Forgotten New York: Middle Village
Read on for a lengthy history of Middle Village!
This article originally appeared on forgotten-ny.com and was written by Christina Wilkinson
was completed in 1814 and operated as a toll road between the towns of Williams-burgh in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens, two major centers of trade in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
best known for its 100-acre swamp was being called ‘Middle Village’ because it lay midpoint on this road.
Middle Village found itself in a strange combination of niches – it became renowned as both a stagecoach stop and a place to bury the dead.
became Metropolitan Avenue, a free road, by 1873. The western part of Middle Village which today borders Ridgewood was also called “Metropolitan” prior to WWI, but it is unclear whether the avenue named Metropolitan or the community named Metropolitan came first.
and was originally the summer home of a local politician. In 1920, John Miller purchased the home and established his funeral parlor here. When Arthur Hess partnered with him in the 1940’s, it then became the Hess-Miller Funeral Home. It is still in business under the same name, although it is no longer owned by either family.
that banned future cemeteries from being opened in Manhattan. As a result, Lutheran Cemetery was founded in Middle Village in 1852 by German churches located in , Manhattan. Many of the victims of the were laid to rest here. A monument dedicated in their honor at which an annual memorial ceremony takes place is found within the confines of the cemetery’s southern portion.
and has been renamed to reflect that fact. For now, German Lutherans remain the predominate group interred here. The NYS Division of Cemeteries bestowed upon the cemetery the distinction of being “exceptionally well operated and maintained.” Lutheran-All Faiths Cemetery is bisected by Metropolitan Avenue, and the tunnels under a portion of it.
replaced a former horsecar route, the original purpose of which was to shuttle visitors between Lutheran Cemetery and Myrtle Avenue. This is what the line’s first el terminal looked like in 1906, back when you could ride all the way to Manhattan for just a nickel.
Today’s inbound riders are more likely venturing to Christ the King or the Metro Mall than to the cemetery. Today the fare is $2, and half the time on the weekend one is forced to take an overcrowded shuttle bus just to get to Wyckoff Avenue…
along the top of the building were intricately detailed by artistic hands. Its cathedral windows are also quite unique. This building is a fine example of art deco architecture.
about 1854, this building became John and in 1888. It originally served as a rest stop patronized by those hauling their goods between Jamaica and Williamsburgh via the turnpike. In the 1970’s the hotel was modernized by its new owners, who removed the porch and carriage sheds to make way for small parking lots. It ceased functioning as a hotel many years ago.
Niederstein’s served typical German fare and in recent years catered mainly to funeral and wedding parties as well as loyal locals. There was no joy in Midville when the restaurant closed in February of 2005 and was sold to a fast food franchisee. Arby’s eventually razed the building.
by the fast food franchisee in September 2005. Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Inc. sent this letter to Jordan Krolick, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Arbyâ€™s LLC, who stated that “the community doesn’t seem opposed to it.Â In fact, they’ll be the first ones in here looking for coupons for free food.”
I sent you an e-mail on Tuesday asking you to step in and use your influence to at least postpone demolition. You chose not to respond. Arbyâ€™s now has a much deserved negative reputation in the community and we will remind people of their total lack or respect for our neighborhood and its history. This community does not respond well to profit-only and heavy-handed business techniques. You and Mr. Clarke may find this out sooner than later.
in the mid-1980’s. Most of the theater’s original structure is still there, but you would never be able to tell by its outward appearance. A pharmacy now occupies the building.
in Middle Village was built in 1769 at the crossroads of what are today Dry Harbor and Juniper Valley Roads. It was originally called Methodist Episcopal Church of Newtown.
the church was moved to its present site on Metropolitan Avenue. It was rebuilt a couple of more times since then, the last time being in 1926. Today, it is called United Community Methodist Church.
to the left was built in 1930 on Metropolitan Avenue. Signage above the entrance, half-hidden by the awning says, “Artistic Building.” Today, vinyl and neon announce alterations by a tailor, which most would agree is an art unto itself.
is a hidden wall (above) which features friezes of biblical scenes. What this building once was is a mystery, although given the area, it’s quite possible that it was either a floral shop or a monument company.
Sorry to be so focused on death, but you just can’t escape it here in Middle Village… Just as it does through Lutheran Cemetery, Metropolitan Avenue runs right through the heart of St. John Cemetery.
