Back in time with Alfred Brand
by Michael Perlman
Mar 08, 2017 | 1654 views | 0 0 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With enthusiasm, humor and insight, 70-year-old Kew Gardens resident Alfred Brand presented the lecture “Forest Hills Then & Now” to members of the West Side Tennis Club and Women’s and Men’s clubs of Forest Hills, the latter of which Brand is president.

One slide featured Station Square under construction in 1911.

“It’s interesting, since initially there’s only a fountain in the middle,” Brand said. “By 1916, they added the two police kiosks and then the fountain gave way to the Christmas tree. Early on, the LIRR station was decorated as a chimney and fireplace.”

On July 4, 1917, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt delivered his famed “100 Percent American” speech in the square.

“What we are going to do this year to commemorate that is still unknown,” said Brand.

Another slide featured Our Lady Queen of Martyrs at Queens Boulevard and Ascan Avenue with Georgian Court, an early and exclusive Forest Hills apartment building on the boulevard.

Venturing north of Queens Boulevard, another image featured Helen Keller’s house at 71-11 112th Street.

“This is where she lived from 1917 to 1938,” Brand elaborated. “It was demolished after a fire to make way for a temple, and a plaque has been erected by the Central Queens Historical Association to commemorate it.”

Queens Boulevard was formerly known as Hoffman Boulevard, a dirt road with humble wooden houses and trees.

“In 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened and the boulevard became the main street,” he said. “It was a two-way street. The eastbound lane followed Hoffman Boulevard and the loop around what became MacDonald Park is the original route. The westbound lane was separated by some distance.”

Another slide depicted the 67th Avenue subway station under construction.

“The subway of the 1930s brought in the people and opened this part of Queens to development,” Brand explained.

A Rego Park highlight was the Colonial mansion-like Howard Johnson’s, which opened at 95-25 Queens Boulevard in 1940.

“When it opened, it was billed as ‘the largest roadside restaurant in the U.S.,'” Brand said. “It could seat 700 people inside, and in the summertime it could seat close to 1,000.”

Brand spent his career specializing in geotechnical engineering. For the past 30 years, he attended lectures on Central Queens and Kew Gardens by historians Jeff Gottlieb and Barry Lewis, and was inspired by an inside look at Forest Hills Gardens by historian Bill Coleman.

“I have always been interested in historical maps and how development occurred,” Brand said. “We use historical maps in geotechnical engineering, which often indicate what may be underground but no longer visible because of development.

“Historic preservation creates a sense of value and civic pride in our communities,” he added.

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