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Click for More PhotsMore photos of Elevated Train along Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill
LIRR 1890 illustrations of Richmond Hill's Points of Interest

1950 LIRR's worst train crash in Richmond Hill
List of Former Street Names / Real Estate Map 1905

About the History of Jamaica Avenue
History of Jamaica Avenue
Photo circa 1890's shows Fulton Street as name for present day Jamaica Avenue. This photo was taken from Lefferts Blvd in Richmond Hill facing west to Brooklyn and shows the famed "Triangle" with Myrtle Avenue to the right with electric trolley car intersecting Jamaica Avenue in the foreground.


of the Borough of Queens, N.Y.
Vol. 14
Queensboro Public Library
Jamaica, N.Y.

Article courtesy of the Carl Ballenas Collection

An Indian trail led from the Great Plains to the Cove, at the northern end of the Heights on the East River, which became the site of the Brooklyn Ferry. This trail was widened by the Hempstead settlers, and became known as the Ferry Road. Another Indian Trail, intersecting this one at Jamaica, ran along the line of Flushing Main Street, Kissena Boulevard, and Parsons Boulevard. The roads were made in the earliest days from these trails.

On June 19,1803, a law was passed, providing for one public and general highway to extend from the Ferry in Kings County, through that County and the Counties of Queens and Suffolk.

The Ferry Road was improved to comply with that law. Other roads, coming from the various county towns, and connecting with the Ferry Road, were also improved under the act. The main road and these feeder lines, became one system, known under the common name of Kings Highway.

Under the General Turnpike Act of 1807, the Brooklyn, Jamaica and Flatbush Turnpike Company was incorporated, on March l7, l809. The incorporators were,- John D. Ditmars, Eliphalet Wickes, Abraham Rhodes, John C. Vanderveer, Cornelius Bergen and Barent Lefferts.

This company had charge of the Ferry Road, from the Ferry to the end of Jamaica Village, and of the feeder lines running to Flatbush Church. The road ran along to a point which became the end of Fulton St. in Brooklyn, then turned up Flatbush Ave. to the point where the Long Island Railroad Depot is now located. Here stood the first-toll-gate, one branch of the road, continued to Flatbush Church, the other followed the line of Hanson Place to what became Fulton Avenue, and continued to the end of that road, to and along the present Jamaica Avenue, to the end of the road at Grand St. Jamaica. The second toll-gate stood at the intersection of Hunterfly Road.

The toll for every score of sheep or hogs was 8 cents; for every horse or mule or rider 4 cents; the same for every led horse or mule; for every chair, chaise, gig or sulky, drawn by one horse, 12 cents; for every coach, coachee, chariot, phaeton or curricle, drawn by 2 horses, 25 cents.

The Turnpike Roads were built at the average cost of 1200 dollars a mile. The labor bestowed upon the artificial roads, consisted of shortening the distance, diminishing the ascent of hills, removing rocks, leveling, raising and giving a proper shape to the bed of the roads, draining them by ditches, and erecting bridges over intervening streams. The natural soil of the road was used instead of covering it with a stratum of gravel or pounded stone. The road was to be not less than four roads in width, except in Brooklyn, and the bedding of the road not to be less than 32 feet in width.

There were 2200 shares of stock at a par value of 30 dollars a share.
In 1832, the Turnpike Company established stage routes over their road from the Ferry to Jamaica, and to Flatbush.

A meeting was held at Hewlett Greedy Tavern on January 18,1831, Eliphalet Wickes being chairman, and Dr. Nathan Shelton, Secretary. It was voted, that it was deemed expedient to have a railroad between Jamaica and Brooklyn. A committee was appointed from Brooklyn. The Committee consisted of John A. King, Col. John Rhoades Jr., Silas Roe, James Herriman and William R. Gracie.

On April 25, 1832, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad Company was incorporated for the term of 45 years, with a capital of 300,000 dollars, to purchase the stock of the Turnpike Company at 26 dollars a share in cash or 23 dollars in stock of the new company. The turnpike road, however, remained the property of the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad Company until in 1851, when the company was authorized to sell its road to the Jamaica and Brooklyn Plank Road Company, organized in 1850.

The turnpike was a fairly good road for travel, except during early spring, when the frost came out of the ground. Then the road was almost impassable.

A new era started for roads; the Plank Roads became immensely popular. Hemlock, pine or oak planks, eight feet long and three to four inches in thickness, were laid across the road at right angles to its length. If laid lengthwise of the road, horses were more liable to slip and the ends would sometimes ride up. If laid obliquely, one end would tend to spring up when the weight of the vehicles pressed unbalanced upon the other end. The planks were put in sleepers, and sand was put on the planks.

The Plank Road Law provided the toll, which would not exceed 1 1/2 cents a mile for a vehicle drawn by two animals, 1/2 cents for every additional animal; 3/4 cents a mile for every vehicle drawn by one animal; 1/2 cents a mile for each horse and rider, or led horse.

