ABOUT JAMAICA
 
HISTORIC LOCATIONS

PROSPECT CEMETERY
  
History
   Restoration
   Registry of Graves
   Directions
PROSPECT CEMETERY
ASSOCIATION

   Mission Statement
   Message from the President
   Association Partners
THE CHAPEL of the SISTERS
   History
   Restoration/Reuse

PHOTO GALLERY
   Cemetery

   Chapel
ABOUT JAMAICA
   Historic Locations
WHAT'S NEW
   Events

   Walking Tour

   Concerts

   Press
DONATIONS
   Contributors
   Make A Donation
CONTACT US
LINKS
CREDITS
HOME PAGE

Historic Jamaica

Jamaica Avenue was an ancient trail for tribes from as far away as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, coming to trade skins and furs for wampum. It was in 1655 that the first settlers paid the Native Americans with two guns, a coat, and some powder and lead, for the land lying between the old trail and “Beaver Pond”, later, Baisley Pond. Dutch Gov. Peter Stuyvesant dubbed the area Rustdorp in granting the 1656 patent. The English, who took it over in 1664, renamed it “Yameco” after “Ahmeco” the Carnarsie word for beaver. The British called it “Jameco.” And so, Jamaica was born.

Colonial Jamaica had a band of 56 Minute Men that played an active part in the Battle of Long Island, whose unfortunate outcome led to occupation by British troops during most of the Revolution. “George Washington slept here” is indeed true for Jamaica — in 1790, in William Warner’s tavern. Rufus King, a signer of the Constitution came to live here in 1805. He added to a modest 18th century farmhouse, creating the manor which stands on the site today. King Manor has been restored to its former glory, and serves as an enlightening, attractive museum.

By 1776, Jamaica had become a trading post for farmers and their produce. For more than a century, their horse-drawn carts plodded along Jamaica Avenue, then called King’s Highway. The public school system started in 1813, funded for $125; a year later, Jamaica Village was incorporated. By 1834, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Rail road Company had completed a line to Jamaica.

In 1850, Jamaica Avenue became a plank road, complete with toll gate. In 1866, tracks were laid for a horsecar line, and 20 years later it was electrified for trolleys, the first in the state. In 1898, Queens — of which Jamaica was the county seat — became part of the City of New York.

The Long Island Rail Road Station was completed in 1913, and the Jamaica Avenue El arrived in 1918. Business boomed as never before, and as parkways were constructed thousands more people came by car. The ‘20s and ‘30s saw the building of the elegant Valencia Theatre, the “futuristic” Kurtz Furniture Store and La Casina.

Reuse of Historic Buildings

Several historic buildings in Jamaica Center have been restored and put to new uses. Perhaps the most startling is La Casina, a former nightclub on 160th Street designed in the Art Modern style. Now fully restored, it is the home of the Jamaica Business Resource Center. The Former Queens Register Building on Jamaica Avenue, has been the home of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning since JCAL was founded in 1972. Through a series of renovations it is now functioning in first class space. Along with Black Spectrum Theater and Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, JCAL is restoring and converting the former First Reformed Church into a new performing arts center. A three bay Firehouse, on 162nd Street built in the 1920’s, has been converted to a small office building housing two non-profit agencies. The Valencia Theater has been restored and now functions as the Tabernacle of All Prayer. A magnificent Street Clock has also been rescued and restored; it now stands outside Chase Bank on Jamaica Avenue. 

Suggested Walking Tour

King Manor Museum In King Park /Jamaica Avenue at 153rd Street 
Once the country home of Rufus King (1755-1827), was a signer of the U.S. Constitution, Senator from New York, and Ambassador to Great Britain under four presidents. Call 718 206-0545/Fax 718 206-0541

Grace Church • 155-15 Jamaica Avenue
Built in 1862, English Gothic Revival architecture. 

La Casina Night Club
• 90-33 160th Street
Built in 1934, streamlined Moderne Style. Recently renovated, the building is now occupied by Jamaica Business Resource Center. 

First Reformed Church • 153-16 Jamaica Avenue
Built in 1859, Early Romanesque Revival Style.

Former Register • 161-04 Jamaica Avenue 
Built in 1898, the building is now occupied by Jamaica Center For Arts and Learning (JCAL).

Former Kurtz Store • 162-24 Jamaica Avenue
Built in 1930’s, this former furniture store is a fine example of Art Deco Style .

Valencia Theatre • 165-11 Jamaica Avenue
Built in 1929, the Valencia was one of the several atmospheric “Wonder Theatres”. The building is now occupied by Tabernacle of Prayer.

 

 

 

top