Forest Hills Gardens’ Forgotten Patriotic Artists, Patriotic Posters Showcase A Festive Past

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The Voice Behind Patriotic Posters & Bookplates Comes Alive


Forest Hills Gardens, which was established in 1909, harbors an
extensive history of residents who became known on local to
international levels for their achievements. Back in 1914, the community
began coordinating annual large-scale Fourth of July Festivals in an
exquisitely decorated Station Square, often with activities at the Forest
Hills Inn and Tea Garden, Olivia Park, and along Greenway Terrace and
Flagpole Green, formerly Village Green.

One hundred and ten years later, it is time to take a look at three of the
community’s well-known artists with patriotic influences, whose success
reached far beyond New York. They were Will Phillip Hooper and his
wife Annie Betty Blakeslee Hooper of 84 Greenway South, as well as
Herman Brown Rountree of 176 Slocum Crescent, but today they are

Will Phillip Hooper (1855 – 1938) was a painter and illustrator who was
born in Biddeford, Maine and pursued his studies in Boston and The Art
Students League of New York. He founded the Hooper Advertising
Service at 200 Fifth Avenue, and was a New York Watercolor Society
member. Among the publications which featured his illustrations were
Harper’s Weekly, LIFE, St. Nicholas, and The London Graphic. In 1892,
“The Legend of The Lantern” featured his photogravures.

Annie Betty Blakeslee Hooper pursued her studies at San Francisco Art
School, and then relocated eastward to study with Melville Dewey and
Will Phillip Hooper. Her specialties ranged from bookplates to dinner
plates, and was a remarkable patriotic poster artist. She exhibited
bookplates at venues including the Pen and Brush Club of New York.

The spirit and voice of late artists educate current generations. In
January 1916, she told The Christian Science Monitor of Boston, “Your
book plate must try to express in symbols your occupation, special
interests or hobbies. It may symbolize your home, your love of nature,
your ideals, your activities, or your vision. It should be typical of you and
you only, and the designer must blend all these symbols into a design

which shall have both beauty and significance.” She continued, “After
the design is made, it must be etched on copper or in cheaper form, on
zinc, and printed on paper of fine quality. Collectors of book plates must
look to the symbolism embodied in the composition, and also to the
composition itself and to the fineness of line and delicacy of
workmanship in its execution. Rare book plates are in demand, and
those of famous people are greatly desired by the collectors, who are a
growing class.”

Orders for book plates were taken by first-class
booksellers and jewelers who would retain plates to have a name

Forest Hills Gardens was six years old when “Why We Have Chosen
Forest Hills Gardens For Our Home” was published at the Village Press
in 1915, after W.P. Hooper originated the idea and collaborated with
Forest Hills Gardens resident Frederic Goudy, a prominent type
designer, artist, and printer. At the time, Forest Hills Gardens featured
166 private homes, the Forest Hills Inn which operated as a hotel with
44 live-in staff members, and the adjacent Housekeeping Apartments
(renamed The Marlboro) on the west and The Raleigh on the east.
Between the apartments and houses were approximately 720 residents.
Hooper selectively approached residents, and 53 entries were published
alongside Goudy’s typography and decorations. Spontaneous
expressions of villagers were captured and complemented by half-tone
illustrations of homes.

In the publication, W.P. Hooper responded to his own question: “After
looking in the vicinity of New York for six years to find a place for a
home, after buying lots in two localities, I finally decided that Forest Hills
Gardens was my choice, because I liked the place, the people, and the
prospects. The place – because it’s beautiful; the people – because
they’re interesting; the prospect – because property will increase in


Will Phillip Hooper’s letter in 1915.

W.P. Hooper designed a poster in 1915 featuring a continental soldier
carrying the flag and leading a child.


Courtesy of Anne Seeler

1916 Poster by Annie Betty Hooper

His wife Annie designed an Independence Day 1916 “A.B. Hooper” signed poster announcing the
circus coming to town. It depicts a whimsical child-like clown riding an
elephant, whose upwards trunk is holding a 4th of July flag over a dog
on its hind legs in anticipation. The Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin read,
“It is not the animal of our books on natural history. But no finer
specimen of the poster elephant has ever been seen in captivity. We are

profoundly impressed with the peculiar expression conveyed by the
treatment of the subject’s eye. Undoubtedly Leonardo da Vinci could
have made his famous Mona Lisa smile about fourteen degrees more
mysterious if he had seen this elephant first. There is something
intensely human about the look in the said eye, suggesting that Mr.
Hooper generously contributed that feature to the design.”

