Picnic parks became popular in the late 1800s for the immigrant residents of the Greater Ridgewood area who worked six days a week and needed a form of entertainment.
The success of the picnic parks carried over into Maspeth and parts of Middle Village. One of the first was Clinton Park, owned and operated by DeWitt Clinton (Governor) of Maspeth. Another was Monteverde’s Grand Street Park located on Grand and 69 Street, site of the old car barns and now the Long Island Expressway. This park was owned by Maspeth resident, Judge William Monteverde.
Monteverde’s Grand Street Park was used in numerous ways since it was the site of the annual camping grounds of the Grand Army of the Republic and training ground for the Brooklyn Athletic Club and the National Athletic Club. Firework displays also took place at this site sponsored by Italian Clubs.
The industrial area of west Maspeth, on Maspeth Avenue, near Maspeth Creek was the site of Feldman’s Queens County Park. The clubhouse became a fight arena early in the 1920s. Other parks included Elm Grove Park on Grand Avenue, between 73 and 74 Streets; Washington Park at 74 Street and Mariondale Park on old Jefferson Avenue, now 72 Place.
Around 1874 Schumacher’s Park, named after another judge, Judge Schumacher, was located at Flushing and Metropolitan Avenues. In the 1890’s Schumacher’s was known as Metropolitan Park and Hotel and, in later years a casino and banquet hall were added.
During that era Middle Village was almost entirely left out of the picnic park development since the rural cemetery movement and the prohibition of further burials in New York City led to acquisition of land in Queens for the purpose of building cemeteries.
Along with picnic parks there were beer gardens, dance pavilions, and ballfields which people flocked to from New York. The parks were conveniently located on transportation routes along Metropolitan, Flushing and Grand Avenues and were designed to attract those who left the ferries at Williamsburgh and traveled by the horse cars to spend a day in the country, as it was referred to, known as Newtown Township.
By the turn of the century the great era of the picnic parks was dwindling because another form of entertainment was being established, Coney Island.
Coney Island’s increasing popularity grew when train service to the amusement area began in 1920 but sky rocketing land values in the area also contributed to the popularity. There were large influxes of Germans migrating from Brooklyn and Yorkville as well as immigrants from Europe who all needed homes. Demand became so great that builders had a difficult time trying to build homes fast enough to meet this demand.
Another factor was prohibition during 1920 to 1933 and beer sold in the picnic parks was a great favorite with the patrons. But when laws were passed reducing the alcohol content of beer to almost a water level, business waned.
Some of the great parks began to be dismantled and the lands put up for auction to make way for housing. The demise of these great places of entertainment signified to many the passing of the Victorian Age.