Sitting high on top of a massive rock formed by glacial movement, the views from Forest Park stretch all the way to Jamaica Bay and overlooks all of Brooklyn to the west, with Manhattan in the distance.
Just a few years after the park was officially opened, an 18-hole public golf course was added. The Forest Park Golf Course was massive, stretching south all the way to Ashland Avenue (Park Lane South), where residential homes marked the start of Woodhaven proper.
This means that many of the things you love in Forest Park – the Seuffert Bandshell, the Forest Park Carousel, Strack Pond, the Tennis Courts – all of that land used to be a part of the golf course.
A Dutch Colonial clubhouse with lockers, parlors and bathing facilities was built, and a long set of stairs led from the building directly to the first tee on Ashland/Park Lane South.
In fact, the first four holes of the golf course ran along Park Lane South to what is now Woodhaven Boulevard.
In July of 1914, Queens Parks Commissioner John Weier met with residents of Woodhaven, who had been pushing to have some of the golf course turned over to the community for use as a playground.
The Parks Department agreed to give the first four holes of the golf course back to Woodhaven, replacing it with land from the Glendale side of the course.
The Lott Avenue Playground opened in June of 1923. Today, Lott Avenue is 76th Street and the Lott Avenue Playground is named after Mary Whalen, a longtime community activist.
The next time you are in that playground, remember that you are at the original first tee of the golf course. Look up at the golf clubhouse and picture golfers coming down those long steps to start their game.
But the first four holes of the old golf course weren’t the only holes that were moved. The Parks Department also moved the 18th hole, which used to end above and behind the first tee, a short walk to the steps back to the golf clubhouse.
By the way, if all of this is hard to follow, it’s a lot easier when you see all the pictures and maps. The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society is partnering with Portia Dyrenforth, our new Administrator in Forest Park, along with students from the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture to give a presentation on this very topic.
The presentation will take place on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. at the Avenue Diner at 91-06 Jamaica Avenue, and a big part of the presentation will be the mystery of the 18th Hole.
We know where the tee for the 18th Hole was, and it’s a location you are likely very familiar with. It’s the little circular field where people used to fly model airplanes, right off the Jackie Robinson, formerly the Interboro, Parkway.
But in order to find the hole we had to consult some aerial photography and old maps. Finally, we enlisted the help of the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture to find it. And the student who found it will be joining us and giving the presentation.
This kind of research and exploration is some of the most fun work I’ve ever been involved in. Every time you think you’ve just about discovered everything there is to know about your community, you find something completely new.
It leaves you wondering what else we haven’t discovered yet.