This park is named in honor of Captain Gerald MacDonald (1882-1929), a World War I soldier and former resident of Forest Hills, Queens.
Aptly born in the town of Warrior Run, Pennsylvania, MacDonald served in the 22nd and 12th Engineers in World War I. As an army engineer, not only was he in the front line of battle, but also he was among those responsible for digging trenches, building bridges, and constructing other wartime military installations. He valiantly braved the rigors of war, only to die in a car accident in Maine twenty years later, at the age of 47. Captain MacDonald’s brother, Henry, played a key role in the creation of this park. A member of American Legion Forest Hills Post 630, naval reservist in World War I, and Roman Catholic lay leader, Henry MacDonald commissioned sculptor and brother-in-law Frederic de Henwood to create a bronze statue of his veteran brother. Post 630 donated $1,500 for the bronze figure, and the statue was presented to the public on May 26, 1934. The statue stands in the middle of the park.
Forest Hills was once farmland owned by Frederick Backus, George Backus and Horatio N. Squires. The Long Island Rail Road’s path through this rural stretch of central Queens spurred development along its route. Construction of the nearby LIRR station and a Queens Boulevard surface trolley in the mid-19th century increased the farmland’s real estate potential.
The Cord Meyer Development Company bought up much of the land between 1906 and 1910, naming the new neighborhood for its proximity to Forest Park. Cord Meyer, who operated several factories on Newtown Creek, also developed the neighborhoods of Elmhurst and Maspeth. In 1936, the IND subway opened to the Union Turnpike, further increasing access to and from this rapidly expanding residential area. In the1980s, Forest Hills experienced an influx of immigrants from Europe and Asia.
Bounded by Queens Boulevard, Yellowstone Boulevard and 70th Road, this site was acquired on November 19, 1917 for use as a street area. With the extension of Queens Boulevard in 1931, the park took its current shape. It was originally known as Thomas F. Harvey Square, so named in 1932 by George Upton Harvey, one of only two Republican Borough Presidents in Queens history. He had named the park for his father, a printer by trade. This park was named to honor Captain MacDonald on April 25, 1933, by the Board of Alderman at the request of the American Legion Forest Hills Post 630 and MacDonald’s brother. MacDonald Park was formally dedicated at a ceremony on May 27, 1933.
In 1982, the park underwent a $407,456 renovation that added close to 100 trees and shrubs, three circular plazas, benches, and a cultural center for concerts and recitals. The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce contributed an additional $2,000 for the renovation. MacDonald Park remains today as a reminder of those who fought in World War I.