January 2021 by Christine O’Brien Beydoun
Few Forest Hills residents realize that our community today is still reaping the benefits of the generosity and sacrifice of many Forest Hills residents from over a hundred years ago. In particular, I am referencing the Community House, designed by famous architect Grosvenor Atterbury, located at 15 Borage Place and its historic spot in our combined history.
Many in the community may pass it daily on their walks around the Gardens and not know its important history in bringing together various groups for a common cause. In the December 11, 1920 Forest Hills Gardens Bulletin (accessible on the Forest Hills Gardens Foundation website (foresthillsgardensfoundation.org), there was a general plea to all Forest Hills residents to pledge financial funding for a “Community House Fund for you and your children – every resident of Forest Hills, including both sides of the track and the apartments.”
Some of the facts given to entice participation was that:
- the land was donated free and clear by a true friend of the community
- some two hundred residents had already subscribed approximately $300 each (approximately $4000 in today’s money)
- the management of the building once constructed would be vested in the representatives of all religious, social and other organizations in the community.
The agreement signed by all sponsors promised to pay the treasurer of the Church in the Gardens (J. Floyd McTyler, 57 Summer Street) for the Community House Fund their payments in a pro-rated fashion — ten percent in 30 days, twenty percent when the building contract was signed, twenty percent when the foundations was installed, twenty-five percent when the roof was put on, and the final twenty-five percent when the building was completed. Once fundraising was completed, the excavation started on December 4, 1922. A building model photograph provided in the December 9, 1922 Forest Hills Bulletin shows today’s building is little changed from its original plan.
While debutante cotillions and ballroom dance classes are no longer held at the Community House, numerous Forest Hills children and adults have enjoyed these activities and many others in its great halls. Due to Covid restrictions, its current operations have been greatly curtailed and many in the community look forward to its full operation. Hopefully soon this historic building will once again return to serving the needs of our community with its various classes ranging from yoga, swimming, art, zumba, water aerobics and martial arts. To view interior shots of its beautiful construction, its stunning fireplace, stage and basement swimming pool, go to citgch.org.