The most memorable event was on July 4, 1917, when Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, stood atop the Long Island Railroad station in the exquisitely decorated Station Square and delivered his “One Hundred Percent American” unification speech to 3,000 onlookers. Addressing WWI, he pleaded for a single standard of patriotism and loyalty to the America of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
“There can be no half and half attitude in this war, and no honorable man can afford to take such an attitude,” he said. “Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.”
“The Gardens will be glad to welcome the Colonel,” read the Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin. “Called our greatest private citizen, the Colonel isn’t private at all. He belongs to all of us, he is the biggest human dynamo in the country.”
Dr. Frederick Burgess, bishop of Long Island, delivered excerpts of Washington’s Farewell Address. The Forest Hills Reception Committee was comprised of Forest Hills Gardens principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury, George C. Meyer of Cord Meyer Development Company, John M. Demarest of Sage Foundation Homes Company, and author Lyman Beecher Stowe.
Olivia Park featured folk dances, followed by the production of Ralph Renaud’s “Masque of Liberty” on a stage comprised of a miniature Greek temple. At Village Green, the flag-raising ceremony featured the unveiling and dedication of a new concrete base and bronze collar. A military drill was led by the Rifle Corps and the Boy Scouts, and a community chorus performed patriotic airs.
The Inn Courts hosted the “Inns” and “Outs” for three matches of singles, four of doubles, and two of mixed doubles, with the winning team keeping the cup for a year. After playing dodge ball, children were treated to ice cream and cake at the Inn’s Tea Garden. In Station Square, people danced to the music of the Seventh Regiment Band.
Fast forward 100 years, and the spirit of President Roosevelt was resurrected by Forest Hills resident Rob Schnell, who impersonated him at the Forest Hills Gardens Flag Day celebration on June 10 at Flagpole Green. Forest Hills Gardens Corporation vice president Tony Barsamian posed alongside “Roosevelt” on the LIRR steps in Station Square, resurrecting the memory of Colonel Roosevelt’s speech in 1917.