Partner In Preserving Queens
Since 2006, American Express has partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help save many landmarks across the country from demolition and renewed them with a program known as Partners in Preservation.
In the seven years of the partnership’s existence, historic buildings in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, and Saint Paul/Minneapolis. Each year the partnership chooses a different area in the country to raise money and awareness for the city’s landmarks. In their seventh year, they have chosen New York to participate in their rejuvenation program. Forty landmarks throughout all five boroughs have been chosen from a pool of applicants to participate in the competition to be restored. People from all over the country are allowed to cast their vote for whichever monument they believe deserves a grant to be fully restored. People are permitted to vote once a day, every day until May 21, 2012. The four places that receive the largest amount of votes will receive a full grant, which will pay for the complete restoration of that building or landmark.
The partners are looking to raise an extra $3 million this year to be distributed among the places that did not make the top four to aid them in their restoration process as well. Of the 40 participants, five are in Queens: Flushing Town Hall, Louis Armstrong House Museum, Queens County Farm Museum, the Rocket Thrower and Astoria Pool. Open houses were held on May 5 and 6 at each of these locations to educate the people about the history of each landmark and festivities were held to help raise awareness for the cause.
Once considered “The finest pool in the world” by the Works Progress Administration Director Harry Hopkins, the Astoria Pool is a piece of history that once again needs renovation. The pool was introduced to the public on the Fourth of July in 1936, and was designed by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, along with 10 other pools constructed around the city during that summer. Astoria Pool had a wading pool, a diving pool that met Olympic standards and a main pool that was built to hold 3,000 people. Olympic Trials for the U.S. Swim and Diving Teams were held in the summer that the pool opened in 1936 and once again in 1964. The pool received its first renovations in 1997 with a few upgrades such as new pipes and lines, electrical, and concrete touch up. Fifteen years later, it is in desperate need of a face lift once again.
Louis Armstrong House in Corona, sheltered the life of one of the leading figures of jazz. It was constructed in 1910, and before Armstrong moved into the house with his new wife, Lucille, in 1943, an Irish- American family occupied it. Before Armstrong died in 1971, he spent years in that house becoming a legend. In 1976, his home became a National Historic Landmark, and a New York City landmark in 1988. Ten years later, in 1998, the master plan to convert the Armstrong house into a museum was completed and in 2000 the design was finished. In 2003, the house was opened to the public and Armstrong’s instruments, scrapbooks, photographs and some home recorded tapes were transferred to the house from Queens College, where they had been put on display since 1986. The latest update on the building was done in 2007 when a visitors’ center design was completed but no construction has begun yet. State Senator Jose Peralta will be at the open house for the museum supporting the cause this week.
The Queens County Farm Museum dates back to when the country was born and the farm founded almost a century later. Records show that the house itself was established during the 1690s, and the farm was born around the same time as the country, some time in the 1770s. The property remained as a farm for about 150 years until it was sold to Creedmoor State Hospital in 1926. The farm was later abandoned by Creedmoor in 1975 and picked up by the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, which made it into a public educational resource. The farm is now one of the most popular farm museums in the country, with about 500,000 visitors annually. Currently, the museum is owned by the city Department of Parks and Recreation and operated by the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose.
Another landmark selected for the competition, located in Flushing Meadows- Corona Park since the World’s Fair in 1964 is a 43-foot bronze sculpture of a man throwing a rocket upwards into the sky, also known as the Rocket Thrower. The sculptor, Donald Harcourt De Lue, who was chosen by the Parks Commissioner at the time, Robert Moses, designed the sculpture, reflecting the theme of the Fair that year, “man conquering space”. De Lue was given only six months to produce a plaster model of the spaceman and then have it shipped to Italy for casting, which took about a year. The statue was installed before the World’s Fair that year on April 22. De Lue’s masterpiece signified in his mind, “the spiritual concept of man’s relationship to space and his venturesome spirit backed up by all the powers of his intelligence for the exploration of a new dimension.” Almost 50 years after the World’s Fair was in Queens, the statue still stands but barely. Now as green as the Statue of Liberty, the Rocket Thrower needed some emergency repair in 1989 when one of its arms almost fell off. The sculpture is still in need of repairs today but with the possibility of winning this competition, the Rocket Thrower’s prayers might be answered.
Originally called the Arts and Culture Committee of the Downtown Flushing Development Corporation, Flushing Town Hall was created in 1979 to develop appreciation for the arts in the community of Flushing. The office originally in Downtown Flushing on 39th Avenue, moved to 136th Street and 41st Avenue in 1984, a year after the committee changed its name. In 1990, the city Department of General Services offered the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts (FCCA) space in historic Flushing Town Hall. This building was erected in 1862 and officially opened to the public in the third year of the Civil War in 1864. From its opening until 1902 the building served as a mustering site for Union soldiers, a bank, jail, grand ballroom, a public assembly hall, a setting for light opera and traveling theatrical productions, and housed civic offices. From 1902 until the early 1960s, it was used as a courthouse, and was neglected until 1990. The FCCA took over the historic building around this time and commenced its restoration. The structure had to be stabilized and almost completely rebuilt. The FCCA moved into the building in 1993, with only the first floor completed. In 1999 the second floor was finished, and $8 million later, the whole restoration process was completed. The FCCA started by sponsoring small visual and performing arts exhibitions, and now funds its own arts programs and others throughout Queens.
With the end of the competition in only a few more weeks and one vote per person a day tabulated, everyone counts.