Glendale Farms Milk Caps Spark Memories of Forest Hills Farms

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Rediscovering the Civita Family Farm Historic Trail from Walling Street to Walnut Street

Rare Glendale Farms milk caps, 100 Walling Street, Michael Perlman_s collection

Forest Hills was known as Whitepot, prior to 1906, and consisted of six major farms named after Ascan Backus, Casper-Joost Springsteen, Horatio N. Squire, Abram V.S. Lott, Sarah V. Bolmer, and James Van Siclen. Numerous smaller family farms existed, even into the 1940s. Some included the Civita family farm, Jurgens family farm, the James Vanderveer farm, and the Thomas Hunt tract. 

Last week, this columnist acquired from eBay rare Grade B milk caps from Glendale Farms at 100 Walling Street in Forest Hills, and also accessed two low resolution photos which feature 70th Drive, north and south of Walling Street in 1940. Since then, the milk caps sparked quite a dialogue.

According to the January 1925 edition of Refrigerating World, “Forest Park Milk and Cream Co, Inc., Queens, N.Y. has been incorporated with capital stock of $45,000, by Angelina Marino, Providence Marino, and Casper Marino of 100 Walling Street, Glendale Park, L.I.” (also known as Forest Hills). 

Forest Hills resident James Civita, who was born in 1961, browsed through his family album, and it opened a window into Forest Hills’ early days with photos of the Civita family farm, located near his family’s historic stone house at 117 Walnut Street, a single block between 70th Drive and 71st Avenue. The home was erected by his grandfather, Annibale Civita, and it also made a fine residence for his grandmother, Egidia Civita. “My grandfather built it by hand. He had some workers help him, but it was manual labor all the way. It may date to the late teens,” said Civita. 

Today, Civita is preserving his family’s legacy, with a history spanning several decades in Forest Hills. In 1917, his family immigrated from Marche, Italy, and remained active locally. For example, in the 1980s, his (late) father, Benny/Benito Civita, was the founder and president of Friends of The Legion. 

“At the Civita farm, my family grew vegetables, and they had goats, pigs, and chickens. People came from all over to buy fresh produce. A good portion of the farm was rented, and some was owned. Where the Forest Hills Country/Swim Club later stood (now houses), my family owned part of the land, but sold it before I was born,” said James Civita. Their farm was adjacent to the LIRR Montauk Line and extended toward the Rockaway Beach Branch Line, and as far back to where the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School stands today. “My grandfather rented that land from the LIRR and worked for them, operating the railroad crossing,” continued Civita. 

Civita family _ horse, 117 Walnut St
Uncle Joe on a plowed Civita Family Farm where Metropolitan Ave school now stands, Adjacent to LIRR Rockaway Line

His 90-year-old uncle, Bob Civita, also recalls the nearby Glendale Farms at 100 Walling Street, a street in Forest Hills that has since been decommissioned and bordering Forest Hills and Glendale. Walling Street extended diagonally in relation to Walnut Street; both of which were perhaps the smallest streets in Forest Hills.

In the heyday, a patron would place an order with a milkman, in order for milk to arrive at their home on the following day. Distributing milk in glass bottles was introduced in America on April 8, 1879 by Echo Farms Dairy. It was a commonality to return the milk bottles when a milkman arrived. Prior to the days of indoor refrigeration or pasteurization, homes featured porches with insulated boxes. Additionally, milk boxes were incorporated into side facades. Mid-century grocery shops also contributed to the decline of milkmen. Wax cartons were available, replacing glass milk bottles that were produced at higher prices and entailed sterilization.  

James explained, “Uncle Bob told me that they got their milk from Glendale Farms. There was a very small street, with a few small roads in the area back then. Nearby, the Coopersmiths had a stable called Red Oak Barn. Dairy was produced at Walling Street, and they delivered milk to stores and homes. I also remember Mr. Lucia, their neighbor who worked for Grandview Dairy (likely at 60-71 Metropolitan Avenue, Ridgewood), and parked his truck in front of the Walnut Street home.” Nearby were seven horse stables and a hotel a short distance away. In addition, a dairy farm was owned by the Goldberg family nearby.  

