In this sepia photograph, the men are relics of the College Point of years gone by, a storied past that dates back to the time before the Matinecock tribe sold its property to European settlers.
Released last week, the trademark Images of America series, known for historic photo essay books of prominent neighborhoods throughout America, launched a book on Queens' very own College Point.
Author Victor Lederer, with the assistance of the Poppenhusen Institute and local historians, said he pieced together the story of College Point through photos that illustrate how much it has changed in the past 100 years.
"It was separate and it still is, it's not easy to get there, it's still isolated by the marshes and that old airport that's there," he said, when asked what he most admired about College Point. "It's got its own feeling and identity even though growth has begun to exert pressure."
The book begins with views of College Point's once unfettered coast. The neighborhood sits on a peninsula that runs along the East River and Flushing Bay.
At one time, it was a resort town where families came to visit their sons who lived in military academies there.
"It became home to a number of beer garden resorts and apparently around the turn of the 20th century, when people only had Sundays off ... Sundays in the summer in College Point the population doubled and even more with visitors," Lederer said. "They went there because it had this beautiful setting on the East River, they went there to drink beer, play baseball, play cards."
That development came after Conrad Poppenhusen brought his rubber factory to College Point in the mid-1800s. Poppenhusen was known for developing housing, banks, a train and the still-standing Poppenhusen Institute to College Point while he lived there.
During that time, College Point, a largely German immigrant community, had its own newspaper, the Freie Presse.
The resort attractions in College Point included places such as Max Zehden's Casino and Reisenburger's Cozy Corner Hotel on the ferry dock and loading terminal at the end of 14th Avenue.
Other forms of transportation in and around College Point included a railroad station at the eastern end of 18th Avenue that no longer exists.
Prohibition, which took effect in 1920, caused College Point's resort community to dissolve.
But there were still impressive houses that stood after the neighborhood passed its prime, including the Boker Mansion, where actors who worked in a Flushing film studio stayed in the 1920s.
Demolition on that house began earlier this year.
Susan Brustmann, director of the Poppenhusen Institute, said it was the destruction of houses like these that made Lederer's book that much more important for the community.
Lederer said it took him eight or nine months of work to write the text and compile the images for the book.
"I was very, very lucky. I didn't realize when I started how interesting a project it would be," Lederer said.
He credited much of his success to Brustmann.
"I've always been interested in history and New York history and I'm also very, very interested in urban photography," he said. "I think cities look good in black and white."
College Point in particular was a fitting neighborhood for a book of this sort, he said, because much of its history is still visible today.
"It's one of the rare parts of New York where you can sense what it was."
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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