2018-07-04 / Book Review

Hidden History Of Queens Is Revealed For All

BY JASON D. ANTOS


“The Hidden History of Queens” by Richard Panchyk (The History Press, Amazon.com). “The Hidden History of Queens” by Richard Panchyk (The History Press, Amazon.com). Richard Panchyk is no stranger to the history of New York City. The author of more than 20 books, Mr. Panchyk has covered the history of Long Island (both North and South shores), the town of Westbury, and Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and will soon release the “Hidden History of Queens.” Containing 80 photographs, the book explores little-known and amazing historical moments in Queens history.

“I think it is a pretty unique book. It really lives up to its name. My approach in this book was to take some of the most interesting people, places, and moments in Queens history, and to dig really deep, beyond what may be common knowledge. I didn’t take any stories at face value. I wanted to debunk myths, uncover truths, and tell the whole story, while at the same time connecting the past to the remnants that readers can go see for themselves,” Panchyk said in an interview with the Gazette. “One cool example is the little fragments of ceramic you can find in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which are the remains of the early 20th century garbage dump upon which the World’s Fair was built.

For his research, Panchyk relied on old newspapers, including several that were published in Queens, such as the Long Island City Star Journal.

“The closer in time a source is to the topic I am researching, the more accurate the information, and newspapers are great for that reason. Reading those vintage newspaper articles, I felt like I was there in the moment. It really helped me piece the past together. And sometimes, even if the article was published long after the event, it would contain an interview with someone who was old enough to recall the event,” Panchyk recalled. “Queens has a history filled with fascinating firsts, cool characters and ramshackle ruins.”

One of the major hidden stories which Panchyk reveals was the debate myth that Clement Clarke Moore wrote “The Night Before Christmas” in Elmhurst. It was indeed just a myth as Panchyk discovered.

“It was a matter of reading numerous newspaper articles from the late 19th century through to the mid-20th century and comparing them with what was written in a variety of more recent books and articles. By the time its fate was doomed in 1929, the old Moore Homestead, at what is now Broadway and 45th Avenue in Elmhurst, had become a local legend and was the subject of much adulation as the place that inspired Clement Clarke Moore to write his poem, his family’s home,” Panchyk explained. “But the most preeminent historian in Queens in the 1920s and 1930s, Arthur White, published several articles that stated very clearly that the poet’s father was born in an entirely different house a few blocks west—the house where his grandparents lived, and the house he would have visited during boyhood Christmases. The problem was, that house was long gone by the 1920s so the remaining Moore house received all the attention and glory.”

From the nation’s first modern highway to the first-ever transatlantic flight, the borough has long been at the forefront of modern transportation. Poet Clement Clarke Moore was inspired by childhood memories of Elmhurst when he wrote the poem “’Twas the Night before Christmas”; the infamous William “Boss” Tweed once fled jail to a secret hideout in a Bayside hotel; the remains of the old Creedmoor Hospital complex in Queens Village are haunting, as are the eerie remnants of Fort Tilden in the Rockaways.

“The Hidden History of Queens” by Richard Panchyk will be published by The History Press on July 30 and is available for preorder on Amazon.com.

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