Middle Village NY History

Middle Village grew up about 1830 and received its name because it marked the midpoint for farmers on the long wagon haul between the Brooklyn ferries at the foot of Broadway, and Jamaica. Metropolitan Avenue was laid out in 1814 and completed in 1816 as a turnpike road with toll gates at each end. Middle Village for years was a typical one-street town with small scattered houses strung out along the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike (now Metropolitan Avenue) between Fresh Pond Road and Dry Harbor Road. Just before and after the Civil War, a three-story brick hotel at what is now 75-43 Metropolitan Avenue was the rendezvous for farmers, offering a night’s lodging and refreshments. North of the village lay the primeval and impenetrable Juniper Swamp; part of it is now Juniper Valley Park.

The coming of the cemeteries to Middle Village changed its character; Lutheran south came in 1852, Lutheran north about 1860 and St. John’s in 1879. Nurseries, saloons and hotels grew up in profusion to meet the demands of cemetery visitors. In the 1920’s the housing boom struck the village; streets were laid out on either side of Metropolitan Avenue, Dry Harbor Road and Cooper Avenue, and in short order row upon row of houses stretched out to join those of Glendale and Maspeth and Forest Hills on the borders. Middle Village was an Anglo-Saxon community down to the Civil War; for a century it remained heavily German; in modern times Yugoslavs and Italians have moved in in substantial numbers.

Niedersteins Restaurant Middle Village, NYThe Historic Niederstein’s Hotel, Metropolitan Avenue at 69th Street, ca. 1939. Built by Henry Schumacher about 1865, it became John Niederstein’s hotel in 1888. Niederstein had been a cook in Germany, came to America in 1866 and in the’80’s operated the Yorkville Assembly Rooms at 1393 2nd Avenue, New York. He gave his Middle Village place the name “Grand Hotel” and enlarged it by adding wings on either side. There were 32 rooms available on the second floor. For years, funeral parties constituted the bulk of the business, but wedding parties, banquets and family dinners were an important source of income. Memorial Day was the biggest holiday of the year, closely followed by Mother’s Day and June 5 (Slocum Memorial Day, commemorating the tragic sinking and burning of the boat Ceneral Slocum in the East River on that day in 1904). In the I970’s the hotel was modernized by new owners, who removed the old-time porch and carriage sheds. (The Queens BoroughPublic Librarg.)

Inside of Niederstersteins(right)Niederstein’s Restaurant, Interior, 1910. Note the ice chest, the trophies on the wall from Niederstein’s Adirondack hunting expeditions and the “air conditioning”-fans connected by leather belting to a motor in the rear. Bentwood chairs and checkered tablecloths were hallmarks of the era. (Niederstein collection and Vincent F. Segfried collection.)

(below left) FEARLESS HOOK & LADDER COMPANY NO. 7, 71-55 Metropolitan Avenue, ca. 1913. Organized in 1891, this volunteer company protected the village until displaced by the city’s Fire Department in September 1913. The building survived for years as a store until its demolition on August 15, 1986. (Photo by Frederick I. Weber; The Queens Borough Public Library.)Middle Village NY Fire Dept

(below right) METROPOLITAN AVENUE FROM DRY HARBOR ROAD, LOOKING WEST, ca. 1910. On the left is the St. John’s Hotel of John Braun, now a marble yard, and on the right is Peter Becker’s Columbia Park Hotel, now Ottavino’s monument works. The carriage shed still stands. The trolleys stopped running in June 1949 and many of the old wooden buildings have disappeared. (Robert F. Eisen collection.) Metropolitan Ave Middle Village NY