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Jackson Heights' Private Gardens on Display for Historic Weekend Tour

By Smriti Rao | June 6, 2012 11:02am
Discover an entirely new side to Jackson Heights with an exhibition of vintage pictures. Seen here is 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
Discover an entirely new side to Jackson Heights with an exhibition of vintage pictures. Seen here is 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
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Jackson Heights Beautification Group

JACKSON HEIGHTS—With its busy streets and vibrant communities, Jackson Heights has come a long way from the vision of the neighborhood's developers—a quiet, open space with co-operative apartments and private gardens where families could raise their kids away from the bustle of the city.

This weekend, visitors can take a rare peek into the area's exclusive private gardens and relive its rich past through a collection of vintage pictures and memorabilia that show Jackson Heights like it hasn't been seen in decades.

On Saturday, visitors can gawk and gaze at the lush, manicured gardens in the neighborhood's “garden apartments," which are open to the public just once a year.

Then on Sunday, historic Jackson Heights will be on display with a guided tour showcasing the beautiful European-inspired architecture in the area, organizers Jackson Heights Beautification Group said.

The exquisite gardens, which have been on display for 22 years, were a huge attraction when the first co-operative apartment complexes were being designed and built in the early part of the century in Jackson Heights, said historian Daniel Karatzas, 53, who was born and raised in the area.

Each building was designed with one apartment on each floor to create large living spaces, Karatzas said, with a private shared garden.

“It’s not like there was extra space left over, and they decided to throw in a garden,” said Karatzas, who is also the author of “Jackson Heights-A Garden In The City.

This year, an estimated thousand visitors are expected to take in the greenery in at least 15 participating garden, each with its unique architecture and design, organizers said.

The Garden Tour kicks off on June 9th at noon at the Community Church on 35th Avenue. The self-guided tour includes a map with the ticket, which can be bought for $10 in advance or in front of the church on Saturday morning.

With the self-guided tours, visitors can stroll at their own pace and see some or all of the participating gardens, organizers said.

“There will be balloons at the entrance of each garden,” said Karatzas, who first organized the tour in 1991. “People can stroll in and exit from the location and head to the next one.”

The gardens lie in a ten-block radius from 74th to 84th streets, between 34th and 35th avenues. If it rains on Saturday, the tour will take place on June 16.

Jackson Heights’ stylish, vintage architecture will also be on display this weekend, with a guided tour of the historic district on 37th Avenue and 82nd Street.

Visitors can admire the early 20th century buildings, which were built in a variety of European styles, including English, Spanish and Italian, organizers said.

When the Queensboro Corporation, a real estate development concern, started developing Jackson Heights around the end of World War I, the area was billed as a “great place to raise kids” and was designed to attract well-to-do New Yorkers, according to historian Karatzas.  

“What they offered you was a less congested, cleaner environment with a 12-hole golf course and a tennis club,” Karatzas said. “You could be less than five miles away from midtown Manhattan but play golf, tennis and socialize in the community.”

The golf course and tennis courts were eventually torn up in favor of more lucrative residential properties, Karatzas said, but many of the co-ops still retain their original elegance.

Tickets for the almost three-hour long guided tour are limited, so visitors must book ahead. They can be purchased at Espresso 77, 35-57 77th St. or at Beaudoin Realty Group, 78-27 37th Ave., Suite 5, Second Floor — weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The slide history of Jackson Heights and the photo exhibition are free on Saturday and will be held 10:45 a.m. onwards at the Community Church on 81-10 35th Ave. 

For more information, go to www.Jhbg.org.

All proceeds from the event go to The Jackson Heights Beautification Group.