Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fox Hills' Magnificent Past

   Fox Hills, a portion of Clifton, was once a prosperous place of large homes, a golf course and open fields.  In 1860, according to the NY Times, a great convocation of Republicans gathered at Clifton Park's Pagoda to hear speeches by George Curtis and Horace Greeley in support of ratifying the presidential nomination, Abraham Lincoln.  I'm not exactly sure where the Pagoda was but my research leads me to believe it's described as being at "the head of Simonson Avenue" which means at either Bay Street and Greenfield Avenue or where Osgood and Greenfield would theoretically intersect.

   Today  it's seen mostly as an appendix to the neighborhood of Park Hill and suffers from the same poor reputation.  Driving through, it should be clear that even after residential development did away with its open spaces it was still a comfortable middle-class place of comfortable and attractive homes.

The estate of Mr. J. D. Dix over the ages

   The house slowly lost its open surroundings and looks to have been demolished sometime between 1951 and 1971.  That's the date, and I offer no guarantee  as to its accuracy (the C of O is dated March, 1975), given by NYC's online records for the thirty-unit apartment building built where it once stood.  The one reference I found to Mr. Dix was about his house being used in the 1850's as the meeting place of the founders of the late First Presbyterian Church.  

   Fox Hills was originally the name of one Lewis Henry Meyer's estate.  Later a golf course sat where the bulk of the Fox Hills and Park Hills apartment complexes now loom.  The course was originally laid out by the Staten Island Cricket Club in 1899.  When the club went bankrupt about a year later the Fox Hills Golf Club was founded by men described by the NY Times as "enthusiasts" in order to save the links for golfing.  Unfortunately the plan only lasted until 1935 when the Depression killed the club closed.
   According to NYC Park's page on the playground at Sobel Court, an army hospital was built along Vanderbilt Avenue in 1918 that operated until 1922.  It was reopened as a hospital and POW camp during WW II and after the war converted to veterans housing.  In the fifties the military closed the site for good.

The Fox Hills Base from somewhere around Van Duzer or Targee Street I'd guess.

   Today the only clear reminder of the area's golfing past is Fairway Avenue.  The club house stood about where Osgood and Fairway Avenues meet.  About where it stood is now occupied by the Ukrainian Church and houses.

    left - Fox Hills Golf Course Club House     right - Fairway and Osgood Avenues (from Google)

   So there's an initial taste of the wonders of old Fox Hills.  So far I haven't been able to find any of the houses in the foreground of the base picture but I'm sure some are still extant.  Maybe by the time I do my next post on the area I'll have found them.  Here's hoping!

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