Board members of Tennis View Apartments at 4 Dartmouth Street and 6 Burns Street recently founded the Centennial Committee to document the complex's history, compile memories, and coordinate a mid-September celebration.
Overlooking the clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club, the brick-and-timber Tudor buildings later became known as Tennis View Apartments. The 64 apartments on Dartmouth were developed by Forest Hills Gardens resident Guyon Locke Crocheron Earle and built by Fred F. French Co. in 1917.
Following its success, the 111-apartment building on Burns Street, also developed by Earle and designed by Timmons and Chapman, were built from 1919 to 1921.
The Dartmouth Street building was the first large apartment house approved in Forest Hills Gardens. It signified the beginning of a “railroad wall.”
At the time, Sage Homes Company vice president John Demarest desired Burns Street, Continental Avenue, Dartmouth Street, and Tennis Place to be reserved for apartment buildings and attached one and two-family homes to shield the Gardens’ cottages and mansions from the LIRR.
According to a July 1917 edition of the Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin, the apartments were envisioned as a residence for middle-class families whose several children can be accommodated in a larger quantity of bedrooms, and who prepared their own breakfast and dined in the kitchen as opposed to having maid's quarters.
Another selling point was its proximity to the LIRR and trolley service along Queens Boulevard. History repeated itself for the “common man” design at 6 Burns Street.
A notable resident of 4 Dartmouth Street was Alrick Man, Jr, a captain of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Davis Cup Committee. His father Alrick Man developed Kew Gardens and his grandfather Albon Man founded Richmond Hill.
As for 6 Burns Street, it was home to Philip Bouvier Hawk, a noteworthy research food chemist, three-time winner of the early 1920s National Veterans Tennis Championship, and WSTC president in 1932.
Additionally, it was the home of architect, inventor, theorist, and author R. Buckminster Fuller, the “father of the Geodesic Dome.” Earle not only financed each building, but invented the all-steel, one-piece, “One-Wall Kitchen of Beauty, Quality, and Equipment,” a feature of several apartments that Fuller would incorporate into his famed aluminum “Dymaxion House of the Future.”
This remnant of Forest Hills history later made its way from 6 Burns Street to Michigan’s Henry Ford Museum.
“I would leave the apartment on summer mornings and play across the street in ‘swing park,'” said Centennial Committee member Heidi Upton, recalling her childhood. “As a group, we would visit each other’s apartments to play board games. We played ‘cops and robbers’ out back on the ‘hill,’ which is now a terraced garden where we once slid in the winter on sleds.
“My mother Anitra Upton was a ballerina who taught classes where the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation has their offices now<' she added. “It was in a Lions Club meeting spot that reeked of cigar smoke.”
To its right, after heading downstairs from Tennis Place, was The Tennis Grill, a popular restaurant.
“Mr. Chamberlain, who wore white clothes and a white chef hat, would visit tables,” Upton said. “I loved their chicken.”
“On Memorial Day and the Fourth of July I remember parades, and at the end of the day we would go with our father to nearby Flagpole Green,” said Upton's sister, Dr. Julia Upton, who now lives in Syosset. “Dad, who retired from the Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel, belonged to the local American Legion, and was responsible for taking down the flag and folding it properly.”
Not long after committee member Ed McGinnis was appointed to design a wheelchair lift for 6 Burns Street in 2000, he decided to move in.
“As an architect, I appreciated the building’s Tudor-Belgium aesthetic elements,” he said. “I also liked its location.”
He looks ahead to the September event.
“I expect a grand gala with a sit-down dinner held in our park in the evening,” McGinnis said. “It would be under a wedding tent and be visited by our public dignitaries.”
“My expectation for the centennial is a serene, elevated summer picnic in our private park, where residents, friends and families, and notable individuals can commemorate our amazing building, its history, and our special community within the community,” added committee member Jillian Grancaric, a resident since 2016.
“Tennis View Apartments embodies the ideal of stepping outside my front door everyday and in a matter of a first right or left turn, I am amidst the quiet, tree-lined serenity of Tennis Place or in the middle of the vibrancy of Austin Street,” she added. “I’m also near my parents' longtime business, Benjamin Realty, so I am able to spend time with family every day.”