) Newtown Register, August 21, 1919, 4:4 
(3) ibid., September 11, 1919, 5:3 
(4) ibid., May 20, 1920, 3:2 
(5) Queensboro Magazine, December 1920, 427 
(6) ibid., September 1922 
(7) ibid., June 1921 , 229 
(8) New York Tribune, May 27, 1923 
(9) ibid., April 23 and 30, 1922 

(10) Queensboro Magazine, September 1923, 390 and 410 
(11) ibid., January 1924 
(12) ibid., February 1923, page 100 
(13) ibid., May 1927, page316 
(14) ibid., July 1928, 384 
(15) ibid. , July 1928, 384 
(16) ibid. , November 1928, 556 
(17) ibid., June 1929, 298 
(18) ibid., September 1923, 377; July-August 1924, 428 
(19) ibid., February 1931, 90 
(20) ibid., April 1923, 180; July 1924, 428 
(21) ibid., November 1923; January 1927 
(22) ibid., July 1930 
(23) ibid., January 1927, 16; January 1928, 10, July 1928, 

388; January 1930, 10 
(24) ibid., January 1930, 9; January 1931, 5 
(25) ibid., August 1926, 475 and 476 
(26) ibid., May-June 1923, 284; November 1924 
(27) ibid., June 1928, 332 
(28) ibid., September 1931, 422 

145 



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(29) Long Island Rail Road Information Bulletin 1921-1926 
(30) Queensboro Magazine, April 1923, 164 
(31) ibid., September 1924, 446 
(32) ibib., April 1930, 160 
(33) ibid., September 1924, 450 
(34) ibid., January 1931, 18 
(35) ibid., February 1924, 98 and 99 

(36) ibid. , May 1928, 199 
(38) ibid., July 1919 
(39) ibid., December 1923 554; April 1926, 218; 

May 1927, 316; Annual Report of the Transit 
Commission , 1928, 21 (Case 2725) 

(40) Transit Commission , Department of Public Service, 
Annual Reports, 1917-1930 

147 



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The Elmhurst Public Library on Broadway at Slst Avenue shortly after completion in 1906. This building was one of the five Carnegie 
libraries in Queens. 

Furrnan's Grocery store on the site of the present Elmhurst Library at 86-01 Broadway. The store was built about 1823; long managed 
by William E. Furman and later by his sons William E. and John T. It was demolished in February 1904 for the library. 

149 



Bank of Long Island (Cord Meyer building) and railroad station on Broadway at Whitney Avenue in 1911 . 

Elmhurst Long Island Rail Road station before the grade crossing elimination of 1929. This fine brick station opened in December 1888 
as a replacement for an older wooden building and was demolished in 1927. Ziel Photo 

150 



A formal photograph of Cord Meyer, the developer of Elmhurst from 1893 to the World War I. Mr. Meyer was born in 1854 
and passed away in 1910. 

151 



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156 




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