Old Forest Hills firehouse singled out for recognition

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission granted landmark status to the Forest Hills firehouse on Queens Boulevard. Photo courtesy Michael Perlman
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As advocates fight to keep Queens firehouses open amid budget cuts, one building in Forest Hills is being recognized for its rich history of close to 90 years.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission officially honored Engine 305/Ladder 151, granting landmark status to the building at Queens Boulevard and 75th Avenue.

“During a time when the Bloomberg administration has proposed firehouse closings due to budget cuts, Engine Co. 305 has proudly served the community for nearly 90 years,” said Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council. “The firehouse is an example of a community building that is few and far between. It’s truly one of a kind.”

The Forest Hills firehouse, built by FDNY Head Fire Inspector John R. Sliney between 1922 and 1924, is described in the commission’s report as a 2 1/2-story, neo-medieval structure that at the time represented a departure from its flat-roofed, rectangular-shaped contemporaries. It is an asymmetrical building of red brick with steep gables on the roof and two towers, including a stair tower and a hose-drying tower.

“The design of this unusual firehouse is more suggestive of a church than a civic building,” said Landmarks Chairman Robert Tierney. “The large size and near-ecclesiastical design of the structure is unusual for a New York City firehouse, but it is thought to be an effort to contextualize the structure within nearby planned communities, such as Forest Hills Gardens.”

The firehouse, at 111-02 Queens Blvd., was one of six buildings, including three FDNY firehouses, to receive designation as city landmarks last week. Others include a building shared by Engine Co. 83 and Ladder Co. 29 in the Bronx completed in 1905; Engine Co./Squad 41, also in the Bronx and completed in 1903; the Martha Washington Hotel, completed in 1903, on East 30th Street in Manhattan; the Hotel Mansfield, completed in 1902 on West 44th Street in Manhattan; and the Yorkville Bank at Third Avenue and 85th Street in Manhattan, built in 1905 and expanded in 1924.

“The department is thrilled that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has recognized the history of these firehouses and their importance in the community,” said an FDNY representative.

The firehouse becomes Forest Hills’ third landmark. The Remsen family cemetery, between Alderton Street and Trotting Course Lane, was landmarked in 1981, and the facade of the Ridgewood Savings Bank at 71st Avenue and Queens Boulevard received the honor in 2000.

“It [the firehouse] exemplifies a rare community building of the 1920s in Forest Hills and is an architectural holdout on Queens Boulevard,” said Perlman. “It was standing when the boulevard still had trolley lines.”

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) said the iconic buildings of Forest Hills and Rego Park contribute to the cultural history of the community.

“This well-known structure deserves its landmark status,” he said. “The status preserves its integrity and value for many generations to come.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 7:25 pm, June 20, 2012
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