Hillcrest Veteran's Square
Hillcrest Veterans Square
The neighborhood of Hillcrest was created by the Hillcrest of Jamaica Company, owned by William F. Wyckoff, whose surname is the namesake of Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn. The community was developed on 200 acres purchased in the spring of 1909. On March 9, 1910 the company merged with the Jamaica-Hillcrest Company, headed by Bryan L. Kennelly, which hastened the development of the neighborhood.
The first two sections of Hillcrest, located along Union Turnpike, were completed before the merger of the two companies, while streets north of Hillside Avenue were paved after the consolidation of the two companies. Gas, water and electricity connections were built, and houses ranging in price from $6,500 to $12,000 were sold at auctions from 1910 to 1915. By 1913 there were sixty such homes located in Hillcrest.
Growth of the area was accelerated in 1918 by the development of Jamaica Estates, located east of Hillcrest. The population of the area increased further when, during the same year, the Jamaica Avenue elevated subway line was extended, bringing Hillcrest into the five-cent fare zone. In 1933, the opening of the northern section of the Grand Central Parkway increased development in the neighborhood. In the 1970s Hillcrest become more ethnically diverse, with immigrants from China, Columbia, Haiti, and India settling in the area. In the 1980s, immigration continued. Today one fifth of foreign-born residents of Hillcrest emigrated from Guyana.
The square contains a monument erected by Hillcrest Post No. 1078 of the American Legion. Founded in 1919, the American Legion is an organization that works for veteran’s rights and organizes youth programs. The organizations most noted accomplishment was the 1943 drafting the G.I. Bill of Rights by Legion national commander Harry W. Colmery. The bill, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) on June 22, 1944, provided low interest loans, help with college tuition and unemployment benefits for World War II veterans returning to civilian life from the front.
The square is part of the Greenstreets program, Parks project whose goal is to convert paved street properties, such as triangles and malls, into green spaces. In addition to the monument, Hillcrest Veterans Square contains a flagpole and a red maple (Acer rubrum) tree, which provides shade to this piece of Union Turnpike.