Planted with shrubs and evergreens, this long grassy strip gets its name from the thoroughfare it bisects, Forest Avenue.
Malls such as this one have undergone an interesting evolution that parallels the growth of cities. As cities began industrializing, the need for green space became more acute. Among the innovations for incorporating green space within the city streetscape was the mall. The first malls, appearing in 16th century France and Italy, were about 400 yards long and had a grass-covered playing field located between two roadways, used for matches of the game “pall-mall.” As the popularity of malls spread to London, people used them to stroll, play, and hold military parades.
Malls were first introduced to America in New England. The first tree-lined pedestrian mall was added to the Boston Common in 1728. Malls became a popular means for developers to create attractive neighborhoods in the early 1900s. With relatively little land, a developer could turn a stretch of street into a quiet, verdant parkway, and malls could be easily applied to straight streets. As a result, street malls are a common design throughout the sections of the outer boroughs that developed during this period.
The section of Forest Avenue was known as Barrett Boulevard until 1917, when Staten Island underwent a major street re-naming. Major Clarence Tynan Barrett (1840–1906), part of a prominent Staten Island family, distinguished himself through careers in landscape architecture, sanitation engineering, and a service in the military.
When Washington Avenue was renamed Forest Avenue in 1928, this property was known as the Forest Avenue Center Plot. The property was considered a park as early as 1952, although Parks did not officially acquire jurisdiction over the land until 1983. Forest Mall, now contains Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus), pin oaks (Quercus palustris), and juniper trees (Juniperus spp.).