Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NYC Sidetrip: Jackson Heights Historic District

We just returned from Open House New York Weekend with a lot to share!  In the interest of showing you something you don't already know about this city of iconic buildings and neighborhoods (or at least something you're less likely to know), here is one of the many notable 1920's apartment developments located in the historic district of Jackson Heights, Queens.  The district contains the nation's first large-scale co-op garden community, a collection of complexes developed by Edward MacDougall's Queensboro Corporation, and described by architect Robert A.M. Stern as "a model urban suburbia that demonstrates as none have since what high-density housing in the city could be." 

The Towers, 3315-3351 80th Street and 3316-3352 81st Street at 34th Avenue, Jackson Heights, constructed in 1924, designed by A.J. Thomas in the Tuscan style.  According to the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, this mammoth eight-building complex may be the most elaborate garden cooperative in the neighborhood, and is noted for its signature towers, its griffined limestone and brick entry gates to the garden, and its baldacchino (don't worry-- I had to look it up too: a stone or marble structure built in the form of a canopy, especially over the alter of a church) in the Noel Chamberlain-designed garden.

Like most of the complexes within the historic district, The Towers is a series of buildings with a spacious interior private park (or garden), a reflection of the international garden city movement at the turn of the 20th century.  Edward MacDougall's overall plan transformed three hundred acres of farmland in Queens into a community of apartment buildings, row and semi-detached houses, commercial areas, places of worship, and recreational facitities. 
Apartments are spacious and have multiple exposures for maximum light.  Interior rooms face the beautiful, well-maintained courtyard gardens.  The development of what is now the historic district began with the completion of the elevated train (now the 7 line) between Manhattan and Flushing.  Jackson Heights was marketed as a home for middle and upper-middle class workers from Manhattan, and was, originally, a restricted community.  It is now the heart of the city's most diverse single neighborhood! 

Impressive towers crown each corner of this complex, which covers nearly a full city-block.  The buildings are rich with architectural features and ornamentation, and easily hold their own when compared to many Manhattan apartment houses, with an important distinction: these were (and are) affordable family-sized apartment homes.

Nothing says "you have arrived" better than a handsome entrance to the building you call home.  The Towers provides just the front door to welcome you with that sentiment.  Doesn't it feel good?   

The Towers is beautiful and welcoming, nearly ninety years after it was built.  The Jackson Heights Beautification Group notes that complexes like The Towers are part of a neighborhood that established a prototype urban plan that was important in the 1920's and remains important today, because the plan still works.  They're right.  I'll share another gem from this exciting neighborhood tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment