This park honors Captain Gerald MacDonald (1882-1929), a World War I veteran and former resident of Forest Hills, Queens.
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.
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. The parcel was originally named in 1932 by Queens Borough President George Upton Harvey for his father, Thomas F. Harvey; the Board of Alderman renamed the park for MacDonald by April 25, 1933. The park’s formal dedicated occurred on May 27, 1933.
Born in the town of Warrior Run, Pennsylvania, MacDonald served in the 22nd and 12th Engineers during World War I. As an army engineer, not only was he among those responsible for digging trenches, building bridges, and constructing other wartime military installations; he also served on the front lines of battle. He died in a car accident in Maine twenty years after the war.
Captain MacDonald’s brother, Henry, played a key role in the renaming of this park. A member of the 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 to stand in the middle of the park. Post 630 donated $1,500 for the bronze figure, and the statue was presented to the public on May 26, 1934.
In 1982, MacDonald Park underwent a renovation that added nearly 100 trees and shrubs, three circular plazas, benches, and a cultural center for concerts and recitals. In 2005 NYC Parks completed a renovation that provided the community with new benches and chess and checker tables. A new lawn and shrubs added greenery to the park, and a drip irrigation system helps maintain this verdant public space.