July 4, 1924: A Festival To Be Remembered! A Grand Patriotic Spirit Sweeps Forest Hills How Celebrities & Residents Once Celebrated Independence Day

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July 4, 1914

By Michael Perlman | mperlman@queensledger.com

Originating in 1914, Forest Hills Gardens committees and residents coordinated annual Fourth of
July Festivals in an exquisitely decorated Station Square, often with additional activities at the
Forest Hills Inn and Tea Garden, Olivia Park, Hawthorne Park, and along Greenway Terrace and
Flagpole Green, formerly Village Green. Among the most historic Forest Hills events transpired
on July 4, 1917, when Colonel Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “One Hundred Percent
American” unification speech on a lavish platform affixed to the LIRR Station in front of 5,000
guests, addressing WWI. A year earlier, the official Forest Hills Gardens flag was raised for the
first time on the Fourth of July.


Theodore Roosevelt delivers his “100% American Unification” speech, July 4, 1917.


Today, patriotism continues to echo in a modified form through Children’s Day and Flag Day
festivities, although a century ago, no expense was spared when it came to approximately 15-
hour Independence Day celebrations, frequently on the actual day. Now it is time to turn back the
clock to July 4, 1924, which marked the 148 th anniversary of America’s independence. The
Celebrations Association of Forest Hills Gardens Inc. was ready to offer a most memorable

Throughout much of Forest Hills Gardens’ history, local residents have included celebrities, who
found delight in the idyllic Tudor and Arts & Crafts ambiance. Residents caught the eye of
Station Square’s highly detailed decorations, designed by John Almy Tompkins, who was also
the notable architect behind the Clubhouse of the West Side Tennis Club and The Community
House. Builder James Hayden fulfilled his plans. Beginning at 7:30 AM, residents awoke to the
sounds of town criers under the direction of Chairman Irving H. Hare. At 9 AM, a parade was
underway from Station Square to Village Green, with a band in the lead.


Obstacle race for children, July 4, 1918.


They arrived on the Green at 9:15 AM. On Village Green, the Declaration of Independence was
recited by actor Albert Sidney Howson, and a chorus of fifty local children performing patriotic
hymns under the direction of Corinne Greene, alongside the flagpole. Reverend David Latshaw
gave an invocation and a flag-raising exercise was performed around 9:30 AM under the
direction of the Forest Hills Post of the American Legion, where Homer A. Yates served as first

The agenda also called for children dancing in costume in Hawthorne Park at 10 AM, under
Dorothy Whyte’s direction. Hawthorne Park would be revisited with a ballgame around 2:15 PM
under Chairman M.M. Davidson.

Around 10:45 AM, Congressman Arthur M. Free, who came from California, delivered an
address in Station Square, which called for loyalty to the American flag and the U.S.
Constitution. While explaining the objectives of the Reds, he protested against the “Slacker’s
oath” and urged that the Red flag have no platform in America. Rather, Old Glory should only be

In retrospect, The Forest Hills Bulletin captured American spirit and the crowd’s personalization.
“Julius Tannen entertained the crowd, Hollis Davenney sang a solo, six Forest Hills girls in red,
white and blue, danced with spirit, and then the surprise came – (performer) Will Rogers
appeared and in his droll, original way humorously paid his respects to the Democratic
convention. The people went wild over this erstwhile fellow-townsman, who, they hope, will
come to live in our town again. Greetings were received from Theodore Roosevelt, who regretted
that he could not be present.”

Slated for 11:45 AM in Station Square was children’s games under the direction of Dr. William
F. Saybolt. Several children were winners in the traditional Fourth of July Festival games, and
their descendants may continue to call Forest Hills Gardens home today. They were Kathleen
Copp, John Alevek, Sistine Attardo, Edmund O’Shea, Jr., Maria Attardo, Sandy Davenport,
William Colton, Walter Simon, Herbert MacNeal, Jane Cavenaugh, Robert Luneborg, Theodore
Endres, Sylvia Mather, Reta O’Shea, William J. Cavenaugh, Ellen Luneborg, and Margaret
Leach. The Bulletin also referenced Mrs. G.B. Williamson as the best egg racer, S.W. Eckman as
victor with the wheelbarrow, and Dr. Ward J. MacNeal surpassing all entries in the “three-legged
race for fat men.”


Twilight Symphony in Olivia Park, July 4, 1918.


Around 4 PM, Olivia Park, a naturally formed amphitheatre, was filled to capacity. This became
the setting of the famed Fred Stone, who sang and danced, in addition to his daughter Dorothy
Stone. This also marked Paula Stone’s debut stage appearance with her father in a dance and
song, and a young Carol Stone danced with other children of the Gardens. Forty children of
Forest Hills took the stage and danced in an act titled “The Gardens of Versailles.” Walter
Hartwig, director of the Gardens Players of Forest Hills, led the entertainment program.

