History of Douglaston recognized

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In its first public meeting in almost three years, the Douglaston Little Neck Historical Society announced the state has nominated an area of Douglaston Hill for designation as a state and federal historic district, a move that may be approved as early as June.

If given the green light by the state the new historic district, which would be between Douglaston Manor and Northern Boulevard, was also expected to earn a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Douglaston Manor has been a landmarked district since 1998 in the city and is eligible for state recognition as well.

About 45 people attended last Thursday's meeting at the Zion Episcopal Church at 243-01 Northern Blvd., where members of the Douglaston Little Neck Historical Society gave a presentation on the historical importance of the area and answered questions about the designation.

Kathy Howe, an historic preservation specialist with the state Bureau of Historic Preservation, said the proposed district "is important for its history as an early commuter suburb. It's also important for its wonderful use of diverse architecture."

Howe said the 134 residences and business within the planned historic area would benefit from the state and federal historic designations because each listing assures protection from federal and state projects. The designations would also provide homeowners with the option of taking a 20 percent federal income tax credit for the costs of rehabilitating their homes.

Bill Sievars, a member of the historical society and chairman of the Douglaston Hill Historical Committee, said "there is no doubt the entire community would benefit from this designation."

The irregularly shaped borders of the proposed historical district stretch from a small portion of Depew Avenue in the north to Northern Boulevard in the south. It is bordered by Douglaston Parkway on the west and partially bordered by 244th Street to the east.

Howe defended the borders of the proposed district and said there was only a slight chance they would be altered.

"There may be a few additions," she said. "That's the hardest task. We have to be very careful of choosing the boundaries - we have to give a cohesiveness to the district."

Howe said with the current boundaries, the proposed district "is a very nice example of a turn-of-the-century commuter suburb."

Joseph Hellmann, a member of the historical society and Community Board 11, which covers the area, said the oldest property within the proposed district was the Zion Episcopal Church, built in 1830.

But it was the extension of the railroad through the area in the late 1860s that distinguished the area, he said, which was home to a population of mixed class and race at the time.

"It was not the homogeneous suburb we have today," he said.

Howe said the area under consideration includes a variety of properties and resources that "are all different yet uniformed by historical themes."

Sievars said the historical society had been conducting historical research on the project for the past three years.

Howe said the proposed district would be a complement to the local historic district in Douglaston Manor.

Stuart Hirsh, a member of the historical society, said "the original dream was to have all of Douglaston and Little Neck as an historical district. That's pretty ambitious and it may never happen, but you've got to have a dream."

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