Forgotten Artists of Forest Hills Gardens
by Michael Perlman
Jul 07, 2020 | 1500 views | 0 0 comments | 666 666 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Forest Hills Gardens has an extensive history of notable residents, including artists Will Phillip Hooper and his wife Annie of 84 Greenway South, as well as Herman Brown Rountree of 176 Slocum Crescent.

Will Phillip Hooper (1855-1938) was a painter and illustrator who was born in Biddeford, Maine, and studied in Boston and The Art Students League of New York. He founded the Hooper Advertising Service at 200 Fifth Avenue and was a New York Water Color Society member.

Among the publications that featured his illustrations were Harper’s Weekly, Life, St. Nicholas, and The London Graphic. In 1892, “The Legend of The Lantern” featured his photogravures.

Forest Hills Gardens was only six years old when “Why We Have Chosen Forest Hills Gardens For Our Home” was published at the Village Press in 1915, after Hooper originated the idea and collaborated with Forest Hills Gardens resident Frederic Goudy, a prominent type designer, artist, and printer.

At the time, Forest Hills Gardens featured 166 private homes, the Forest Hills Inn and the adjacent Housekeeping Apartments. Between the apartments and houses, there were approximately 720 residents. Hooper approached residents, and 53 entries were published alongside Goudy’s types and photos of homes and parks.

“After looking in the vicinity of New York for six years to find a place for a home, after buying lots in two localities, I finally decided that Forest Hills Gardens was my choice, because I liked the place, the people, and the prospects,” Hooper wrote in response to his own questions. “The place – because it’s beautiful; the people – because they’re interesting; the prospect – because property will increase in value.”

Hooper designed a poster in 1915 featuring a continental soldier carrying the flag and leading a child. His wife Annie was also a poster artist, who designed a 1916 poster announcing the circus coming to town. It depicts a whimsical child-like clown riding an elephant whose upwards trunk is holding a 4th of July flag over a dog on its hind legs.

A 1917 edition of the Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin features their residence, which featured a studio on the first floor and a billiards room on the third floor. They relocated to 51 Summer Street in 1919.

Springfield, Missouri, native Herman Brown Rountree (1878–1946) was a painter, newspaper artist, and magazine illustrator who designed posters for early 20th century Independence Day celebrations, serving as chairman of the Posters Committee for the event.

Rountree’s illustrations were published in “Gunter’s Magazine,” “Appleton’s Booklovers Magazine,” “The Sportsman,” and Frank Buck’s “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” and the “Old Warden” series in “Field and Stream” magazine. He illustrated for newspapers in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Hartford.

He also specialized in men’s style illustration for clothing manufacturers in New York. In his obituary, he was regarded as “one of America’s best-known wildlife illustrators.” His paintings of animal life encompassed African hunting expeditions, western ranch life, race horses, and pole ponies.

He lived with his wife Nellie, daughters Helen Cynthia and Eleanor Lee, and a Cuban servant. Forest Hills Gardens principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury designed their home with a two-story rear studio, which offered much light.

Rountree’s 1916 poster, “Yes Mule – It’s The Greatest Show on Earth!” captured the expressions of astonished children watching a clown that embraced a mule. The bottom further captured the Gardens’ festive and playful spirit.

His 1917 poster featured Forest Hills Gardens during WWI on Village Green (now Flagpole Green) with a 48-star American flag being raised and a backdrop of the Forest Hills Inn. This is where the community dedicated a new concrete base and bronze collar for the flagpole, where U.S. sailors assisted in flag-raising exercises.

His colorful 1919 poster features an extravagant masquerade, bright lights, and the LIRR Station in Station Square as a backdrop.

Rountree’s entry in “Why We Have Chosen Forest Hills Gardens For Our Home” read, “A friend used to bore me with wonderful stories about the beauty, convenience, and general superiority of Forest Hills Gardens, so to prove him wrong, I came out here one afternoon.

“Within half an hour I was explaining to him that he didn’t half appreciate the place,” the entry continued. “And now after having lived here for over two years, my wife and I feel we are in the right place on account of the convenient location, the beautiful surroundings, and above all, the good people we’ve met here.”

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