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For over 200 years, from the 1700s through the 1900s, the Fresh Meadows area was known as “Black Stump”, allegedly because its various large farms were separated for identification purposes by rows of black stumps. In Colonial times only two roads crossed the area: Black Stump Road which is now 73rd Avenue, and Fresh Meadows Lane which was named for the fresh water meadows through which it ran. At the juncture of the two roads was the heart of “Black Stump”. The British Army of occupation as well as Benedict Arnold walked these roads and were housed on the farms during the American Revolution. Colonial references to the area are few; however it is known that there was a tavern named Ryerson’s Inn, located roughly on the south-west corner of 74th Avenue and Utopia Parkway. In November of 1933, the colonial building that had been Ryerson’s Inn was demolished by its current owners: the Klein Family.
Dating back to the 1800s, the Black Stump School, old District #4 of Flushing Town, was located in the area which is now a small park at Utopia Parkway and 73rd Avenue. The Black Stump School was a one-room wood frame country schoolhouse, but it educated many children in the area. During the winter only 10-15 attended, but summer enrollment reached as many as 50 children. After the school was abandoned it became the headquarters of Black Stump Hook, Ladder and Bucket Co. #1 which fought farm fires in the area until 1913.
Throughout the 19th century, 75th Avenue was the only east-west road running between Utopia Parkway and Parsons Blvd. It was known by two names: “Quarrelsome Lane” and “Hellfire Lane”. Unfortunately the origins of these names have since been forgotten.
About 1923, a Brooklyn sportsman, Benjamin C. Ribman, opened the Fresh Meadows Country Club. The 141-acre country club hosted US Golf Opens and operated until 1946 when it was sold to The New York Life Insurance Company. The company created the Fresh Meadows Housing Development, a post World War II project and model community to for returning WWII soldiers and their families. The development consisted of row houses and high-rise buildings, a shopping center, a theater, a public library and schools. Opened in 1949, the Fresh Meadows Housing Development was at the time hailed by community planner Lewis Mumford as “perhaps the most positive and exhilarating example of large-scale community planning in the country”.
The Fresh Meadows Housing Development still stands and most of the area has been designated a Special Planned Community Preservation District by New York City. This designation protects the unique character of well-planned communities. These communities characteristically have large landscaped open spaces and a superior relationship of buildings, open spaces, commercial uses, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation.
In November, 2003, Fresh Meadows lost its final link to its early farmland history. The Klein Farm, dating back to 1895 and the last of the working farms in the Fresh Meadows area, was sold to real estate developers. It had been one of the remaining four farms left in New York City, three of which are still located in Queens.
Fanelli, James, “Residents, Pols Oppose Klein Farm Sale,” Queens Courier, 18 March 2004.
Jackson, Kenneth T. ed., The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University, 1995, 441.
On November 1st 1949 the first Fresh Meadows Library opened to the public. Its storefront quarters were provided by The New York Life Insurance Company within the Fresh Meadows Housing Development.
On September 23rd, 1958 the first Queens Borough Library built by the Fresh Meadows Housing Development was opened for service.
In August of 1997, the library was relocated to a temporary store front area while the library underwent a 600 sq. ft expansion as well as interior renovations.
In May of 1998 the temporary library space was closed and the materials were relocated to the new Fresh Meadows library.
On May 3rd 2000, the formal reopening ceremony was held at the newly renovated and expanded building. Among the scheduled speakers were Borough President Claire Schulman, City Councilman Sheldon S. Leffler, Library Director Gary E. Strong, and Queens Library Board of Trustees President Patricia Flynn.
Seyfried, Vincent. “Notes on Local Historical Sites”. Origin Unknown
Limited parking space is available in front of the library. There are limited metered street parking along Horace Harding Expressway service road. You may also find parking on nearby residential streets.