Picture from 2004.
and above, Juniper-Elbow pipe and watertight closure manufacturing company near 72nd St. “Elbows” are curved pipes used in furnaces and for other uses.
from one end to the other, we will now venture into the residential area.
the large marsh in the valley about a 1/2 mile north of Metropolitan Avenue was known as Juniper Swamp. ‘Juniper Round Swamp Road’ was a colonial path that skirted along the southern perimeter of the swamp. In 1915, the swamp was drained. By the 1920’s, residents had decided that the area’s name needed a bit of a facelift, so it was changed to Juniper Valley. Juniper Round Swamp Road then became Juniper Valley Road, part of which still exists today.
was improved for recreational purposes, it was used variously as a farm, a cemetery, a garbage dump, and a source of peat moss. The peat taken from here was removed by squads of workers during the 1930’s and it was used by the city in parks and on highways. From 1941 to 1942, the WPA transformed the then barren land into one of Queensâ€™ most beloved parks. The sloping landscape of the park reveals its past as a swamp. To this day, this part of Midville turns into Mudville after a rainstorm.
bought a 32-acre farm in Middle Village in 1822. He, his wife and at least one of his children were buried in a small plot of land on the farm. Other unknown family members are also thought to be buried here. In his will, Pullis prohibited the sale of the cemetery, and he left instructions to his three sons to build a brick wall around its perimeter to protect it.
sat in Juniper Valley Park, unmarked and overgrown with weeds, but gated. In 1996, restoration of the graveyard was completed, with the addition of a new headstone donated by Lutheran Cemetery. The Pullis Cemetery is one of the few surviving farm burial grounds in New York City; its oldest known grave dates back to 1846.
on Dry Harbor Road was founded in 1851. The building, however, is obviously not quite that old. The church went through several incarnations before settling into this postmodern type of structure.
are all that are left from the previous two churches, the first of which was located in Lutheran Cemetery.
honors the veterans of Middle Village who fought in World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), Korea (1950-1953), and Vietnam (1964-1975). It features a large granite monument, erected by the citizens of Middle Village and the Property Owners’ Association of Middle Village Inc. It was originally erected to honor the men of Middle Village Post 784, who fought in World War I, and now honors all wartime servicemen.
was one of the first settlers in the area. He came from the landed gentry of England and hoped to find a fortune here in America in 1663. He built this house, in a style called “” in 1719 along what is today Juniper Valley Road. It was the last original house left standing along the colonial road.
by its subsequent owners until 1985, when it finally met the bulldozer. In an oft-repeated outer-borough tragedy, the Manhattan-centric NYC Landmarks Commission rejected pleas from the community to save it, even though it was verifiably one of the oldest structures in the entire city. This hideous twelve-unit dwelling took the one-family’s place.
the Juniper Park Civic Association won a lengthy battle with the city zoning commission, and this area along with the rest of Maspeth and Middle Village was finally rezoned to prevent more of this type of overdevelopment. Future construction will be required to be done in such a way as to preserve the character of the community, not run roughshod over it.
Pleasantview Street house – demolished in 1986, replaced with 49-unit apartment building.
settled in Middle Village (then part of Newtown) along Dry Harbor Road. The area surrounding his land soon became known as ‘Furmanville.’ The old colonial road that led to this part of town is still named in its honor.
dates back to the 1890s. At one time, it was surrounded by vast acres of farmland. Although no longer a working farm by the early part of the 20th century, ponies frolicked in the yard as late as the 1950’s.
was built in 1860 (above) on land once owned by Thomas Pullis. A school was built a few years later. During the Civil War, priests from St. Margaret’s administered to Rebel soldiers being held in a Metropolitan Avenue tavern serving as a makeshift jail.
They decided on a rather efficient design the last time…the school is actually above the church, in the same building.
appropriate considering the line of work of its first parishoners.
of St. Margaret’s, Middle Village Catholics felt they needed another church.
living in Manhattan founded an organization to move poor Jews out of the crowded slums of the Lower East Side. Over the next 10 years, about 60,000 were resettled. Jewish-friendly realtors introduced them to Middle Village, which, with its open lands, must have seemed like paradise.
on 75th Street, harkens back to the early 20th Century. Today the building serves as a senior center.
This was once The Hebrew Institute of Middle Village, a rabbinical seminary built in 1919. The first area synagogue, which dated from 1906 and next to which this was built, was torn down in the 1970’s. The letters inside the stars likely represent the initials of the schools founders or major donors.
we find the Holy Archangels Michael & Gabriel Romanian Orthodox Church, which tends to the area’s most recent influx of immigrants. The church moved into this building in 1997.
The Ten Commandments and the words “Congregation of Brotherly Love (Ahavath Achim)” are inscribed in Hebrew above the entrance to the building, which was built in 1921. This was the second of the three orthodox congregations that flourished in Middle Village during the first half of the 20th Century.
is Middle Village’s last remaining synagogue. It was founded in 1935.
Hmmm… Middle Village was never called that to the best of our knowledge, and to get to this part of town from Forest Hills, one first has to traverse through Rego Park, so the reason for the name is a bit unclear. Maybe someone thought ‘Forest Hills West’ sounded really chic.
to call themselves Middle Villagers. The town grew in both population and land size when the area known as ‘South Elmhurst’ seceded from Elmhurst proper and officially became part of Middle Village in 2003. The debate over the pros and cons lasted for several years. Despite this, and, of course, the bureaucratic red tape, it finally did happen, though.
City Councilman Dennis Gallagher’s office for supplying back issues of the Juniper Berry
Doug Leblang for donating his photos and artwork
Mayer Spilman for the Hebrew translations
Image credit: Christina Wilkinson