The Forest Hills Bulletin captured the ambiance of the multifaceted program. “Marguerite Holt,
soloist; Johnny Burke, monologist; Roy Hoyer, dancer and singer, and others, added much to the
program. The 40 children who danced the stately minuet, and many others who appeared as
butterflies and flowers, including the wonderful little Stone girls and gifted Betty and Jane
Mitchell, all trained by Miss Dorothy Whyte, immensely pleased their neighbors and friends. A
fitting and happy ending for this unusual program was the singing of ‘Peter Pan’ by Fred Stone
and Dorothy.”

Community residents under 16 were scheduled to dance at their leisure at 7:30 PM, whereas
adults had their spot to dance in Station Square under the leadership of Chairman F.M. Knowles.


“The grand climax to a day of delight came in the evening when there was an open-air ball at
Station Square, where the quadrangle formed by the Inn and the railroad station made a setting
which was in itself a picture no other community in the United States can equal,” reported the
Queens Borough edition of The Daily Star. “A great carpet of heavy canvas was laid on the
pavement, and in the center, was an orchestra that kept the hundreds of dancers whirling until
early this morning. The decorations and illumination transformed the scene into a bit of
fairyland.” Hundreds of residents celebrated until 1 AM.

Some festivities would open the door to a “who’s who” in American culture. Fred Stone had a
diverse career which ranged from being a circus performer to a Vaudeville actor, Broadway
performer, and feature films actor. One of his major accomplishments was creating the
scarecrow role in the 1903 Broadway production, “The Wizard of Oz.” In 1920, he resided at 50
Olive Place, and then moved to 150 Greenway North, where he lived until 1946.

Will Rogers (1879 – 1935) was a much-admired comic cowboy who resided in Kew Gardens. He
is remembered as a vaudeville performer who achieved success with 50 silent films and 21
talkies, and was the highest paid in Hollywood film. Another accomplishment was his over 4,000
nationally syndicated news columns.

Forest Hills resident Julius Tannen (1880 – 1965) was one of the first Vaudeville stand-up
comedians. The use of props, costumes, or sets was not his style, but became notable for his
creative word games and clever improvisations. He took the stage of Manhattan’s Palace
Theatre, the premier Vaudeville showcase. For 25 years, he would appear in films which include
“Stranded” and eight works directed by Preston Sturges. In “Singin’ in the Rain,” he dramatized
the technology of talking pictures. His stardom would contribute to the careers of Milton Berle,
Bob Hope, and Lucille Ball.

Albert Sidney Howson (1881 – 1960) of 34 Tennis Place landed roles in 21 plays for major
names, including Shubert, Frohman, Belasco, and Proctor. He appeared in Hamlet, Twelfth
Night, and As You Like It. Wearing another hat, he was president of Forest Hills Gardens
Celebrations Association. On Flagpole Green, his personality was most evident as he applied his
drama skills to Memorial Day speeches, where he quoted Shakespeare and wore a cape. He
would also become president of The Community House in the early 1930s, and was a scenario
editor and censorship director under Warner Bros.


Pageant of Colonial Times in Station Square, the second celebration, July 4, 1915. Courtesy of Forest Hills Garden Foundation.


A Forest Hills Gardens celebration called for glorious expression, as in the case of author
Gertrude Knevels (1881 – 1962), who wrote “Station Square – A Fourth of July Impression,”
which read:

Old Glory from the Tower looks down.
To bless the folly of the town,
Lights, laughter, color everywhere –
Wise folks like happy children there,
At play in Station Square.
Far over all the clear night sky
Spreads tender hands – What hurries by? –
It is the train that grumbling goes,
Bearing the world and all its woes
Away from Station Square!

Another illuminated, high-spirited occasion was held on the grounds of the Seminole Avenue
Clubhouse, north of Queens Boulevard on Seminole Avenue, which was later renamed 112th
Street. This was the town center of tennis and a social life for villagers. This is where members
of the Forest Hills Association and their families rejoiced. The committee consisted of President
and Chairman Herbert Chase, George J. Campo, Richard A. Clinchy, James Galbraith, James
McGill, Ferdinand Neumer, H. Clayton Smith, Reverend Albert Sheppard, Robert Turner, and
Godfrey Von Hofe.


Flag raising, July 4, 1917.


Club representatives made their way to the Forest Hills Gardens flag-raising and returned for
exercises, children’s games, movies, and dancing. Forest Hills-based Dr. W. Leon Tucker
addressed attendees.

Clock golf on an 18-hole course was among the recreational opportunities. A Forest Hills
Bulletin excerpt read, “On the clubhouse tennis courts, a Gardens team composed of Dr. S.E.
Davenport, Jr. and Jack Ortgies defeated an association team composed of Herbert Chase and
John Guiler, and another Gardens team, Stanley Hillman and A. Cleland, defeated the Paton
brothers. So the matches stood 2 to 0 in favor of the Gardens. Men over 40 years of age indulged
in a baseball game on the playground in the Gardens, in which the Gardens men were victors
over the association men with a score of 18 to 14.” Inside the Seminole Clubhouse, dancing was
a major draw for adults, while children were being entertained on the lawn with movies.

“The celebration of Independence Day by the Forest Hills Association was highly successful and
helped to increase the neighborliness and friendliness of that part of the village. The residents of
that section universally reported a happy day,” read The Forest Hills Bulletin.

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