In 1929, Queens, which was referred to as “The Playground of New York City,” offered hundreds of tennis courts, 15 golf clubs, horse racing, boating, baseball fields, and beaches. And offered at a moderate cost, it did not break the bank.
Founded in 1923, the Queens Valley Golf Club, just north of Forest Hills, grew to a membership of 350 just seven years later. It was named after the former name of Kew Gardens Hills, and was situated on 73rd Avenue and Vleigh Road, now Vleigh Place on Main Street.
It was advertised for its picturesque grounds overlooking the country and unusual natural advantages from a golfing perspective.
The initiation fee was $200 and annual dues were $250. The 6,252-yard, 18-hole golf course was designed by Devereux Emmet, who was considered a pioneering golf course architect who designed over 150 courses worldwide.
The stately Colonial fieldstone clubhouse featured a two-story portico with columns and a slate roof with dormers and a pediment. It stood until the late 1930s.
Nearby in Forest Hills was Antlers Golf Club, a 116-acre facility with a course that was 6,000 yards in length. It was organized in 1926, and a ranch-style clubhouse was an addition in 1929.
The club implemented a limit of 300 members, and within three years already had 262 members. Annual dues were $250.
On June 30, 1929, a road and bridge that linked Queens Boulevard and Kelvin Street (now 69th Road) to the clubhouse opened, and the special occasion was marked by a match between four professional players: Johnny Farrell who is most remembered for winning the U.S. Open in 1928, Gene Sarazen, the winner of seven major championships throughout his career, “Witty” Cox, and Hugh Clasby.
The Seminole Club of Forest Hills opened in 1928 and existed into the 1980s, and was situated on Seminole Avenue (now 112th Street) and Harvest Street (now 70th Road). It featured a clubhouse and nine tennis courts, and its membership was mostly local.
Over the years, it hosted the New York State men’s championships, ladies singles championships, and the annual mixed-doubles championship.
The club attracted the likes of William Pardoe, who was inducted into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame, as well as Frank Sedgman of Australia, a U.S. national champion, Davis Cup star, and inductee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Seminole Club also hosted entertainment, including Freddie Charles and his orchestra and tea dances, and in the 1980s, the Forest Hills Little Theater’s productions. Prominent guests included film actor Humphrey Bogart.
In 1924, Forest Park had 536 acres of forest and glen, 18 tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, and a baseball field. Today, the park continues to offer diverse recreation, including hiking trails, bike paths, baseball and football fields, and basketball courts.
The Forest Hills Little League, located at 66-01 Fleet Street, began leasing the property from the city in 1956, but originated in Forest Hills in 1954. Nearly lost to redevelopment, the league was able to acquire the property in 1964, and today remains a magnet for youth baseball programming.
A recreational club that has stood the test of time is the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), which moved to Forest Hills in 1913.
The club built America’s first tennis stadium in 1923, which allowed it to host major tournaments, including the US Open and World Championship Tennis from 1978 to 1990.
Additionally, Forest Hills Stadium began hosting the Forest Hills Music Festival in 1960, attracting nationally and internationally recognized musicians. After a long layoff of nearly 15 years, live music made a comeback with concerts in 2013.
Bea Hunt, who serves as the WSTC Foundation secretary and co-chaired last year’s 125th Anniversary Committee, explained some of the reasons for the club’s survival.
“The membership included many of the top tennis players in the country, and it was known to have the best tennis courts in the city,” she said. “Members were not local residents, but from the metropolitan area.”