Lost Battalion Hall Recreation Center
Lost Battalion Hall
This recreational center is named for the heroism of the United States Army’s 77th Division, honoring its service in World War I (1914-1918). Stationed in France, this New York division fought in the Battle of the Argonne.
While attempting to overtake German-held land near Charlevaux, France, 301 men from Companies A, B, C, D, E, G, H, and K became isolated from the remainder of the division. For five days, between October 3, 1918, and October 7, 1918, the American soldiers, down to one day’s ration per man, managed to successfully repel the opposing German forces. Throughout the battle, the isolated soldiers were able to communicate with their division solely by carrier pigeon. In holding out against the German onslaught, the company endured the loss of roughly 107 men. Given the number of casualties lost during the battle, the soldiers are remembered as members of “The Lost Battalion.”
Located in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, Lost Battalion Hall is bounded by 62nd Avenue, 62nd Road, and Queens Boulevard. The name Rego Park has one of the most peculiar derivations in New York City history. Once farmland, the area had only one road, called Remsen’s Lane. Chinese farmers worked the soil in an exclusive enclave, selling produce only to Chinatown. In the 1920s, the Real Good Construction bought out these farms and built one-family row houses, multi-family homes, and apartment buildings. Developers Henry Schloh and Charles Hausmann named the area in 1923, taking the first two letters from the first two words in the Real Good Construction Company’s name.
Between 1928 and 1935, Rego Park saw improvements in transportation which included the construction of a railway station, the extension of the Long Island Expressway, and the addition of subway service to Union Turnpike. Originally, the neighborhood attracted Irish, German, and Italian immigrants. From 1970 on, the neighborhood’s demographic shifted to Russian, Chinese, and Jewish residents, while new enclaves of Indians, Iranians, Koreans, Colombians, and Romanian immigrants have continued the community’s tradition of diversity.
In 1902, the City acquired this park property through a donation from Frank deHass Simonson. In 1939, the Works Progress Administration appropriated $100,000 to construct this two-story, 36,000 square foot building replete with a firing range and drill hall to be used for the Queens Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. The City placed the property under Parks jurisdiction on December 6, 1960. Parks used the building to create a recreation center, which included a gym with basketball courts. The original inhabitants occupied the building until 1962 when the Queens VFW moved to an upstairs office provided rent free for life (where they still reside today) and the American Legion moved out. On May 25, 1972, the Board of Estimate passed a resolution allowing American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) to place a telephone exchange under the grounds, but requiring AT&T to build a playground behind the recreation center, demolish a Department of Sanitation repair shop, and maintain the area for 10 years. The AT&T-built playground opened in October 1976.
In 1995, Queens Borough President Claire Shulman contributed $350,000 for renovations to the building. The improvements included a new gym floor, interior painting, new basketball backboards, the refurbishment of two historic murals, and the conversion of the old firing range into a fitness center. The fitness center provides community residents with weights, treadmills, and stationary bikes purchased using a $15,000 donation from City Park Foundation and the community center’s own funds. In 1998, Council Member John Sabini sponsored a $375,000 reconstruction of portions of the recreation center. In 2000, Council Member Sabini also sponsored a $30,000 computer resource center that included eight computers. Council Member Sabini also provided $200,000 for air conditioning in the gym, $500,000 for playground renovation, $375,000 for a recreation center and $300,000 for the basement level senior center in 2001. Additionally, the center houses a boxing ring, preschool facilities, a Parks Career Training (PACT) office, and an office for New York State Veteran Affairs.
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