The Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society launched the pop-up exhibition, The Museum of Woodhaven History, last Thursday at Woodhaven Manor. Nearly 100 people gathered to learn more about the neighborhood’s rich history and to share their own stories.
The exhibit, which covers everything from the founding of Woodhaven to the infamous murder of Professor Wilfred Phineas Kotkov and beyond, includes historical artifacts and hundreds of photographs displayed on 25 large panels.
“This is an absolute dream come true,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society. “Everyone’s walking around and sharing memories with one another, and that’s what communities are all about.”
Over the past few years, the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society has conducted research and held presentations, which all led to the The Museum of Woodhaven History.
The exhibit will be available for loan to local schools, and Wendell hopes to display it again in the future.
“It all comes from people talking to each other,” Wendell said. “A big part of putting together a document of history is listening to what people have to say, so what I’m hopeful for is that people walking around the exhibit will share their memories and engage.”
Yenesis Gonzalez, a fourth-grade student at P.S. 60, worked with her partner to create a painting of a lion on the Forest Park Carousel. Their painting was one of two chosen from her class to be on display at the exhibit, along with artwork from P.S. 97.
“It feels amazing to have my art in a gallery, and it’s cool to see the history too,” Gonzalez said.
Although he now lives in Whitestone, William Hinchey lived on 96th Street for 30 years, followed by several more years on 85th Drive. He attended the exhibit to reconnect to his roots.
“I lived across the street from St. Anthony’s Hospital when it was a hospital,” he recalled. “My brothers and I used to climb over the fences and play punchball.
“It was interesting to read about St. Anthony’s, because we never saw anyone on the grounds, and I didn’t know that the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor founded the hospital,” Hinchey added.
Many in attendance got a chance to meet with the co-owner of the now-closed Lewis' of Woodhaven. In its heyday, the variety store sold everything from greeting cards to medicine to toys to hardware equipment, as well as hard-to-find products.
Madeline Lovallo, the artist behind the Lewis' of Woodhaven painting and artwork depicting other Woodhaven landmarks, was honored along with three other artists at the exhibit.
“If you needed something, you went to Lewis,” said Nancy Bradley, who lived in Woodhaven for a chunk of her life. “It had everything.”
Her friend, Angela Miraglia, added that both she and her daughter worked at Lewis' of Woodhaven over the years.
Together, they read through old newspapers and documents collected over the years.
“It’s fabulous to learn about the carousel because my parents used to take me there as a child, and then when I had my own children I took them as well,” Bradley said. “I also remember Dexter Court and how my father used to carry me on his shoulders after the stock car races because I would fall asleep.
“This is beautiful,” she added. “I never expected this.”