New Book Details Jackson Heights' Past Through Historic Photos
JACKSON HEIGHTS — The growth of a neighborhood formerly known as “Trains Meadow” is detailed in a new book featuring photos that show it’s shift from farmland to a bustling residential and commercial district.
Images of America: Jackson Heights shows the history of the neighborhood, from small farms and dirt roads to an airport and major thoroughfares, through more than 100 photos.
Author Jason D. Antos, 32, who co-wrote and researched the book with Constantine E. Theodosiou, said the neighborhood’s shift from a desolate village to a busy district is what interested him in writing about the neighborhood.
“Going from the old to the new, that’s really what fascinated me most about the project, and the fact that it was built up over a short amount of time over such a vast area,” he said.
In the late 1890s, it was “nothing more than a wide-open canvas of rolling hills, small collect ponds, and dirt paths,” Antos writes.
Jackson Heights got it’s name from a slightly raised topography and from John C. Jackson, who created the area’s first main road, Jackson Avenue, which is now Northern Boulevard.
The first garden apartment development in the United States, built by the Queensboro Corporation, broke ground in the neighborhood in 1916.
“There are so many garden apartments in Queens and Brooklyn, but it all started in Jackson Heights,” Antos said.
The area changed dramatically at this time, Antos said — so much so that he and his co-author sometimes had a hard time telling what they were looking at in old photos.
Antos has written other books about Queens neighborhoods and landmarks, with his first book on Whitestone, his hometown. But he found the biggest contrast between old photos and what is in the location now was in Jackson Heights.
“Usually when doing research and seeing photos of old Flushing, Whitestone, Long Island City, you can kind of see buildings in the background that are still standing you can kind of tell what this is,” he said.
“In terms of Jackson Heights, which was known as Trains Meadow, you have no idea what you’re looking at.”
An airport opened in 1929, and sightseeing flights on blimps took off from the runway, the books says. The airport later became the Bulova Watch building, and the authors dedicated an entire chapter to the company’s presence in the neighborhood.
In addition to its famous buildings, celebrities like Montgomery Clift and Charlie Chaplin lived in the neighborhood.
The foreword to the book was penned by Council Member Daniel Dromm, who writes about the beauty, and diversity, of the area he represents.
Antos said he and Theodosiou wanted to include never-before-seen photos and also worked hard to have a certain flow and structure in the book.
“We wanted to put info in there that wasn’t stuff you could look up on the computer,” he said. “We wanted to give people the opportunity to learn the small details about Jackson Heights.”