Jurors, witnesses, troops and travelers attending religious meetings were not to pay any toll. The coupon, often agreed with the form to charge the distance per mile for persons who lived a distance from the gate.

The Jamaica and Brooklyn Plank Road Company was incorporated in 1850. Rene Lefferts of Brooklyn, was the President, John Spader of Jamaica, Treasurer, and Dr. Nathan Shelton of Jamaica, Secretary. Shares were to be issued at 25 dollars; the road had to be doubletrack, and a ground road, between the two plank roads. It was estimated, that canal boats loaded, or 2 1/2 million feet of lumber were to be used. In September,1850, the construction began in front of Caleb Weeks Tavern, at the corner of Grand St. in Jamaica. By February, the road was laid through the Village of Jamaica.

On the Plank Road were three toll gates, one later called the West Gate, stood near Van Wyck Avenue. Samuel Beatty was the last keeper at the gate. The Cypress Hills Toll Gate was at Nichols Avenue, the third gate stood near Essex St. East New York.

On May 7, 1863, William Durland, Martin I. Duryea, et. al. opened the East New York and Jamaica Railroad Company, which started the horse car line from the Kings County line to Jamaica Village. From the car stables at Snedicker Ave. to Woodhaven Ave. the fare was 5 cents, and from there to Grand St. Jamaica, 10 cents additional.

Edward M. Osborn, foreclosed a mortgage on the property of the rail road and sold it to the Jamaica, Woodhaven and Brooklyn Railroad Co. and the Jamaica and Brooklyn Plank Road, consolidated under the name of Jamaica and Brooklyn Road Company. Colonel Aaron A. Degraw, became the President of this company, and Martin I. Duryea, the Treasurer.

A Commission was appointed, July 19, 1893, to ascertain compensation to be paid to the Jamaica and Brooklyn Railroad Company for taking the road, owned by said company. On August 15,1897, Judge Garretson confirmed the report of the Condemnation Committee, and the road became a County Road; i.e. public property. The road was immediately paved from Grand St. to Van Wyck Ave. by the Barber Asphalt Paving Co.

Jamaica Ave. 111th St. Station
Photo of the 111th Street elevated BMT train station on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill, NY (circa 1970). At this time the K Line was running along the tracks which is now currently the J Line and Z Line Routes.
Photo by Doug Grotjahn from the Collection of Joe Testagrose and courtesy of www.nycsubway.org

Col. Degraw, formed about 1887, a new company for operating electric cars over the road of the Jamaica and Brooklyn Railroad Company.
William A. Stiles, who came from Chicago, held the patent. The motor was in the center of the car. Four cars were built by the Pullman Company. The fare was reduced from 15 cents to 10 cents, and the running time was cut to 25 minutes. The first electric car on Long Island was run to the end of the road, Grand St. Jamaica, on Dec.7, 1887, only a few weeks after the first electric street car line in the world, began operating in Richmond, Virginia.

The Jamaica and Hempstead Turnpike Company was incorporated on March 20, 1812. The incorporators were,- Samuel Carman, Joseph Pettit, Abraham Bell, Laurence Seaman, William Nichols, John Lefferts, Lewis Hewlett, James Hendrickson, and William Lott.

A road was constructed from the house of Charles McNeill at Grand St. Jamaica, along the line of present Jamaica Avenue to the present Hempstead Turnpike, along the line of that road, to the house of Isaac Clowes in the Town of Hempstead, about ten miles in all.

About 1863, the road became a plank road. A toll gate stood at East Jamaica (Hollis); at 174th St. which was later called the East Gate. John Watts was the last toll gate keeper, until the toll was abolished, about 1893. The second gate stood at Elmont, near the present county line, and the third at West Hempstead. Colonel Aaron A. Degraw was the President of the Company. The Road was sold in 1897, in part to Queens Co. and to Nassau Co. A trolley line was built at that time to Belmont Park, which soon was continued to Hempstead. Busses have since replaced the trolley cars.

Park Street and Jamaica Avenue
Photo circa 1890's shows Park Street (now 117th Street) in Richmond Hill. This photo was taken from Jamaica Avenue and Park Street facing north to Myrtle Avenue. Note the store fronts on the left side of photo. Fluhrs Flower Shop was located there and Bangert's took over Florist Shop since 1927 and is still located there today with same storefront. 

In 1910 on this corner of Jamaica Avenue and 117th Street not seen in photo still stands the first cement made building on Jamaica Avenue known as "The Richmond" (116-23 Jamaica Ave.) which is still located there.

LIRR 1890 illustrations of Richmond Hill's Points of Interest  | 1950 LIRR's worst train crash in Richmond Hill | List of Former Street Names | Real Estate Map 1905

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