Changing Neighborhoods of Queens: Bellerose Then and Now
Queens historian Ron Marzlock, writer of Queens Chronicle’s weekly "I Have Often Walked" column, highlights the community of Bellerose, from its farming beginnings, through its post World War II development as a model suburb for the Baby Boom, to the present.
Bellerose traces its roots back to 1906, when a Massachusetts real estate developer named Helen M. Marsh purchased 77 acres of gladiola fields in Long Island for $155,000. Ms. Marsh dreamed of developing a model community which contained modestly priced homes. In the Panic of 1907, the mortgage on one of the properties was called and Ms. Marsh pledged $50,000 of her own securities to prevent foreclosure.
Construction on the first home began in 1910. Ms. Marsh lived in this home while supervising construction on the remaining properties. She worked with an architect to lay out streets and houses around circular flower bed islands. During a drought, she was known to drive around the neighborhood watering the plants and in the wintertime, she also went from home to home to keep the furnaces burning.
Transportation was already provided by the Long Island Railroad at the nearby Floral Park and Trolley service along Jericho Turnpike. In 1911, Ms. Marsh convinced the LIRR to build a station in Bellerose.
In 1917, the property owners ratified the name of “Bellerose”. According to some sources, the name derives from the Rose farm that was found south of the area and their daughter “Belle”. Ms. Marsh always replied that she chose the name merely because it sounded “euphonious”.
Today, there are three communities with the name Bellerose —the Queens section of Bellerose, and the Incorporated Village of Bellerose and Bellerose Terrace, which are both part of Nassau County. Bellerose, Queens, is bordered by Little Neck Parkway on the East, Grand Central Parkway on the West, the Creedmoor State Hospital grounds on the north and Braddock and Jamaica Avenues on the south. Bellerose Queens is known for the state-run Queens Children’s Psychiatric Center and the New York City-owned, but privately operated Queens County Farm Museum.
In recent years, Bellerose continues to grow and thrive. According to the 2000 census, the population was 18,687 comprised of Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Scottish, Hispanic, Asian Indians, Filipino and Chinese. One example of the diversity of Bellerose can be seen from the different Southeast Asian shops and grocery stores that have opened around the community.
The Bellerose Library opened its doors on February 27, 1978 with Ms. Jean Dickerson as the Branch Library Manager, a small staff, 20,000 books and various periodicals on order. The idea of opening a branch library in Bellerose was conceived in 1975 and accomplished through the work of local community leaders and civic leaders, including then-State Senator Frank Padavan, Councilman Matt Troy, Jr. and Borough President Donald R. Manes.