In 1907, the Jamaica Estates Company purchased 503 acres for their eponymous development. The company was composed of both political leaders and businessmen, reflecting a combination of public office and financial investment that was considered normal and acceptable at the time. Midland Malls is named after Midland Parkway, one of the many streets in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens named after locations in Great Britain. The British Midlands are so called because of their location in the middle of England.
The design for Jamaica Estates made use of the conceptual garden suburb: detached single-family homes, winding streets, and plenty of green landscaping to provide a refuge from the urban conditions of the industrial 19th century. This included street malls, which became a common design element around the turn of the 20th century and can be found throughout New York City. Developers used them to make neighborhoods more attractive and the homes worth more money, and while the builders and affluent residents benefited from these beautiful streets, the cost of maintaining them was often passed on to the City.
In 1917, the Borough President was made responsible for the Midland Malls after they were dedicated for public use. The Queens Parks Commissioner opposed making the malls parkland, arguing that the Queens park system was already underfunded and that it would be inappropriate to divert funds to maintain the malls. Responsibility was eventually transferred to Queens Parks in 1933, one year before the Parks Departments of all five boroughs were consolidated in one citywide agency, headed by Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981).
These broad, landscaped malls begin at the entrance to Jamaica Estates from busy Hillside Avenue. The entrance into the neighborhood is distinguished by markers along the sidewalks and a gatehouse on the mall built with river stones. The wood-roofed gatehouse, topped with a weathervane, houses a plaque dedicated by the Jamaica Estates Association to ten men from the community who lost their lives during World War II; a flagpole outside flies the American flag.
Leaving the apartments at Hillside Avenue behind, the malls pass down the center of Midland Parkway under old oak trees and among stucco bungalows and Colonial Revival homes. After Dalny Road, the style changes to large Tudor Revival houses. The parkway, like the rest of the streets in Jamaica Estates, follows the terrain instead of cutting straight streets through it. The malls cross below the Grand Central Parkway, which was routed through the neighborhood in the 1920s; the parkway’s landscaping was intended to minimize the impact of traffic on the community. St. Nicholas Orthodox Church stands on the northeast side of the Grand Central. The malls finally end at Surrey Place, a few blocks before the Midland Parkway terminates in a T-intersection at 188th Street.