BY YVETTE BROWN
Elmhurst is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Queens after English colonists settled there in 1652.
Originally named Middelburgh, it was one of the original towns of Queens. In 1683, the town became the seat of local government, which led the town to be called Newtown. But in 1896, a developer by the name of Cord Meyer bought a number of farms and began building up the area, so that it would be a residential village. Because of the association between Newtown and the polluted Newtown Creek along the Queens-Brooklyn border, Meyer asked that the town be renamed for marketing reasons. The neighborhood was renamed Elmhurst after the elm trees. The Newtown name still remains at the Grand Avenue subway station, a high school and two churches.
Italian, German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants who settled in Lower Manhattan relocated to Elmhurst after the independent subway opened in 1936. The neighborhood remained a predominantly white, middle-class community until the late 1960s.
The neighborhood was always very appealing due to housing in apartments and private homes, two hospitals, easy transportation into Manhattan, a wealth of restaurants and services and shopping along Broadway, Roosevelt Avenue, Junction Boulevard and Queens Boulevard.
Queens Boulevard has always been home to many large retailers including Macys. Macy’s opened in 1965 between 55th and 56th Avenues. Macy’s later became Queens Place Mall in 2001 after it was turned into Stern’s. Elmhurst also claims Queens Center Mall, which was built in 1974. In the late 1980s, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall shot scenes of “Coming to America” at a Wendy’s that used to be on Queens Boulevard.
Elmhurst used to have two hospitals, Elmhurst Hospital and St. John’s Hospital, which was one of the first hospitals to use hydrotherapy. St. John’s Hospital is now closed.