|The following article is
from The New York Times, published
on Sunday, April 8, 1984
Researched by Nancy Cataldi
If you're thinking of living
Painted on a 160-square-foot wall in the south wing of the Richmond Hill Public Library in Queens is a Philip Evergood mural depicting the promise of a bucolic life for city dwellers longing to leave urban grime and congestion.
On one side, young families dance in fields where the library now stands on Hillside Avenue; on the other, pale children stand dejectedly on a crowded city street. Prominent in the center of the painting is Albon Platt Man, a New York lawyer who teamed up in 1868 with Howard Richmond, a landscape architect, to buy several farms in what was then known as West Jamaica. They subdivided the land and sold suburban lots, naming the new community Richmond Hill after the fashionable London suburb.
Richmond Hill is still a quiet oasis, and a haven from the city's hectic pace. Tall shade trees line broad sidewalks, many spacious homes are set behind generous front lawns and wooded hills stretch for miles through adjoining Forest Park.
The community's generally accepted boundaries are 101st Street to the west, the Van Wyck Expressway to the east, Forest Park, Myrtle and Jamaica Avenues to the north and Rockaway Boulevard to the south.
Although house prices are on the rise, they are still substantially lower than those in neighboring Kew Gardens and Forest Hills. "Prices here range from $40,000 to $150,000, and they are as reasonable as any you'll find in Queens or Nassau," said George A. Clark, a real estate dealer in the area for 46 years.
The property tax on a house that sold recently for $130,000 is $958, based on the citywide rate of $9.10 per $100 of the assessed valuation, which was about $11,000.
Brokers attribute the relatively low cost of homes to a perception by many buyers that commuting to Manhattan is difficult and time-consuming. In fact, the community is served by three subway lines, local and express buses and the Long Island Rail Road.
The J train along Jamaica Avenue takes 45 minutes to reach Broad Street in Lower Manhattan, and the A train takes 30 minutes to 34th Street. Express buses reach midtown in 45 minutes. A 10-minute bus ride to Kew Gardens connects the commuter to an E or F train for a half-hour ride to 34th Street or the L.l.R.R. for a 10-minute ride to Penn Station.
There may be more convenient neighborhoods, but residents say that what Richmond Hill lacks in instant access, it makes up for in charm. The large houses that date back to its early days are found primary in the area stretching from Jamaica Avenue to Forest Park. Their pre-dominant style is Queen Anne Victorian, a type of architecture favored at the turn of the century.
Large and small balconies abound on upper floors. Round, square, three-sided and even octagonal turrets are prevalent. Spacious open porches, with a rich variety of ornamental columns and ginger-bread decorations, are designed to catch summer breeze.
Entry halls tend to be spacious. Often, there is a massive oak staircase brightened by leaded stained glass windows. Many houses have both front and back parlors separated by massive oak pocket doors. A second, smaller staircase sometimes leads from the kitchen to the attic. A 15-room house is not an unusual size.
Many of the large old homes that come on the market are a restorer's delight. "Some of these owners have lived there 30 to 40 years, and you find old-fashioned porcelain tubs on legs, bath sinks on pedestals and enamel stoves in the kitchen," said Anita Johnson, sales associate for the Bite of the Apple realty agency.
But such houses, which now sell for $100,000 and up, are getting harder to find and seldom linger on the market. Buyers with more modest prices in mind should look south of Jamaica Avenue, said Tina Romeo, owner of Lido Home Sales on Jamaica Avenue. There, older homes mingle with narrow row houses, typical of those built by the hundreds around 1920 for blue-collar workers and their families. Local brokers refer to them as "Archie Bunkers" and they sell for around $60,000.
In the early 1970's, there was a rapid turnover of homes in the community because young families were lured by cheap new homing on Long Island that promised better schools, larger lawns and fresher air. At that time, some unscrupulous realty brokers attempted to start a flight of white families, as had been done in other neighborhoods, but community residents fought back.
The Richmond Hill Block Association's first action after it was organized in 1972 was to obtain a cease-and-desist order from the New York Secretary of State barring brokers from soliciting sales.
With a membership of 270 neighborhood blocks, the association continued to be a powerful and stabilizing force in the community. According to Loraine Paolino, its president, the turnover in homes is now so small that any house coming on the market usually sells quickly by word of mouth.
The community is a mixture of many nationalities and religions. Hispanics and, more recently, Indians are the relative newcomers in an area that was once predominantly German, Italian and middle European.
Ethnic stores cater to the diverse palates. A concentration of small Italian specialty shops can be found on 101st Avenue between 101st and 105th Streets, offering shoppers the opportunity to buy homemade pasta, pastry and sausages, cheeses and a variety of continental imports.
On Jamaica Avenue and 110th Street, meats and cold cuts at Colonial Foods are popular with Armenian residents. Close by are the Old Munich Delicatessen, specializing in German home cooking, and the Triangle Delicatessen, which carries Italian delicacies.
The Triangle Hofbrau on Jamaica Avenue was established in 1867 as a hotel for travelers along the Jamaica Plank Road and later made into a restaurant. For many years, it was a favorite of some of baseball's greats including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and Mae West was also a frequent patron. The cooking is German, with sauerbraten, venison and game in season the specialties of the house.
The stained-glass windows, the two carved wine barrels in the main dining room dating back to the 1800's, the mahogany bar, and even the elevated trains rattling by outside, provide diners with an ambiance that has not changed much over the last 80 years.
Virtually at their doorsteps, Richmond Hill residents have Forest Park, with its rich variety of recreational and cultural opportunities. Within walking distance are an 18-hole public golf course and 14 tennis courts, seven clay and seven all-weather. A $10 million renovation of the park is under way.
Richmond Hill also has its own community traditions. A drum-and-fife corps parades along Jamaica Avenue on the second Sunday in June, an event coupled with an arts-and-craft fair at the grounds of the Richmond Hill Library.
The community has seven public elementary schools, with 88.1 percent of their pupils reading at or above grade level. Children attend one of three junior high schools in nearby Ozone Park and South Ozone Park, then, for the most part, return to Richmond Hill to attend Richmond Hill High School. The 87-year-old school, which has an enrollment of 2,000, has had two Merit Scholarship winners over the last two years, and sends 75 percent of its graduates on to college. There are also many parochial schools within easy reach.
Felix J. Cuervo, a local historian always glad to take a visitor on impromptu tours of locations of interest, notes that Richmond Hill has many historic buildings. One, the Daniel Eldridge mansion on 111th Street south of Jamaica Avenue now houses a nursery school. Mr. Eldridge, who was a member of the Tweed Ring, reportedly watched from a widow's walk atop the house when the police came to arrest him. The house dates back to 1867.
The Jeremiah Briggs farmhouse, built in 1840, stands on 117th Street south of Jamaica Avenue. Some of the apple trees that were part of the Briggs farm still bear fruit in the backyards of local homes, Mr. Cuervo said. Captain Briggs served in the War of 1812.