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Two Predominantly Black Areas in Southeast Queens Designated as Historic Districts

Cambria Heights-227th Historic District (Photo courtesy of the LPC)

June 29, 2022 By Christian Murray

Two residential areas in southeast Queens were designated historic districts yesterday by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The commission created two separate historic districts—the Cambria Heights-222nd Street district and the Cambria Heights-227th district. Both areas, which consist of Tudor-style houses, have traditionally been occupied by the African American and Afro-Caribbean communities.

The districts contain row houses built in 1931 that are remarkably intact along two blocks, according to the commission. The Cambria Heights – 222nd Street Historic District contains 46 row houses between 115th Road and 116th Avenue and the Cambria Heights – 227th Street Historic District, which is five blocks away, contains 50 houses between 116th Avenue and Linden Boulevard.

“The designation of these two historic districts, the first in Cambria Heights, was a priority for me and fits within LPC’s equity framework, as we seek to increase designations in communities not well represented by landmarks, and to better tell the story of all New Yorkers,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll.

Cambria Heights is located in southeast Queens (GMaps)

The 222nd and 227th Street Historic Districts, according to the commission, consist of two cohesive and intact groups of Storybook-style row houses incorporating Tudor-style elements.

The Storybook style is primarily associated with California, where it flourished as a small-house style in the 1920s—influenced by fantasy architecture and movie backdrops. Storybook features of the 227th Street houses include half timbering, diamond-pane windows and stucco with brick and stone accents, as well as whimsical red, blue, and green slate shingles.

The 222nd Street houses feature Tudor-arched window openings, brightly colored terra-cotta roofs and windows, brick facades with random stone accents, and whimsically decorated chimneys with patterned brick and stucco panels. The design of the row houses gives the street a “stage-set” quality consistent with the Storybook style, of a Hollywood backdrop or fairytale illustration come to life.

Initially, residents of both 222nd and 227th Streets consisted of mainly white middle-class families. Black families began moving to Cambria Heights by the 1950s and the makeup of the community began to change.

By the 1980s, immigrant families from Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Barbados moved to the area. Today, Cambria Heights remains one of several prosperous predominantly Black residential communities in Southeastern Queens.

“These homes are significant not only because of their appearance but also because of what they represent to the communities…that the American Dream was within reach,” said Mayor Eric Adams.

Adams noted that Black Americans had long been denied the opportunity of homeownership and that these historic districts clearly state why access to homeownership must be made available.

Both districts are exceptionally well-preserved, according to the commission, retaining their characteristic stylistic features and continuous, landscaped front lawns, with a highly distinctive sense of place.

“This was a project that was started by my predecessor, Council Member I. Daneek Miller and I am excited to see it come to fruition and have another neighborhood in my community designated as a historic district,” said Council Member Nantasha Williams.

“The 27th Council District is full of rich history and this neighborhood in Cambria Heights captures a unique architectural design not commonly found.”

Cambria Heights-222nd Street Historic District (Photo courtesy of the LPC)

 

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