2013-03-06 / Features

Professor Pens Tome On Forest Hills


Images of America: Forest Hills by Nicholas Hirshon. Images of America: Forest Hills by Nicholas Hirshon. In his meticulously detailed book, Images of America: Forest Hills, Nicholas Hirshon, a St. John’s University professor of journalism, tells the story of this planned community with the use of more than 200 rare images culled from local historical societies, civic groups and the dusty files of personal collections.

Forest Hills covers the history of the neighborhood showing rare images of farms and homesteads from the time it was originally known as Whitepot, and the neighborhood’s beginnings which were made possible through the Russell Sage Foundation which spent nearly one-sixth of its capital to build Forest Hills, a model suburban community for working families designed by architect Frederick Law Olmstead.

The first lots sold for $800, and a new suburb began thriving by 1917.

Other highlights of the book, released on February 18, include incredible images of early Queens Boulevard as a dirt road, rarely seen aerial photographs, and shots of historic structures including the West Side Tennis Stadium and covers many notable residents including Helen Keller and actor and comedian Ray Romano, who wrote the book’s forward.

The most striking image is on the cover, featuring President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at Station Square in 1917. The occasion is thoroughly covered in the book, making it one of the most documented accounts of the speech ever committed to print

As with any undertaking of this kind, an extraordinary amount of research was done by Hirshon, a seasoned journalist who worked for the New York Daily News, who pored over numerous caches of photographs and volumes of maps and old newspaper clippings to get details that have never before been published. On one occasion, Hirshon found a wealth of images from an unlikely source.

“I was surprised how many photos were available from Community Board 6,” said Hirshon. “They had three file cabinets full of images, something I never expected.”

Forest Hills joins the prestigious family of books that deal with Queens history and has proved to be one of the most comprehensive works ever written on what is one of the most popular neighborhoods in New york City.

Hirshon’s Images of America: Forest Hills ($21.99 from Arcadia Publishing) is available at arcadiapublishing.com, Barnes and Noble and amazon.com.

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