A 1917 Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin features their residence that
offered a studio on the first floor and a third floor for billiards. Then in
1919, the couple relocated to 51 Summer Street.
Springfield, Missouri native Herman Brown Rountree (1878 – 1946) was
a painter, newspaper artist, and magazine illustrator who designed
posters for early 20th century Independence Day celebrations, where he
served as the Chairman of the Posters Committee. The July 12, 1919
Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin stated, “Mr. Rountree is one of this
country’s most brilliant poster artists.” He is depicted on an ornate and
whimsical 1927 N.M.F. caricature map of Forest Hills Gardens, Forest
Hills Stadium, Austin Street, and Queens Boulevard, which features an
artist in front of an easel.


The Rountree House circa 1915.

Rountree lived with his wife Nell Lamoine Lee, daughters Helen Cynthia
and Eleanor Lee, and a Cuban servant. Forest Hills Gardens principal
architect Grosvenor Atterbury designed their home at 176 Slocum
Crescent with a two-story rear studio, which offered much light.
Rountree’s illustrations were published for the foremost authors in
leading magazines such as “Gunter’s Magazine,” “Appleton’s
Booklovers Magazine,” “The Sportsman,” and Frank Buck’s “Bring ‘Em
Back Alive” and the “Old Warden” series in “Field and Stream.” He
illustrated for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, as well as newspapers in
St. Louis, and Hartford, and one of many illustrated works was “On
Many Trails.” In his obituary, he was regarded as “one of America’s
best-known wildlife illustrators.” His paintings of animal life
encompassed race horses, polo ponies, African hunting expeditions,
and western ranch life.

Rountree’s 1916 poster, “Yes Mule – It’s The Greatest Show on Earth!!”
captured the expressions of astonished children watching a clown that
embraced a mule, sitting on its hind legs. The bottom further captured
the Gardens’ festive and playful spirit with a lineup of a frivolous clown,

a dog act with a carriage being pushed, a ballerina on a horse, boxers,
acrobats, as well as a dog playing an instrument while balancing on a
ball next to a woman holding a baton. The Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin
drew a comparison of his poster to a mural decorative style.
Referencing the mule, it stated, “Its neck is beautifully garlanded with
flowers, which proves that Rountree is equally at home in the vegetable
and animal kingdoms, as well as in our glorious republic. Your true artist
is quite impartial in his attitude toward the various forms of government.”


Courtesy of Anne Seeler

Poster 2 Rountree’s July 4, 1917 poster

His 1917 poster featured Forest Hills Gardens during WWI on Village
Green (now Flagpole Green) with a 48-star American flag being raised
and a backdrop of the Forest Hills Inn. It depicted a planned garden
community as a center for American values. This is where the
community dedicated a new concrete base and bronze collar for the
flagpole, in which American sailors assisted in flag-raising exercises.



Courtesy of Anne Seeler

Masquerade in Station Square Poster by Herman Rountree circa 1919

Rountree’s colorful 1919 poster features an extravagant masquerade,
bright lights, and the Long Island Railroad Station of Station Square as
a backdrop. In July 1919, Long Island Life referenced his poster for its
unusual charm and artistic value. It read, “Each year he has donated a
poster, commemorating our Fourth of July celebration. They have all
been good, but this year Mr. Rountree has fairly outdone himself. This
poster (the original of which is on exhibit at the Inn) is of such high
quality that the committee would not resist reproducing it in color in the
Bulletin. We take occasion to thank him, in the name of the residents of
Forest Hills Gardens.”

He also specialized in men’s style illustration for clothing manufacturers
in New York. “Mr. Rountree’s wonderfully life-like work, not only in
fashion portrayal, but also as a magazine and book illustrator, has
singled him out as the most brilliant of the younger school of artists. His
drawings interpret superlatively well that environment of good breeding
and luxurious living which many artists attempt and few – very few –
achieve,” read an ad by advertising agents Sherman & Bryan at One
Union Square, which secured his services. It was published in a 1907
edition of “The Clothier and Furnisher.”
Rountree’s entry in “Why We Have Chosen Forest Hills Gardens For
Our Home” read, “A friend used to bore me with wonderful stories about
the beauty, convenience, and general superiority of Forest Hills
Gardens. So, to prove him wrong, I came out here one afternoon. Within

half an hour I was explaining to him that he didn’t half appreciate the
place. And now after having lived here for over two years, my wife and I
feel we are in the right place on account of the convenient location, the
beautiful surroundings, and above all, the good people we’ve met here.”



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