Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NYC Sidetrip: The Chateau, Jackson Heights

I spent several hours enjoying the Jackson Heights historic district last week, my visitors' guide in hand as I walked from one landmarked complex to the next.  I could easily wax (and post) poetic on the impressive buildings in this Queens neighborhood for days, but, for now, will offer up one more of the 1920's complexes that reached out to me.

The Chateau, 3405-3447 80th Street and 3406-3448 81st Street, Jackson Heights, constructed in 1923, designed by A.J. Thomas.  This French Chateau-style complex covers an entire city block and is just across 34th Avenue from The Towers (see last post).  The steep mansard roofs, topped with original slate, are distinctive crowns on the ten buildings, and one of the first things you notice as you approach.

Carved limestone entries lead to intimate lobbies with only two apartments per floor.  The Chateau and its neighbor The Towers were considered the most elegant of the complexes developed by the Queensboro Corporation in Jackson Heights.

The apartment entrances face one another across the lobby; the elevator is on the right just beyond the apartment entry.  The lobbies are not as elaborate as the building's exterior, but are tasteful and match the overall elegance of the complex.

The interior garden of The Chateau was designed by the Olmstead Brothers company of Brookline, Massachusetts.  The step-brothers inherited the nation's first landscape architecture firm from their famous father, Frederick Law Olmstead, one of the designers of Central Park, which is just a train ride away.  The garden is visible from the 34th Avenue side of the complex.

The legacy of the garden city movement, which started in England in 1898, includes The Chateau and similar complexes in the Jackson Heights historic district.  Two other Queens neighborhoods, Forest Hills Gardens and Sunnyside, are also outgrowths of this movement.  Today's New Urbanism stems in part from the garden city movement.

The cat in the picture above had her eye on a bevy of squirrels in the shrubbery outside The Chateau; it's a tranquil scene just minutes away from some of New York's most bustling, energy-filled streets in this colorful neighborhood.  I'll share more of the landmarks of Jackson Heights in future posts, but tomorrow will take you across the East River for a look at one developer's attempt to compete with complexes like The Chateau with a skycraper version of the garden city movement!  


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