Restoring the Gateway to Forest Hills Gardens
by Michael Perlman
Apr 17, 2018 | 9574 views | 0 0 comments | 155 155 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The new talk of the town is the much-anticipated Station Square Restoration Project, which was announced last week by the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation.

“This will be a multi-faceted project with many phases and involving more than just the restoration of the historic road surface,” read a statement announcing the project. “All the public utilities will also be upgraded, including their infrastructure, once the roadway is opened.”

The project will start this week and continue through 2018. While vehicular traffic will be off limits east of Continental Avenue, emergency vehicles will be permitted.

Local residents immediately began to discuss Station Square’s history and their hopes for a community anchor.

“What makes its ambiance unique is the whimsical arts-and-crafts style that the architects employed, combined with the fantasy-like Neuschwanstein romantic road castle,” said Leonard Lombard, a director with the Station Square Inn Apartments Corporation. “The architectural and cultural history, which was in vogue at that time, is unlikely to be duplicated with today's technology and state-of-the-art construction methods.”

“I hope to see a more unified commercial look and more upscale shops along Station Square,” he added.

Inspired by Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement, the residential development was designed by architect Grosvenor Atterbury and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

Station Square accommodated an upscale social life, particularly at the spire-adorned Forest Hills Inn, which opened in 1912 and offered 150 rooms, adjoining the Raleigh apartments on the east and the Marlboro apartments on the west.

The LIRR Station, accessible from the inn through arcades and bridges sheltering residents and visitors from the weather, offered a 13-minute commute to Manhattan. Historic events included the annual 4th of July celebrations, when Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “100 Percent American” speech in 1917. Helen Keller greeted over 1,200 soldiers of the Rainbow Division that same year.

Susanna and Robert Hof own Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, which occupies three Station Square storefronts.

“The distance between the roadbed and the sidewalk has deepened,” explained Robert. “The brickwork, in the pattern of a Union Jack, is sacred, and where there are gaps they will be filled in with proper vintage bricks of the same type and acquired potentially from upstate New York.”

“As part of the plan, the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation is trying to work out the details to restore the large decorative lanterns that hang from the facades,” Susanna said. “The center island is also expected to be repaired, which is where a fountain once provided water for horses, and then around 1916, two kiosks were added and would function as police and taxi outposts.

“It is wonderful how it evolved into a sitting area,” she added.

Robert A.M. Stern, former dean of the Yale School of Architecture and founder of architectural firm RAMSA, called Station Square "one of the finest public spaces in America."

“The LIRR, Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, and Friends of Station Square collaborated for over 25 years to raise funds and seek guidance in maintaining this American architectural jewel,” said Wendy Bachman, president of Friends of Station Square. “The guts of the square need a complete overhaul. After the restoration is complete, my hope is that it will take another 100 years before any work of this magnitude.”
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