A walk along Greenway Terrace in Forest Hills Gardens will reveal an ornate gate, and if you peek inside you will discover the Tea Garden, a hidden gem that opened in 1912 next to the Forest Hills Inn.
“The Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn is a veritable fairyland,” read a 1924 edition of the Forest Hills Bulletin. “When lighted with Japanese lanterns, with the trickling fountain heard in the background, and a new moon shining overhead, there is no more delightful place in Greater New York for one to spend the dinner hour.”
The Tea Garden’s use dwindled when the inn underwent a residential conversion in the late 1960s, causing it to fall into a state of disarray. Today, the Tea Garden is part of Jade Eatery & Lounge at One Station Square.
“I’m dedicating all my efforts to bring the old memories back by setting up the water fountain in the center, and redoing the landscape as well as the patio,” said Jade owner Kumar.
To aid in the restoration effort, Ozone Park resident Ronald Gentile agreed to contribute over 130 puzzles, which this columnist is selling at $20 each. Larger donations are welcome.
“I’m thrilled that these puzzles, which have been left behind by a tenant and would otherwise have ended up in a recycling bin, are being given new homes and playing a role in this community’s improvement,” said Gentile.
Shortly after, Julie Marie decided to donate nearly 10 puzzles.
“If many people contribute a small amount to improve the community, it will have a large impact,” she said. The history and architecture of the Tea Garden and surrounding area is an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. It’s like an oasis in the middle of the busy hustle of Queens.”
The Tea Garden once featured rocking chairs and a “ring for tea” stand, which were later replaced with tables and umbrellas. It was also the site of 4th of July celebrations, plays by The Gardens Players such as “Prunella” in 1922, and wedding receptions into the 1960s.
The restoration would ideally include repairing the central brick fountain, painting the pergola, restoring the cascading wall fountain, repairing stonework and flagstone, adding greenery, and replicating the tea stand complete with a bell.
“I wasn’t nursing a burning desire for puzzles, but when I saw Perlman’s fundraiser, I remembered that I like to do puzzles,” said Jack Quinn, one of the first people to make a purchase. “They all were so high-quality and different than anything I would see in stores, so I selected 13 puzzles.
“I’m going to mail a puzzle to each of my aunts and uncles and people I know that are homebound,” he added. “I’m so glad to help raise money for the Tea Garden and also brighten the lives of people I know.”
The Tea Garden motivated Bill Zen to become a volunteer.
“The puzzle idea is an interesting one to get the ball rolling initially,” he said. “As I pass the Tea Garden I stop often, look through the chained gates, and it’s hard not to go back in time in your mind to when it must have been amazing.”
“As a public-private partnership between the community, the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, the Forest Hills Inn, and the owner of Jade, it could be phenomenal,” Zen added. “You could see neighbors enjoying the public grounds early in the day, and contributing a small donation to a trust to maintain the grounds like a living museum.”
Forest Hills residents Nelly Lester Manzo and her husband Gaby recently spent the afternoon at Jade Eatery. She purchased five puzzles.
“I could just envision a little Garden of Eden,” she said. “It gave a bit of nourishment to our soul. I didn’t think twice when I heard about the Tea Garden fundraiser.”
It was a first-time visit for Corona resident Hope Stephens recently made her first visit to Jade.
“It was good to see some of the masonry and the original gate with the Forest Hills logo intact,” she said. “The Tea Garden could be a lovely venue for all kinds of small gatherings.”