Community of Woodhaven
European settlement in Woodhaven began in the mid-18th century as a small town that revolved around farming, with the Ditmar, Lott, Wyckoff, Suydam and Snediker families. British troops successfully flanked General George Washington‘s Continental Army by a silent night-march from Gravesend, Brooklyn through the lightly defended “Jamaica Pass” actually located in Brooklyn, to win the Battle of Long Island, Queens—the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War, and the first battle after the Declaration of Independence.
Later, Woodhaven became the site of two racetracks: the Union Course (1821) and the Centerville (1825). Union Course was a nationally famous racetrack situated in the area now bounded by 78th Street, 82nd Street, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. The Union Course was the site of the first skinned—or dirt—racing surface, a curious novelty at the time. These courses were originally without grandstands. The custom of conducting a single, four-mile (6 km) race consisting of as many heats as were necessary to determine a winner, gave way to programs consisting of several races. Match races between horses from the South against those from the North drew crowds as high as 70,000. Several hotels (including the Snedeker Hotel and the Forschback Inn) were built in the area to accommodate the racing crowds.
A Connecticut Yankee, John R. Pitkin, developed the eastern area as a workers’ village and named it Woodville (1835). In 1853, he launched a newspaper. That same year, the residents petitioned for a local post office. To avoid confusion with a Woodville located upstate, the residents agreed to change the name to Woodhaven. The original boundaries extended as far south as Liberty Avenue.
Two Frenchmen named Charles Lalance and Florian Grosjean launched the village as a manufacturing community in 1863, by opening a tin factory and improving the process of tin stamping. As late as 1900, the surrounding area, however, was still primarily farmland, and from Atlantic Avenue one could see as far south as Jamaica Bay, site of present-day John F. Kennedy International Airport. Since 1894, Woodhaven’s local newspaper has been the Leader-Observer.
Points of interest
The Forest Park Carousel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
The distinctive St. Anthony’s Mansion (which later became St. Anthony’s Hospital) stood on a seven-acre tract of land on Woodhaven Boulevard between 89th and 91st Avenues. The hospital significantly helped the scientific community in the creation of breakthroughs in Pulmonary and Heart treatments. The hospital was demolished in the late 1990s. A historical marker has been placed on the site, which is now a residential area known as Woodhaven Park Estates.
One of the oldest homes in Woodhaven is located on 87-20 88th Street. It was first located on Jamaica Avenue. In 1920, the entire house was forced to move to its current location on 88th Street due to the construction of the BMT Jamaica Line. The house was built about or prior to 1910.
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