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.