In an aerial view one may observe among Middle Village’s sea of red brick houses, a large, green quadrangle – rendered imperfect by the Norfolk Southern right-of-way shaving off its northwest corner and 80th Street cutting off a small portion of its most eastern extremity.
This large imperfect green quadrangle is Middle Village’s centerpiece, Juniper Valley Park and the small cut-off portion is Juniper’s East Lawn, wherein Juniper’s Jewel – Pullis Landmark is located.
Most passersby walking through Juniper’s east end (located between 80th Street and Dry Harbor Road) are pleasantly surprised to find a beautifully planted rock garden. The passersby may also be surprised to discover that this oasis in Juniper Park is the Pullis Landmark – a colonial cemetery that predates the surrounding Juniper Park by several years. To put it in proper perspective, Juniper Park, as we know it goes back to 1938 or so – about a year after the Calvary Line trolley ceased in 1939. Thomas Pullis never saw a trolley.
Pullis family records date back to 1850. Long before there were any cemeteries or tombstone makers, Long Island settlers (the Pullis family among them) were faced with death and the problem of burial. The earliest solution was to fence off a corner of the family farm and make it into a private burial ground. There were many such plots in Queens once, but the breakup of farms into housing developments, cutting off streets into estates and the coming of (mid-19th Century) large public cemeteries made this approach to burial obsolete. It also left the plots isolated and exposed to vandalism and neglect. One of the few remaining colonial farm burial grounds in our area is the Pullis Farm Cemetery containing Thomas Pullis, Sr., his wife, Elizabeth and one child.
St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church lies on what used to be part of the Pullis Farm. Two small farms owned by Pullis and Carrhardt in 1860 were purchased for the site of St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church and school at 66-05 79th Place. These adjoining parcels extended 300 feet on Pullis Avenue (now 79th Place) and 150 feet on Juniper Swamp Road (now Juniper Valley Road).
In 1992 Juniper Valley Park, then in a state of neglect, received a badly needed overhaul. Pullis was then an eyesore within the park. Ed Shusterich recognized a need and stood up at the plate around 1994. Ed, along with the assistance of other volunteers, took the initiative by donating and planting flowers – improving this plot as well as the immediate surrounding area thus adding beauty as well as retaining a piece of Colonial history.
Ed has since passed the baton on to other capable volunteers but he remains active in Park affairs. The beautification and betterment of Juniper Park and the Pullis Landmark – going hand in hand – continues with community support and neighborhood volunteer effort. This is now an important site for Boy Scouts, students and others to learn more about local American history as well as being a truly selected scenic spot. More information is available from the Manager of the Long Island Studies Division of the Central Library on 89-11 Merrick Blvd. (718) 990-0770, the Director of the Queens Borough President’s Office (718) 286- 2669 and the Juniper Park Civic Assn.
Today people of all ages experience beauty and relaxing pastimes in the Pullis Landmark area. It is an oasis of greenery and flowers, and is a fine location for the taking of photos to commemorate a variety of occasions; a showcase for all to appreciate. In these uncertain changing times the timeless pleasure of a leisurely walk in a beautiful park remains.