The Kew Gardens Hills Community Library is located at 72-33 Vleigh Place. The name Vleigh Place comes from the swamps which existed beside Flushing Creek. Until 1801, this prevented direct routes between Flushing and the west so traffic only went as far as Kew Gardens. This connected with the road which circled the head of the marshland and ran north to Flushing. This road was called Head of the Vleigh Road for the Dutch word, also written Vly or Fly, which means “valley” or “swamp”. In 1937, the name was changed to Vleigh Place.
Kew Gardens Hills is related to Kew Gardens in name only. The neighborhood has also been referred to variously as “East Forest Hills” and “Queens Valley”. The legend is that Abraham Wolosoff, who developed a community of small homes and apartments in southwest Flushing in the 1930s, became so impressed with what he perceived as the classy neighborhood, he incorporated the name into his development. The hilliness of the area helped contribute to its name.
During the 1700s the area was owned by William Furman, who called his farm Willow Glen. The land was later sold to Timothy Jackson, who developed trotting horses. Although the area was still farmland in the late 1800s, improved transportation was attracting developers and businessmen. The Queens Valley Golf Club was opened in 1933, followed by the Arrowhead and Pomonok courses.
The expansion of the IND subway, coupled with the linkage of the Kew Gardens interchange on the Grand Central Parkway and the paving of Queens Boulevard, led to 1,200 new residents moving into the neighborhood and hundreds of new homes being built. The opening of the World’s Fair in 1939 also spurred growth. Early arrivals included German, Irish and Italian families moving out from Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Eventually, thousands of apartments were built in garden apartment complexes and low-rise three to six story buildings due to the demand for housing after World War II. Most of the units were originally built as rentals but were converted to non-eviction co-ops during the 1980’s, greatly diminishing the area’s rental supply.
The Orthodox community took root in 1950 when 15 families founded the congregation of Young Israel of Forest Hills. There are now at least 20 synagogues, large and small.
Among more recent immigrants have been Indians, Afghans and other Asians, and Jews from former republics of the Soviet Union.
The Queens Borough Public Library provided service to the Kew Gardens Hills community initially by Book Bus in 1943. The first regularly scheduled stop was at the Regency Park Apartments at 78th Avenue and Main Street. Nine years later, a second stop was added for the Park Drive Section at Jewel Avenue and 138th Street. The Regency Park book bus stop was moved to its final location across the street from the new Queens County Savings Bank.
On February 14, 1954, the branch opened in the new building of the Queens County Savings Bank, a building modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It had the unique distinction of being the first air-conditioned library in Queens.
On March 13, 1967, the present location was opened in a large, city owned building. A dedication ceremony was held, presided over by then-Library Director Harold W. Tucker.
The branch was closed for renovations for several months in 1985, re-opening in October.
On April 16th, 1998, the name of the branch was officially changed from “Vleigh” to “Kew Gardens Hills” to more accurately reflect the geographic location of the branch.