By Ed Wendell
Woodhaven’s first library opened at the corner of 88th Street and Jamaica Avenue, where a Kentucky Fried Chicken sits today. It was very small, had limited seating and was not suited for a town growing as rapidly as Woodhaven was during the early 1900s.
Mr. Harry Tourte, President of the Homestead Civic Association of Woodhaven, worked hard to bring a modern library to the community, but the city repeatedly denied the request because there wasn’t enough money.
But famed industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie had created a fund to build libraries around the world and Mr. Tourte and the residents of Woodhaven lobbied successfully to receive part of that funding.
The Woodhaven Library opened on January 6th, 1924 at Forest Parkway and 85th Drive, where it still operates today and it will kick off 2024 with a Centennial celebration. The dates and descriptions are listed below but you can call the Woodhaven Library at 718-849-1010 for more information.
On Thursday January 4th, there will be a “Decorate the Library” event good for the entire family. Starting at 4 p.m. Then, at 6 p.m. there are 2 events – an “Adult Painting Party” (registration required) and “Oof Rock Music” (good for the entire family).
The following day, Friday January 5th, bring the entire family and enjoy “Now and Then: A Creative Celebration” starting at 4 p.m.
Saturday January 6th will get started with Nick the Balloonatic at 1 p.m. followed up by a presentation by The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society at 2 p.m. Proclamations by elected officials, raffles and cake follow.
At 3 p.m., you’ll be treated to a suite of Dominican music by Berto Reyes and at 4 p.m., the Woodhaven Library will be burying a time capsule.
These events kick off a year of Centennial celebrations commemorating two other important openings.
Back in 1923, the wooden bandstand in Forest Park was less than 10 years old but was already showing signs of decline and was not large enough to hold all the musicians from any decent-sized band.
Mr. Tourte and the Homestead Civic Association of Woodhaven, fresh off their success with the library, focused their efforts to bring more music to Forest Park.
NYC Mayor John Hylan challenged Woodhaven to prove that it would support a brand new, modern bandstand. When an estimated 10,000 people turned up in Forest Park for a concert the Mayor was attending, the case was made that a new bandstand was needed.
When it opened on June 15th, 1924, the Forest Park Bandstand was said to be one of the finest in the United States, showcasing the latest achievements in acoustical science. The bandstand was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Tourte who sadly died before he could see the finished product that he’d fought so hard for.
At the same time these battles were being won by the residents of Woodhaven, it is a battle that they lost which we should be most grateful for. When plans were announced to build a carousel in Forest Park, the Homestead Civic Association of Woodhaven complained and petitioned the Parks Department to find a more suitable location.
Concerns about unruly crowds and loud music deep into the night led residents to sign petitions against the carousel, but they lost that fight and the Forest Park Carousel had its first full season in 1924.
Instead of being a detriment to the neighborhood, the Forest Park Carousel has become much beloved and has been an integral part of the tradition of growing up in Woodhaven and the communities surrounding the park.
A Centennial celebration for the Forest Park Bandshell will be held on the 100th anniversary of the day it opened, June 15th, 2024. Co-sponsored by the Forest Park Trust and the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, the celebration will include a special Flag Day concert by the Queens Symphony Orchestra.
Also on that day, we will celebrate the start of the 100th season for the Forest Park Carousel. Celebrations will include a street co-naming (sponsored by Councilwoman Joann Ariola) and free carousel rides for everyone (sponsored by the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society).
As you can see, 2024 is Woodhaven’s Year of the Centennials!