Civita explained the history behind certain family photos. “The 1941 picture of my oldest uncle, Joe, on the railroad tracks with the goats is by Sybilla Street and 69th Avenue. That house in the background is still standing today.” He continued, “The picture of the boy with the chickens is also Uncle Joe and my dad. That is where the Forest Hills Swim Club later was. There was a barn, a house, and a big garage that they rented to the Forest Hills Gardens, which kept their trucks, tools, and firewood.” 

Civita family

“The 1941 photo of the plowed field is where the Metropolitan Avenue school is. Next to the LIRR Rockaway Line in the background, you can see the outline of the old Parkside Station. Standing there was Uncle Joe,” he continued. 

Walling street once existed by the Forest Hills Country Club. Civita said, “I remember when there was once a house there, owned by a painter named Danny. He sold it to the swim club, which converted it. I believe it was Tally-Ho Nursery and Day Camp at 88-20 70th Road.”

The July 20, 1906 edition of The City Record publication featured listings throughout the boroughs. Locally, it stated, “William Dahl, to sell milk (wagon) at Walnut street, Glendale.”… “Hirsch Goldberg, to keep 21 cows at north side of Walling street, 500 feet east of Woodhaven avenue, Glendale.”… “Herman Kermon, to keep 18 cows at south side of Walling street, 500 feet east of Woodhaven avenue, Glendale.”… “William Dahl, to keep 13 cows at Walling street, Glendale.”… “Herman Kessman, to keep 25 cows at north side of Walling street, 1,300 feet east of Woodhaven avenue, Glendale Park.” 

Despite success stories, the 100 Walling Street property also had its share of misfortunes. On December 27, 1911, word of a tragedy spread to The Utica Herald-Dispatch. “Shot down by four masked assassins, who escaped, James Ruggia, a well to do Italian milk dealer of 100 Walling street, Forest Park, Long Island, was found dead in the vestibule of the residence No. 343 Linden street to-day by pedestrians who were attracted by the shots.” It was believed that he was the victim of a Black Hand plot.

“Through a defective flue fire occurred in the one-story frame dwelling 100 Walling Street, Glendale, owned by Thomas Lamb, not much loss,” read a 1918 announcement in The Daily Long Island Farmer, Jamaica newspaper. 

“Louis Aronowitz, 33 years old, a milkman, of 100 Walling Street, Glendale, was committed to jail for five days by Magistrate Conway in Jamaica court yesterday for the alleged sale of unwholesome milk,” stated the June 11, 1920 edition of The Brooklyn Standard Union.  

Challenging weather, coupled by unpaved roads, occasionally contributed to accidents. The February 24, 1921 edition of The Leader-Observer reported that Frank Moreno perished in a storm a few days prior, when his milk wagon overturned on Metropolitan Avenue near Continental Avenue. “Moreno left Goldberg’s Dairy in Glendale at 2:30 a.m. to deliver milk. He had gone less than a mile when one wheel struck a snow drift, tilting the wagon to such an extent that it rolled over on its side. Moreno was pinned beneath it. The horse kicked himself free of harness and went home. The appearance at the Goldberg barn of a wagonless horse gave the alarm, and a searching party was made up, headed by Moreno’s son. The search started out along the route Moreno usually follows, and soon discovered the overturned wagon. By that time, however, it is estimated that Moreno had been held fast, almost buried in the snow for more than two hours. The rescuers dragged him out from under his wagon, placed him in their sleigh and took him back to his home. He died a few minutes after.” 

Although there is no farmland remaining in Forest Hills, the stone house at 117 Walnut Street stands proudly with an original address, serving as a connection to a productive and storied past. 

Historic Civita family home, 117 Walnut St, Photo by Michael Perlman, March 2019

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