#PickoftheWeek | Stay Inside and Tour a Historic District in SEQ on Saturday
BY QEDC It's In Queens
Tucked away on the western side of St. Albans is a historic district that was once known as “Black Hollywood East” because so many prominent African-American athletes and entertainers lived there.
Learn more about this unsung home to famous singers when the Queens Historical Society hosts a virtual tour of Addisleigh Park on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 2:30 pm.
Famous former residents include Jackie Robinson (above), James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Count Basie. The housing stock is an eclectic mix of single-family homes in such architectural revival styles as Tudor, Mediterranean, and Neo-Classical. Many of the dwellings are three-stories high, and they’re set back about 20 feet from the sidewalks on large lots.
Safe, clean, quiet, and green. It’s a great place to live. It also has a fascinating back story, as QHS President Jason Antos, who has written seven books on Queens, and QHS Board Member Rob MacKay (whoever that is) will lead the tour using recently taken film footage, photos from various ages, and segments of a video journey. Expect to do some house-oodling and take a trip down the Jazz Age Memory Lane.
Admission is free with a $5 suggested donation. RSVP is recommended.
Addisleigh Park’s history is similar to the rest of New York City. Long the Algonquin nation’s hunting grounds, Dutch immigrants started settling in the forested area in the late 1600s. Many of those original families, such as the Remsens, Ludlums, and Hendricksons, lived and farmed there for the next two centuries.
The 1898 opening of a Long Island Rail Road station in St. Albans led to the quick development of a rural area into a suburb. Paved streets and amenities such as electricity came in the first decades of the 20th century. However, covenants prohibited white homeowners from selling to non-whites. Quiet transactions took place, and it’s believed that pianist Fats Waller was the first African American to buy property there in the 1930s.
During the 1940s, the New York State Supreme Court upheld covenants in two lawsuits where neighbors sued neighbors for selling their homes to African Americans. In 1948, the United States Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, although Addisleigh Park had many African American residents by then.
The historic district, which encompasses 422 primary buildings and the 11-acre St. Albans Park, obtained NYC landmarking in 2011, partly because of the housing stock, but mostly because of its notable history of exclusivity followed by prominence. Learn more about the area and its famous mural (below) on Saturday.
Images: Queens Tourism Council