BY LYNN EDMONDS
The tippy-top most northern part of Queens, Whitestone is on the water and has the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge on its western side and the Throgs Neck Bridge on its eastern side. It’s an upper middle class neighborhood with stately homes as well as apartments, more modest homes, and industrial areas. Malba is wealthy subsection on Whitestone’s westernmost side.
British settlers came to Whitestone in 1643. In the 1800s, it became more developed when a tin and copper stamp-works factory opened up in the neighborhood. The factory had about 800 workers, whose presence greatly increased the neighborhood population. The LIRR stop soon brought lots of vacationers who wanted to enjoy the waterfront to the area.
Today, the neighborhood is home to many people of Greek, Italian, Irish Jewish and Asian American descent. There are several large churches in the area, including St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, with its iconic turquoise dome, St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Holy Cross Church.
One of the most beautiful parts of Whitestone is the Beechhurst area which features large, architecturally unique houses with grassy yards. Beechhurst borders with Little Bay Park, a waterfront park that connects with Bayside’s Fort Totten Park and has a walking and biking path and playing fields. People like to fish there, though the fish are not safe to eat due to pollution, and take in views of the Throgs Neck Bridge and the open water.
The neighborhood has a journalistic component, with the Queens Tribune/Press of Southeast Queens offices, and the World Journal, a Chinese-language paper with a circulation of 350,000, located in the area.
Rumor has it that a large boulder, referred to in early documents, on the beach front, gave Whitestone its name, though it might just have been named for the lye stone that covers the entire area.
There was once a Long Island Rail Road Whitestone Branch but it was stopped during the great depression.
Famous one-time residents of the area include Walt Whitman, the poet who wrote “Leaves of Grass.” He was known for walking New York and loving the city in all of its high and low culture and for the diverse people in it.
In one of his most famous epic poems, “Song of myself,” he wrote “I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”
The poet taught free classes in 1840 at a free school funded by philanthropist Samuel Leggett.
Francis Lewis, a member of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of independence, also lived in Whitestone. Francis Lewis Park, underneath the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, is named after him.
One landmark house in the area was the “Wildflower” mansion, which belonged to the Broadway producer Arthur Hammerstein. But in 1997 the property was made into luxury condominiums.