Scaffolds come down, reveal Forest Hills history
by Michael Perlman
Mar 08, 2012 | 5882 views | 6 6 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Inn as of March 2012.
view slideshow (3 images)
Passersby and residents of the historic Forest Hills Inn at 1 Station Square can see the light of day, and even more so in the near future with planned restorations of adjacent buildings.

This prominent Forest Hills Gardens tower’s scaffolding and netting, which was erected circa 2004, is now at ground level at Station Square and Greenway South, and the repaired façade can once again be appreciated for its Tudor and Arts & Crafts appeal.

The Forest Hills Inn officially opened on May 1, 1912, making its restoration timely for its 100th anniversary.

Forest Hills Gardens originated in 1909. The Russell Sage Foundation appointed Grosvenor Atterbury as the Gardens’ principal architect, and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. as the landscape architect for public spaces and parks.

Inspired by Ebenezer Howard's Garden City Movement of England, this is our country's earliest planned garden community. It is a highly recognized model of urban planning, with Old English mansions tastefully situated on classically named private winding streets with lush landscape.

The board of Forest Hills Inn meets with contractors monthly to plan the restoration. The roof and facades of all three buildings have not been restored for at least the same number of decades, but now repairs on the Inn’s tower are complete.

Terra-cotta roof tiles were falling, and the pebble stucco finish on the façade became porous. This affected the metal structure underneath, allowing water into the apartments. Also weathered were top-floor terraces bearing gargoyles, which serve as drainage features.

“While examining the façades, we kept noticing weathered features, needing restoration,” explains Martin Restituyo, president of the One Station Square, Inc. co-op board. “Our five-year capital improvement plan, estimated at $3.5 million, will soon address all remaining restoration.

“Restorations are funded through shareholder assessments,” he adds. “Unlike the past, we have appropriate plans and funds.”

Before Martin Restituyo’s presidency in December 2008, the previous board erected scaffolding around the Inn in 2004, without obtaining Forest Hills Gardens Corporation approval. The board felt it was essential due to emergency repairs, but the Gardens Corporation referenced restrictive covenants that protect the Gardens’ historic character.

By March 2009, the legal dispute between the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation and the Inn’s board was settled, and the tower’s repairs were completed in a year’s time.

Restoration of Station Square is costly, but possible with commitment. Friends of Station Square vice president Suzanne Parker explains that the group’s mission.

“To protect, beautify, and educate the community about Station Square, Forest Hills, and its environs,” she says.

As a case in point, she cites re-installing a restored lantern to a corner of Burns Street after raising approximately $20,000, but that the majority of the eight remaining lanterns from 1910 are in deterioration.

“Friends of Station Square embraced these whimsical icons of the prevailing Arts & Crafts style of the Square as an ongoing project, and continues its fundraising efforts,” notes Parker.

In the Inn’s early years, the Sage Foundation Homes Company distributed an illustrated 25-page prospectus to new residents and guests, establishing why the Inn and the Gardens is unique.

“Forest Hills Inn is a delightful all year round home for the busy man or woman who must spend the day in the city, but appreciates every minute saved for outdoor living and recreation amid wholesome and aesthetic surroundings,” read the brochure.

Station Square was conceived as a town center with the Inn, apartments, connected shops and the train station, which took locals to Penn Station in 13 minutes.

The 150-room Inn’s rates were $14 - $18 per week, including meals. References were required. Guests were welcomed to socialize at the Inn’s reception and smoking rooms on a vine-screened loggia overlooking the square.

The 100th anniversary of the Inn is marked by the board’s establishment of a Historic Committee, co-chaired by Martin Levinson and George Hoban, who is collecting memorabilia for preservation’s sake, while telling a most significant chapter of Forest Hills history.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
C Oz
March 15, 2012
Excellent article! Thank you for your efforts and making sure that history is being preserved
Adele Bender
March 14, 2012
In the 1960s, my husband and I would sometimes go for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner at the Forest Hills Inn. Dinner would cost about $2.50, and 85 cents for breakfast.

Sometimes on weekend evenings, they had music. My husband and I and some friends would go dancing. Going to the Inn was like leaving the city. It was like stepping into a place in the country. It was really charming. I hope it can be brought back.

Speaking of old Forest Hills, which is still beautiful, I remember one evening years ago walking through the snow and the going to what was then the Forest Hills Theatre, where my husband and I saw Dr. Zhivago, which had lots of snow scenes. We felt as if it were a continuation from our walk in the snow through old Forest Hills.

- Adele Bender, Forest Hills, N.Y.
Henry E.
March 10, 2012
Thanks, Michael, for writing such a great article about the Forest Hills Inn. Some of the readers may not know that Michael is very active in preserving many buildings and areas here in Queens. He is a tireless supporter of landmarking cultural, historical and architectural icons particularly in the Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Rego Park neighborhoods. He also tries to save wonderful buildings from our past by lobbying to find new uses for them to prevent their destruction. Michael is a dynamo when it comes to preservation and protection of treasured structures in Queens and throughout our city!
March 09, 2012
Restoring the Inn is just the shot in the arm that Forest Hills needs. Thank you, Michael for such an informative article.
March 09, 2012
I'm very happy to see that someone, not only, is restoring "The Inn," but is restoring human sense and sensibility.

I agree with Tali. Restoring "The Inn," to its original, Splendiferous hotel status would be great. However, that's a matter for another day.

Thank you Michael. ~ Ray
March 09, 2012
Thanks for all your efforts to educate us on Forest Hills' icon in time. 100 years! The history behind the restoration was interesting. This article had lots of great statistics!

I hope that it will be a hotel again, so we can rent rooms like 100 years ago! I'll be the first!