Queens Boulevard mosaic turns 25
by Michael Perlman
Feb 12, 2014 | 6883 views | 1 1 comments | 127 127 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Richard Haas
Richard Haas
Queens Boulevard has shops, buildings, roadways, and, if you look carefully enough, a few public works of art. This year marks the 25th anniversary of a mosaic designed by the famed architectural muralist Richard Haas.

The mural adorns the curved façade of TD Bank at 108-36 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills. It showcases America’s earliest planned garden community, Forest Hills Gardens, with its depictions of Station Square and Forest Hills Inn.

“I have always said this was one of my secret favorites,” said Richard Haas. “I was taken by the history of Forest Hills as a planned community based more on English and other European precedents.”

The charm is further captured through a bird's eye view of homes beyond the Inn, as well as specific examples of cottages in individualized windows along its perimeters. Also depicted is a cornerstone of tennis and music history, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, and a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline featuring the Twin Towers.

“It reminds us of the rich history of Forest Hills and its gorgeous architecture,” said actor Emil Beheshti, a former Forest Hills resident.

Haas designed the mural as the first of an extensive series for the Home Savings Bank of America in 1989. It was executed in Spilimbergo, Italy, by professional craftsmen.

Haas’ contemporary creations often become instant relics.

“It's so classic-looking that I had no idea it was such a recent creation,” said Kew Gardens resident Liz Manning Jarmel.

The mural was on the brink of demolition when Commerce Bank became the building's tenant in the mid-2000s and wanted the storefront to more closely match its corporate standards. That was when landlord Cord Meyer Development Company stepped in.

“It would have been almost sacrilegious to alter or remove the mural,” said Anthony Colletti, chief operating officer of Cord Meyer. “We appreciated the mural’s beauty and significance, as well as the survival of the World Trade Center picture. We made keeping the mural a deal breaker.”

Last year, Haas told CBS Sunday Morning, “a mural contains a neighborhood in many ways. It begins to make people aware of what the beauty is that’s around them.”

In 1978, Paul Goldberger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic, wrote, “The art of Richard Haas is at once entirely realistic and quite fantastic.”

“I pass this several times a week, and on sunny days, the gold mosaics absolutely gleam,” said Regina Judith Faighes. “It is an aesthetically beautiful monument to our beloved Forest Hills, and I feel there should be a ceremony honoring the very talented Richard Haas and his gift to our community.”

Richard Haas was born in 1936 and raised in Milwaukee. In the mid-1950s, he worked as a stonemason assistant to his great uncle George Haas, who was the master stonemason at Taliesin, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright.

As an assistant professor at Michigan State between 1964 and 1968, he was afforded the opportunity to meet notable artists and critics such as Barnet Newman, Clement Greenberg, and Jules Olitski.

In 1968, he made New York his home, and in 1975 painted his first outdoor mural featuring a replica of a cast-iron façade at Prince and Greene streets. This led to various outdoor commissions across America, which continue to this very day.

Kevin Walsh, founder of Forgotten New York, is glad the mural was preserved and to this day is still thought of so highly.

“We can be thankful that Richard Haas' fanciful depiction of Station Square and the Gardens beyond will remain to inspire generations to come,” he said.

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Francesca Niemiec
February 15, 2014