Queens, New York
The Douglaston Historic District in Queens, N.Y., is one of New York City’s most suburban neighborhoods. Situated on a mile-long peninsula jutting out into Little Neck Bay from the northern shore of Long Island, this certified local historic district has more than 500 historic homes – many with bay views – lining thoughtfully landscaped streets.
The peninsula – only 30 minutes by train from Midtown Manhattan – was farmland in the 18th century. In 1835, the property was purchased by wealthy gentleman George Douglas, and named Douglas Manor. When his son, William Proctor Douglas (a vice-commodore for the New York Yacht Club), inherited the estate in 1862, Douglas Manor became a yachting and polo center for New York City society figures.
In 1906, eight years after the incorporation of the borough of Queens into New York City, the Rickert-Finlay Realty Company bought the manor, and turned it into a leafy landscaped suburb, capitalizing on the development of the Long Island Rail Road connecting Douglas Manor to Manhattan.
Certain standards were adhered to in the design of Douglas Manor. Protective covenants ensured residential zoning in a pre-zoning regulation era. All buildings were required to be single-family residences (with the exception of the Douglaston Club building), and had to be set back 20 feet from the street. Fences were prohibited – although hedges were encouraged – to create a continuous, park-like environment.
Large mansions were constructed on Shore Road, which ran along the western side of the peninsula, while smaller, less-expensive houses were built in the peninsula’s eastern half. The Douglas Manor Association formed in 1906 to encourage socialization among the new residents, and to oversee the preservation of the community’s roads, parks and shorefront.
With the exception of a few earlier houses (including a c. 1735 farmhouse), the buildings in the Douglaston Historic District date to the first three decades of the 20th century. Since the Rickert-Finlay Realty Company’s only architectural stipulation for the houses was that their roofs not be flat, a wide variety of architectural styles is represented in the district.
An elaborate Colonial Revival house (c. 1909) overlooks the bay at 28 Shore Road. The elegant wrap-around porch with Ionic columns is at once classical in inspiration and well-adapted for seaside viewing. The Palladian window in the gable is a classic Colonial Revival touch.
A block and a half inland at 122 Arleigh Road is a Craftsman-style home (c. 1909). Its gently sloping roof, overhanging rafters, multi-paned first-floor windows and portico with Doric columns and exposed rafters are emblematic of the style.
Further down the street is a Storybook Style house at 259 Arleigh Road (c. 1926). This style draws inspiration from both the Tudor Revival and the English Cottage styles, but is more fanciful. The steeply sloping roofs, chimney with random corner quoin blocks, second-floor balcony and little attic dormer window are Storybook hallmarks.
A couple of blocks away, at 111 Hollywood Avenue, is an Arts and Crafts style house (c. 1919). Its hipped roof with wide, overhanging eaves and eyebrow dormer window, and its multi-paned windows with brick trim are typical elements of the Arts and Crafts style, which exuded a home-like, hand-made aesthetic.
Nearby, at 6 Hollywood Avenue, is a high-style Colonial Revival house (c. 1909). The elaborate glassed-in portico with Tuscan columns, curved windows and fanlight; the giant order of Ionic pilasters spanning from the foundation to the elegant cornice below the hipped roof; and the dormer windows with pilasters and pediments are classic features of the style.
A couple of blocks to the north, at 600 West Drive, is a large and imposing Greek Revival house from 1819. Originally owned by Wynant Van Zandt (who later sold the peninsular property to the Douglas family), and later converted to a club house, the building boasts an elaborate cornice with modillions and dentils, a wide columned porch, and an elliptical fan light over the entrance door – all Greek Revival elements.
At 7 Beverly Road is a Tudor Revival house (c. 1927) with classic Tudor elements such as half-timbering, an overhanging second floor with pendants hanging from the corners, an irregular hipped roof with cross gables. The large chimney stack with brick corbelling is another Tudor touch.
Further south on the peninsula, at 129 Ridge Road, is a house (c. 1909) that combines Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts elements. Its wide wrap-around porch with balustrade and double Doric columns is suggestive of the Colonial Revival style, while the overhanging eaves of the second floor, the tall chimney, the hipped dormer windows and the small diamond-shaped window at the second floor are Arts and Crafts in inspiration.
A different blending of the Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts styles is exhibited by the house at 141 Park Lane (c. 1909). The conical-roofed turret and porch columns are Colonial Revival in inspiration, while the segmental archway over the porch entrance, the bracketed gable roof of the dormer window and the diamond-paned windows are of the Arts and Crafts style.
The French Renaissance Revival style is exhibited by the house at 4 Ardsley Road (c. 1919), whose design is attributed to McKim, Mead and White. The house’s Mansard roof and hip-roofed dormer windows are quintessential elements of the style, while the Tuscan-columned entrance portico is suggestive of Colonial Revival architecture.
These are just a few of the many early-20th-century architectural jewels tucked away in this oft-overlooked corner of New York City. Of course, the best way to explore the Douglaston Historic District is to see it on your own. For more information, visit the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society.