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Bulldozers ready to raze mansion in College Point

As years went by, the hotel turned into a boarding house and just last year it was boarded up by its owner and sold to a developer.

Today a demolition crew is poised to level the mansion.

"Each time one of these buildings come down it's sad," said Susan Brustmann, executive director Poppenhusen Institute. "It's more of our history being erased from the College Point scene."

Brustmann was at the center of an effort to get the Boker Mansion and a few other buildings designated as historic landmarks in the early 1980s, but the project lost steam when she decided to focus on the Poppenhusen Institute instead.

Since then four other notable historic buildings have been slated for demolition razed, including the Ledkeuker House at 18th Avenue and 125th Street; Lesermans Academy at 119th Street and 22nd Avenue; Fuerst's Academy, which was torn down on the southern part of College Point Boulevard 10 years ago; and Flessels at 119th Street and 14th Road, which was demolished in 1999.

"I regret that these places came down and I wish that I could be in six places to get everything done for our community," Brustmann said. "When I give walking tours, even the children are saddened and say, 'Wow, those old buildings aren't there.'"

The Boker Mansion was built in 1855, and was home to Gerlach's Military School and the Grand View Hotel, she said.

"Right after the Civil War, quite a few military schools sprang up in College Point," Brustmann said. "The Lesermans Academy was known all over New York state."

Lesermans was built in 1868, she said. During summers in the late 1800s, families would come to visit their sons in the academies like Lesermans and Fuerst's in College Point and see military displays in downtown College Point.

Built ten years later, Ledkeuker House and Flessels served as other historic attractions in College Point.

Flessels was home to the last beer garden in College Point, before it was leveled in the late 1990s.

"The building still operated as a tavern and old German restaurant," she said. "It was the last remnant of the beer garden days."

She said she learned of its demolition when the walls started coming down.

"We didn't even know it was even sold until it was sold to a contractor," she said. "I guess you have a tendency to think what is will always be and you can't assume that at all."

Brustmann said she hopes Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and civic leader Paul Graziano's zoning study, which was announced last month, will have an effect on the way the community protects its history.

The study recommended the creation of more than two dozen historic districts in the area Avella represents, some of which fall in College Point.

"It's a shame that one of the older buildings that has a little history cannot be saved," Avella said. "Another house was lost to a developer."

Brustmann said College Point fell victim to contractors in the 1960s and 1970s, after zoning changes allowed builders to create high-density housing in Queens.

"Other communities have held onto their historic charm while development has taken place," Brustmann said. "Right now there's a lot of demolition and building that we can't keep up with."

She said that as buildings go down, community interest goes up. Recommending buildings in College Point for the city's historic register is one way community members can become preserve local history, she said.

The Poppenhusen also takes final pictures of buildings before they are demolished and collects a piece of the architecture for an exhibit of College Point's history called "Then and Now."

"College Point is a community of generations and people have always chosen to stay here and fight for their community," she said. "Now they're being given some tools and some means of changing things."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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