Forest Park

Forest Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Forest Park is one of the natural treasures of New York City. The Wisconsin glacier molded this land 20,000 years ago and left the Harbor Hill Moraine, a series of small hills known as “knob and kettle” terrain, within Forest Park. The land was inhabited by the Rockaway, Lenape, and Delaware Native Americans until the Dutch West India Company settled the area in 1635. They established towns, though it was not until 1834 that they were chartered as the independent City of Brooklyn.

The site of Forest Park itself was occupied by various landowners until the late 19th century, when Brooklyn officials looked for land for a large public park. In 1892, the New York State Legislature authorized the park search, and the Brooklyn Parks Department purchased the first parcel of this space on August 9, 1895, with acquisition continuing until 1898.

The parkland, originally known as Brooklyn Forest Park, was then acquired by the City of New York with the consolidation of Greater New York in 1898. The Brooklyn Parks Department managed the parkland that is now Forest Park as well as all of Queens’ parks until an independent Queens Parks Department was established in 1911.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) surveyed the park and designed the Forest Park Drive. As Olmsted noted in 1895, the park is bisected by several transportation arteries; two lines of the Long Island Rail Road, the Montauk Line and the Rockaway Line, ran through the land before Forest Park was acquired. Although only the Montauk Line still operates today, Forest Park is divided by Woodhaven Boulevard and the Interborough Parkway, which was completed in 1935. Despite these thoroughfares, Forest Park is the third-largest park in Queens, and contains the largest continuous oak forest in Queens and a 110-acre golf course.

Forest Park now contains several species of trees, including the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra), Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), White oak (Quercus alba), and Wild black cherry (Prunus serrotina). Several trees here are more than 150 years old, and create a canopy with an under-layer of Dogwood (genus Cornus), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and Corktree (genus Phellodendron).

During the park’s centennial celebration in 1995, 100 trees were planted as a part of Operation Pine Grove, funded by American Forests and the Texaco Global Re-leaf Program. Parks uses the greenhouse, built in 1910, to grow trees and plants for many other city parks. In addition, the kettle ponds in the forest provide a haven for bird watching.

Within Forest Park is the Overlook, the administration building for Queens Parks, and Oak Ridge, the former golf course clubhouse and current administration building for Forest Park. Forest Park also offers a wide array of recreational facilities, such as the George Seuffert, Sr., Bandshell, the Carousel, the Bridal Path, tennis courts, playgrounds, and Victory Field. Annual events such as the Halloween Walk, the Victorian Christmas, Nature Trails Day, orienteering and battle reenactments draw the participation of the surrounding neighborhoods of Kew Gardens, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Forest Hills, and Glendale.

Directions to Forest Park

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