Addisleigh Park is New York City’s best-kept secret. This lovely English Tudor-style village in the St. Alban’s section of Queens was declared a U.S. historic district five years ago because its single family homes have not been altered, so the style has remained intact – and because of its remarkable history. In the 1940s and ‘50s, the people who owned these homes were a virtual Who’s Who of African-American celebrities.
On our more-than-an-hour walk, we saw homes once belonging to: Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, “Fats” Waller, Lena Horne, Billy Holliday, Brook Benton, James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, W.E. DuBois, and Joe Louis.
A group of neighborhood residents, Joyce, Adelaide, Judith and Richard, took us on this walk. All members of the Addisleigh Park Civic Organization, they welcomed us as if we were long lost friends. They served us breakfast along with juicy historical tidbits.
Addisleigh Park came into being in 1904 after the Long Island Railroad opened in 1898. The homes were built in the “Garden City” mode, with gardens in front and the house in back. Architecturally, many homes were English Tudor-style, harkening back to residences in Hertfordshire, England. By the 1930s, Addisleigh Park was fully developed.
Originally an exclusive white neighborhood, race-restricted covenants kept the area highly segregated. This was the ugly history of Addisleigh Park and it wasn’t until until1942 that a home was sold to an African American! By the late 1940s, the area went through a complete transformation, becoming one of America’s premier African-American enclaves.
The only thing more wonderful than the houses themselves, were the personal tales Joyce and Adelaide shared about their owners. Did you know Ella Fitzgerald was a mean poker player? Or that Joe Louis’ wife, Rose Morgan, made hair products for black women – and made a fortune?
We are extremely indebted to Councilmember I. Daneek Miller of District 27 for arranging this thrilling visit. Since Addisleigh Park is a private residential neighborhood, the best way to see it is with one of our Greeters. We’re waiting for your call.